We have a saying in my family that everyone is normal until you get to know them. For some people, though, the “abnormal” lives pretty close to the surface. And as you’ve probably guessed by now, I am one of those people.
Some of my quirks are obvious immediately, like the fact that I have disproportionately large feet for my height or that I type really, really loudly on my computer’s keyboard. (Seriously. I like to think that my emphatic typing comes from the passion I feel towards whatever I’m writing, but it’s probably more due to the fact that I never learned to type correctly. Yay private school education.)
Other quirks require a little more digging… or at least more time spent with me (poor unfortunate souls). For instance, if you stick around me long enough, you’ll notice that I almost never get the hiccups, but the hiccup. As in, singular. One hiccup. No more. Or when I am focused intently on anything—be it reading, typing, or talking on the phone—my face becomes incredibly serious. Though I’ve worked hard to fix this “phone face” over the years, complete strangers still stop and ask whether I’m okay or, worse, if someone has died. Whoops. I probably ought to work on that.
My roommate Maria has become privy to some of my less-known quirks. And what is the oddest of these, you might ask? Simple: my inordinate love of cornflakes. As in, I eat them all the time. While I have worked hard to be a “real” adult and make actual meals for myself, I still consume at least 2 bowls of cornflakes daily. Impressed by my cornflake consumption, Maria once asked me to estimate how many bowls I eat each week. The terrible part is that I couldn’t come up with an answer; that’s how often I eat cornflakes. It’s safe to say that I have a problem…
But as embarrassing as these quirks may be, they get even worse: I talk to myself. Yes, I realize that a lot of people talk to themselves and that this is a fairly common occurrence. But I’m afraid I’ve taken this to a whole new level. You know you have a problem with solo conversations when you catch yourself talking to yourself about how you need to stop talking to yourself. Ironic? Yes. But true all the same. Oh dear.
Why am I telling you about these quirks? That’s a great and very valid question. You see, recently, I’ve begun to realize that these idiosyncrasies, especially the talking-to-myself one, have something in common with another, albeit less comical habit of mine: worrying.
Even more than I randomly hiccup, make the apocalyptic “phone face”, talk to myself, and eat cornflakes, I worry. All the time. And in those rare moments when I’m not worrying, I find myself worrying about not worrying. Pathetic? Yes. But true all the same.
But unlike all the funny quirks listed above, my worrying isn’t a joke. It’s a sin, and a very insidious one at that. Because unlike all the so-called “classic” sins like sex, drugs and rock-and-roll (just kidding), worrying has managed to disguise itself as a good thing. We think to ourselves (or at least I think to myself), “I worry because I care about things.” And because caring seems positive, we convince ourselves that worrying is too. To borrow the title from Jerry Bridges’ book, we count worry as one of the “respectable sins”, right up there with dozing off during church or laughing a little too hard at SNL. Yes, we all know that Jesus told us not to worry and that “each day has enough trouble of its own.” But if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we would likely admit that worrying doesn’t seem like a big deal, that it’s pretty low on the figurative “sin totem pole.”
But that’s a bunch of hogwash. First of all, there’s no such thing as a “respectable sin” because all sin is equal in God’s eyes. And even if a “sin totem pole” actually existed, worrying would probably be at the very top. And here’s why.
You see, worrying is a symptom of a deeper heart condition: a lack of faith. And since faith is at the core of Christianity, a lack of it indicates a very serious problem. Rather than pointing to my level of caring about X (supposedly a good thing), worrying actually says that I don’t trust God to take care of it (ie, a very bad thing). And perhaps even worse than a lack of faith, my worrying also reveals my flawed view of God. When I worry, I am effectively saying, “God is not reliable or good. I cannot trust Him to act on my behalf, so I must take matters into my own hands.” Whenever I worry, I essentially pretend to be in control, and I make of God a caricature that in no way reflects His nature. What a mess!
As far as worrying is concerned, this semester was both my worst and my best so far. Worst because I worried more than ever before; best because God provided me with opportunities to recognize and confront my sin. To say that it’s been challenging would be an understatement. But then again, coming face-to-face with our sin and brokenness always is. Yet in the midst of this often self-made mess, the Lord has shown Himself so faithful. He’s given me people to love me and pray with me, He encourages me daily through His Word, and He reminds me time and again that He is with me and that I am never alone. Most days I feel as if I am fighting an uphill battle against my worry, and winning seems like such a long shot. But then I remember the words of Paul in Romans 7,
“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Just as with any sin, Christ has the power to set me from worry and bring me victory. And so I’m going to keep going, praying that every day brings me closer to a clearer, more accurate view of God and a deeper, more solid faith in Him.
… But since this will likely be a long journey, I should probably eat first. Cornflakes, here I come! 😉