So today I woke up, worried about the future. Not a good thing to do during a pandemic. I continued the morning ruminating over the global economy and about our finances, and my husband’s retirement savings. I spent a portion of the afternoon fretting over how much we are probably losing right now in investments, and how we’re likely to see another recession after this whole Covid 19 thing settles down. Perhaps even a depression. Maybe a Great Depression all over again.
I occasionally obsessed over my stepdaughters. Will they have enough money to ride this out, if they are not working? Could we have enough to loan them, or are we going to wind up leaning on them? I agonized over the hundreds of thousands of folks whose income has been devastated by this pandemic, and the jobs lost and the families in crisis. I worried about the huge divide between economic classes and how this will only widen as we navigate through this mess. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I started to quietly freak out a little. What will this world look like in June? In September? Next year? What will happen to our country? What will happen to my family? What if someone gets sick? What if we run out of money? What if, what if, what if?
I have learned that worrying about “what if” is a lot like rapidly sliding down a steep hill. If you lose your footing, you’ll scuttle down like a crab until you twist an ankle or knee, or maybe roll down heels over head until you land in a crumpled heap at the bottom. It’s cumulative – you pick up speed until you can’t stop and you’re just screaming as you careen out of control to the very end. And it guarantees that your journey, in whatever direction it goes, is going to be depressing and messy and probably far worse than you imagined in the first place.
I have also learned that sometimes at the top of the scary hill you can just take a breath, sit down on your heinie, get a good solid grip on the good earth and slow the descent as you wibble-wobble your way to the bottom with nothing the worse for wear except the seat of your jeans and your pride. You may look ridiculous to others but you get there, relatively in one piece and in your own time.
In the gospel of Mark, chapter 12, the Hebrew leaders try to trip up Jesus about paying taxes. They ask if it is right to pay taxes to the oppressing Roman empire, and Jesus responds.
“Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus understood what they were trying to do, and how they were trying to trap him in a political argument. He was very clear – give to the world what the world has the right to expect from you, and give to God what He deserves to expect from you.
So, I have decided to remind my worried and obsessive self today that there is a difference between the two.
The world can expect me to pay my bills, but only God has the right to my heart’s concerns and the vulnerability of my fears.
The world can expect me to invest wisely, but only God has the right to my trust for my future.
The world can expect me to behave responsibly, do my share of social distancing and take the right health care precautions, but only God has the right to have my complete reliance in five minute increments, 24/7.
The world can expect me to act within the laws of reason and civility, but only God has the right to have my acceptance of His law for my heart.
The world can expect to manage my retirement fund, but only God has the right to manage my real riches.
The world wouldn’t bat an eye if I careened down a hill of worry and fear and landed with a thud at the bottom. But God would throw all the might of heaven between me and disaster if it had even one millionth of a possibility of wounding my soul.
So here’s what I remind myself. God may not do what I want him to do, in my timeline or as I think best. I might not lose a lot. I might lose more than I can imagine. But He will not fail me. I will not lose God. So I can give to Caesar what is his – my portfolio, my bills, my social standing, my worldly stuff.
But to God I will give my worry, my family, my future, my life and my soul. It’s going to look a bit ridiculous given the global circumstances. And I may feel at times a bit stupid or unrealistic or behind the times. People may laugh. Kind of like when everyone else is already at the bottom of their hill looking up at you as you’re wearing out the seat of your jeans, oozing down like a snail. That’s the way it is for me, if I want to get to my destination without being busted up like a rodeo cowboy.
I’m sure there are others who do this more gracefully, and good for them. But I’m going to have to take it slow. With God. Awkwardly, on my butt, Bible in hand.
Slowly, so that I never forget to give to Caesar what truly is Caesar’s and give to God what truly is God’s.