So very sorry! Jeremiah wrote this several days ago, and I’ve been procrastinating adding the pictures.
One of the seemingly harsh realities of growing up has hit me over the last few years. Nobody remembered to warn me about it, so I felt blindsided. I can remember being in school and having that really big test or project that you were dreading. Finally as the day approaches you tell yourself to just keep pushing because soon it will be over and you can relax and have nothing to worry about. I loved that feeling the afternoon after a test in college, when you knew there were days ahead without expectations or responsibility. How about the holidays where you had days and nights of whatever you wanted to do and nobody expecting you to perform or produce anything? I guess I subconsciously assumed this is the way it would always be, but I have since realized that life proves to be more of a continuous challenge, still marked by some big tasks that require endorphins to get you through. However, that post-test sense of ease doesn’t come as easily once you are all grown up.
It is similar to the practice of medicine. As a kid you think a person gets hurt or sick and the doctor fixes them up and they get well and forget about it. So when a kid decides to become a surgeon, he thinks, “I can fix people up, patient after patient.” At least I somehow thought that was how it works – you operate on someone and they get better and it’s done. Then I started my training and began to observe what is meant by the term “practice of medicine”. A patient comes in with a problem that needs surgery and they get it. Hopefully, they get well and move on but there are those cases of unfortunate complications – infections, persistent pain, surgical errors etc. This is hard to swallow – I thought you could do your best for a patient and then relax in a job well done, but sometimes the “test” doesn’t end that day. You may follow that patient for years trying to help them but never have that nice “mission accomplished” feeling we grew up with.
Medicine is one place I see this but only a small part of it. I think raising kids may be the better example. I have seen that women don’t usually get to get up in the morning, perform a task well, and then immediately see the results. They don’t get to climb the mountain of tasks and then sit back and bask in the break from responsibility. Instead, they work daily, making investments of time and effort that will hopefully be successful in their children. The work doesn’t really ever stop – always a kid who is sick, hungry, misbehaving, needing questions answered, and nightly baths and stories. So as parents, it seems impossible to get that reprieve we used to know. Maybe we could leave the kids with the grandparents a couple times a year but nobody wants to spend their lives desperately waiting to get away from that feeling of responsibility – we would be unhappy or bitter 90% of the time.
I think there is a way out of this. We can live a very safe life and keep our responsibility to a bare minimun. Keep ourself protected from expectations and relationships and keep that wonderful feeling void of responsibility we knew growing up. To me, this is not appealling but I have seen some people living that way. Since I don’t want that kind of life, I have had to ask myself where to go from here. The problem is that the more responsibility you allow yourself, the more potential anxiety. You could handle it growing up because whatever task you had to complete was always followed with that period of reprieve. With every new responsibility comes a potential risk. For parents – will the kids turn out the way you hope, or for leadership – will you let people down that are counting on you, or for any challenge – how will this turn out? So what do you do with that potential anxiety because the challenges keep coming and the breaks don’t?
Lately, we have been studying Luke with a group of friends here in Seattle. Much of Luke talks about anxiety. There are a few applications here. Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that he does not want us to be anxious. So what do we do with all this responsibility? If we know we are supposed to cast our cares on Him, how can we practice this? I think what we have to do is be Aware but not Anxious. No we shouldn’t ignore the risks and responsibilities that we face by the lives we have chosen. However, I think the danger is on focusing on those things instead of what we are trying to do. So what if we could learn to be aware of those risks but not experience any anxiety because we don’t focus on them? I think we have a choice to be Worriers or Warriors. May sound cliche, I know but I can’t get this out of my mind and though Webster may not agree, I think they are perfect antonyms. In Luke, Jesus asks a question about which of us, before going to build a tower, doesn’t first stop to consider the cost and if it can be completed. Obviously, there is a place for measuring the cost of each responsibility but that is where you become a worrier or a warrior. I think a warrior stops and kisses his family before going to battle. They cry together at the thought of possibly not seeing each other again and then he turns his horse and rides full speed and doesn’t look back. The worrier considers the cost, rides a few feet and stops to reconsider and then rides a little further and then stops again to reconsider the costs and risks and eventually is anxious and paralyzed by anxiety and fear of the responsibility. It would be better to either ride back home and relax or to ride on into battle; but to stay in the middle world of the worrier would be miserable for anyone.
So the point is that we can’t reasonably get away from responsibility and we really probably don’t want to. The pertinent thing is how we deal with it. We have to learn how to enjoy life and enjoy our responsibilities, being aware of them but not anxious about their cost or outcome. Then I hope that we won’t spend our lives living for that carefree post-test feeling. Instead, maybe we can learn to enjoy our responsibilities because of how we approach them as aware warriors instead of anxious worriers….