My son recently shared his belief that parents are more equipped to think about the future than their kids because they’ve had to be responsible for someone else’s future. I think he’s right but I’m not sure if he meant it as a compliment. Honestly, I’m a bit shy to circle back to ask him for clarification because he also believes I worry too much, which is not a great reflection on my parental responsibility. I admit that dwelling on the “what ifs” for my kids can be very unbecoming at times.
I could try to blame it on my dad. Like many parents, he had the well-developed skill of “catastrophizing.” He would call me if there was a tornado anywhere in Minnesota to make sure I was okay. He would fret so much about safety when we were traveling to be with him at Christmas that we would attempt to cut his anxiety short by arriving a few hours ahead of schedule. My sister recently decided to join us in Minnesota for Christmas and I’m notably anxious about her subcompact car sharing icy roads with giant trucks in December. I now realize that I am acting just like my dad.
I need to lighten up! I’d prefer to laugh when I see my parents in the mirror. I am reminded of the short “mockumentary” by Progressive Insurance on the fictitious Dr. Rick, who is portrayed as a renowned Parent-Life Coach devoted to helping young homeowners un-become their parents. It is a humorous look at what happens to the best of us.
Unfortunately 2020 is making it hard to keep my sense of humor intact. My feelings this year remind me of being at the cliff hanger moment in a suspense story. I need to know how the story finishes and I can’t put the book down (or set aside anxiety) until it comes to a reasonable conclusion. Of course, my definition of reasonable conclusion is a happy ending where the crisis has been averted and everyone is safe and healthy. In other words, it ends like I want it to.
Life isn’t nearly that predictable. 2020 is a great case study for what it feels like to be out-of-control and anxious. Our worries about outcomes can easily send us to the top of the stress scale. Researchers Tucker and Czapla demonstrated in a recent Psychiatric Times article that our traumatic stressors have now tipped us into “Post-COVID Stress Disorder.” We’re fighting more than our parental tendency to worry. We are legitimately facing pandemic PTSD! There are no guarantees that the story ends well for our kids, our health, the election, the pandemic, civil unrest, and all the other “tornados” that seem too close to home. No matter how much I care about my kids, overthinking what might happen won’t give me more control.
The only one that is really entirely in control is God. I know that He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent (knows and sees everything that is happening and has total authority). Regardless of the circumstances, He is still at work, still purposeful, and still orchestrating all things ultimately for our good. I believe that. But since it doesn’t look like that in 2020, I still struggle with being able to trust Him.
As much as I am growing to look and behave like my earthly dad, I really need to hang onto the truth that I am also an image-bearer for our heavenly Father, created in His likeness. If I am His image-bearer, I am not perfect like Him, but some things about me resemble Him, similar to how I look a little like my parents and siblings. If He’s in total control and I’m created in His image, it is no wonder that my desire to control comes out when I feel stressed. I do see the humor in that! Being in control is a part of His nature—just not part of the yet-unfinished me.
When I feel wedged in-between the desire to control and the struggle to trust, it’s a bit like being stuck in the awkward middle school years. I find myself feeling clumsy and emotionally unstable and full of self-doubt. Even if I know what I intend to do, my body and my brain don’t collaborate like they are ultimately intended to. When I wrestle for control, that unfinished 7th grader stubbornly sticks her foot in the door and crosses her arms. When I find myself being unbecoming, I know I need to work on un-becoming.
The fact is, I am still the child in my most important relationship. I can un-become that 13-year old. My identity in Christ is really closer to my 3-year-old self. As a child, the time I spent with my earthy dad was often outdoors. We did a lot of hiking at a state park that had a huge ravine and lots of giant rocks. It was exciting to climb up on a tall rock, open my arms wide, and jump into Dad’s arms—with no fear—because I had zero doubt that he would catch me. I need to hang onto that reflection of what my relationship with the Lord needs to be. I can choose to trust Him to lead the wilderness journey and I can set aside fear because He’s always there to keep me from falling.
I recently watched a program about BASE jumpers. BASE jumping turns frightening heights into a recreational sport. Think about climbing a Building, Antenna, Span (bridge), or the Earth itself (cliff) and jumping off, relying on a flight suit or single canopy with no reserve shoot. BASE jumpers hurl themselves off of cliffs and waterfalls with the full expectation of flying, just without wings. They deliberately set aside worry and put their trust in what they dress themselves in—a suit that looks a bit like a flying squirrel—and they enjoy the thrilling ride.
Today we find ourselves on another kind of precipice. There are so many things to worry about that we don’t have control of in 2020. Despite the fact that we are now grownups, we will find ourselves better able to navigate the uncertain landscape of political unrest, contentious elections, unrelenting natural disasters, and global pandemics when we’re dressing ourselves in the flight suit of trust. In Isaiah 41:10, God commands us, “Do not fear” and promises to catch us in His “righteous right hand”. If I’m relying on my heavenly Father’s strength, the safest place to BASE jump is into His arms instead of the thin air of worry and anxiety. Quite honestly, I would rather enjoy the sense of flying than fear.
Un-becoming means I’m choosing a flight suit of trust over fear. Trust means I’m choosing to place my confidence is in the Lord when my sister is traveling. Trust means although I feel responsible for my kids, I can deliberately choose to entrust their future to the Lord. I realize that I can do more for my loved ones by praying for the Lord’s care than by worrying about them. It means that even when we find ourselves in a page-turner story like 2020, we know we can trust that God is in control of the ending.
I need to remember that regardless of their intention, my kids will become more like me than they hope to. It happens to the best of us. So, when I show my kids that I am realistic about what’s happening in the world but I am choosing trust over fear, they have a better chance of getting that right, too. When I am able to laugh at myself when I’m acting like my own parents, they’ll have a better chance of doing that when they see my reflection in the mirror. Most importantly, when I get my relationship with the Lord right—when He is the base for my leap of faith—I am setting the stage for my kids to choose to surrender their fears and fly into His arms, too.