The Economy of Anxiety

The Economy of Anxiety

September 09, 2013

by Jae Newman

For a couple of years I’ve worked with a woman named Anophanh. This has been a blessing for me: when I’m around her, I don’t complain about how tired I am, because she works seventy hours a week. A single mother who cares for both her parents (who speak little English) and her two girls, she works an overnight shift at the paper factory and then comes into work at the grocery store. Sometimes she takes a nap between jobs. Sometimes there isn’t time.

In the town where I grew up, there was a steep hill that from the bottom looked as if there was no final destination. It looked like it might just stretch forever towards clouds into an abyss of sky. The first few times I tried to run that hill, I spent most of my energy frustrated by what my eyes told me and quit each time in disbelief. I could not fathom that I was making progress, like the proverb says, one step at a time.

How would you spend today if you were free to do whatever you wished? I would take my wife on a date, write a new poem, and then cook an amazing meal for friends we never see. The reality is something else. Often, I have grading to do for a class. I probably have reading to do for seminary. My daughters ask me for some special time. Tea parties happen. Stories are read. All in all, there’s never enough hours in the day even when I try to map out how the time will be broken down.

I had this toy bank when I was a kid. It was green and had plastic valves where each unit of coin would be sorted and put into its ordered place. I never understood how the pennies, nickels, and dimes didn’t get crossed. Everything found its place in my small treasury. Everything was accounted for.

I’ve been teaching my daughter the Lord’s Prayer at night. This summer, I recited it twice each time I tucked her into bed.  She’s going to Kindergarten this week. That’s a lot for any parent to bear. I think about how much she means to me and how she, like her mother and sister, are points of orbit around which my own life is arranged. How can I be everything I want to be always to each of them? I love them all as if they were different cities. What’s more, how can I love others, as Jesus demands, with all my heart and soul and strength when that’s what I secretly want to store up just for my family?

It’s a good thing that God runs the universe and not you or me. And just like my collection of spare change all found its place where it could sorted and put to best use, so now God sorts my anxieties about the future and how my time will be spent. Out of my many limitations, God faithfully asks me to hand him everything I am. All the while, my papers are graded. All the while, my family is cared for. All the while, my poems are written. All the while, I’m blessed by what I cannot see, by what looms far away beyond my comprehension of what is possible and what is not. 



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