This is my Lenten discipline this year: turning Worry into Wonder, or trying to.
I first heard the phrase Turn worry into wonder on a podcast I enjoy, Wild Ideas Worth Living, hosted by Shelby Stanger. The phrase stuck, and I realized it’s what Jesus teaches in one of my favorite passages from the Sermon on the Mount:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:25-35).
It’s one of my favorite Bible passages because every time I hear it, I think, Oh yeah. Remember this. Worry won’t help. Practice wonder instead.
So I’ve been practicing turning worry into wonder. Especially in the midst of a water crisis, when there is so much cause for concern, I get daily opportunities to practice. Here are some things I’m noticing.
- The more specific I can get in my wondering, the more calming and fascinating it is for me. Instead of worrying about whether we have enough water on hand, I wonder how little water I can use to do the dishes or wash up in. I wonder how much water I can collect from the rain spout. I wonder how many times I really can wear this shirt before it really needs laundering. And then I find out.
- Wondering also serves as a good reason to get more brave in what I find out. For a silly example, in the past I’ve wondered what I would look like with short hair. What better reason to just go ahead and see than needing to save water? Here’s the answer:
Okay, this is fresh from the hairstylist. When I’m on my own, it’s much more mop-like, a shorter mop than before. But it definitely saves water. Now I know.
- It helps me remember all the reasons I have not to worry and all the things I mustn’t take for granted. Things like: we have health insurance and are in good health. We are not responsible for caring for children or elderly folks in our home. We have the use of a car so getting to a place where we can purchase water is not burdensome for us. We have people who are praying for us and for this place where we live. We are surrounded by love and care. We are so fortunate. These are things to rejoice in and give thanks for and wonder at.
- I wonder how I can help. What else I can do besides practice conservation and pray? Jesus was not saying, Just relax, everything will be fine, carry on just as you are. The rest of his teachings are about living in such a way that people have reason not to worry—because we share, give, live responsibly, and treat others with dignity and compassion. This is striving for God’s reign and God’s righteousness. Rather than be paralyzed with worry, we can act.
Thank you to everyone for your prayers. Please keep praying—for rain, for wise water management and good stewardship of resources, for our students who are heading home early for break because of the water shortage, and for the College of Transfiguration as it installs water tanks to catch and store water while the students are away.