Each morning, my boys and I engage in a ritualistic dance as we head out the door. Arms waving in frenzied motions above our heads, we feverishly hop-skip to the car, twirl beside the doors, and fall breathless into our seats. Pulling out of the driveway, we roll the windows down and wave our arms in the air–a bizarre adieu to the neighbors who must be thinking…we should really invest in a privacy fence.
While our neighbors might be confounded by our early morning motion madness, there is a perfectly good explanation for the cavorting–namely, gnats. Each night, seemingly millions of little gnats surround our home, swarming around the screen door and congregating in the dewy condensation on the cars. Our frantic arm waving, hopping, and twirling is all an attempt to push through the flighty insects without them zooming into our mouths–or up our noses. These gnats are a pestilential problem…an annual plague that disperses only when the temperature falls.
Until recently, when I read the story of the Exodus, I always thought the Egyptians were kind of wimpy. I mean, getting all fussed over a plague of gnats? Please…Yet God has a sense of humor, and it sometimes leans toward the ironic. As I open the front door each morning and prepare to fling myself into the teeming mass of what our “pest control specialist” calls midges, I totally get it. Gnats are a plague. Albeit, a seasonal one.
Pondering the gnats led me to a realization beyond the fact that I need to stop spraying for spiders (because they eat gnats). Like the gnats, our everyday worries can become a plague–pervading our thoughts, disrupting our focus, and leading to pointless feelings of both consternation and agitation. When we worry about the small stuff, we not only miss out on the blessings God is trying to give to us, but we also forgo opportunities to be God’s blessing to others. How so?
As a United Methodist pastor’s spouse, I’ve moved around a lot. My family and I are always transplants in communities, and that can be a hard thing. Sometimes I worry when facing new opportunities to get to know people where we’re dropped. I think that my clothes are too shabby, my chin wobbles too much, and I’m really too much of a book nerd. All of my little worries consume me to the point where it feels easier to just shut the door on the idea of peopling and stay home. Yet how much I would miss if I let those unfounded fears have their way!
I would have missed opportunities to make new friends. I would have missed opportunities for God to refresh my soul. And I would have missed opportunities to lay some paving stones in the building of God’s kingdom.
Our daily gnat-like worries can rob us of joy, leaving us isolated, overly self-focused, and often cynical. Our God wants more for us than that. He wants us to rest soundly in the knowledge that, whatever life throws our way, he is there–the Rock on which we stand. I love this passage from the book of Isaiah:
Have you ever come across a rock bigger than God? I am going to guess not. Though life can throw us for a loop, “trouble don’t last always.” God reminds us, just as he reminded the Israelites long ago, that he’s bigger and stronger than any worry we might have. And his plan for us is greater than any of our fears.
So how are we to live? Look at how Peter puts it:
Living a life of joy is the greatest expression of love for God that we can offer the world. I’m not talking about Pollyanna-ish optimism, I’m talking about a deep-rooted sense of peace that springs from God’s spirt which dwells within our souls and pours out of us in genuine expressions of love for others. It might be turning a conversation around when it becomes overly pessimistic. It could be praying with someone who needs to know that there is another human being in this world who cares about what is happening to them. It might be participating in a service project with a glad heart, rather than grumbling under your breath as I have been wont to do. A carefree life isn’t free of cares, but a person living a carefree life in God understands that he cares for us more than any of our fears. And that should give us hope.
Like the gnats that gather around our home each summer, so we will have seasons of worry. There will be illness, budgets will be stretched thin, loved ones will make questionable choices, we will fail at many things. Just a I can’t banish the gnats, so we can’t banish our worries. But we can make a conscious choice not to be consumed by them. We can turn to God, our Rock and Caregiver, and cast those cares on him. We can live carefree, knowing that God cares so much for us.
Blessings and Peace,