I had a bit of a breakthrough this last weekend as I was panicking about all that I have to do right now.
[Jesus said,] "...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
I've always struggled with this verse.
I had always thought it meant to think only about the immediate - what needed to be done or taken care of or what you are doing right now. No planning ahead. No thinking about the future. No decision making past the immediate things, such as what to work on this minute or what to wear when you get out of the shower in 10 minutes or what to make for dinner in 5 hours.
As someone who has always been taught to plan ahead and think about the big picture, I struggled mightily with the idea of just thinking about right now. As a result, I always disliked that verse because it made me feel guilty about thinking about the future and planning ahead.
My breakthrough this weekend was this:
This verse doesn't mean that we don't plan ahead. What it means is this:
Do what needs to be done.
Don't fret about perhaps not finishing something by a future date or what will happen "if".
Instead of fretting about getting all my work done on time, I need to do my work.
Instead of fretting about what will happen if we had a fire or a severe accident, I need to have insurance, keep maintenance up to date, have money in my savings account and have an evacuation plan with meeting place for my home (things that I can do now).
Instead of fretting about what will happen if I don't finish my schoolwork by the prescribed deadlines, I need to work on research and writing.
Instead of fretting about what will happen if I don't lose the weight I would like to, I need to figure out the smarter choices I can make with my food and exercise more.
Basically, it means that I need to focus on what I can do now rather than what I can't control about tomorrow.
In reality this plays out like this:
Instead of worrying constantly about how I will lose the weight I want, I'm working about what types of food I'm eating and why I'm eating. I can't exercise the way I'd like to, but I can watch what I eat. I don't need to imagine myself as an obese person who can't function - that's paralyzing for me.
Instead of getting anxious about my dissertation, I put together a detailed plan with my advisor and then personally broke those things down into pieces I can do in the pieces of time I have. Instead of surfing the net for 20 minutes between meetings and worrying, I read 2 papers. Waiting in the car to pick up the kids I read a section in a book on research methods. I spent 2 hours while I was totally wiped out and too tired to think organizing my data into a pre-determined format (all I had to do was cut-and-paste).
Instead of twiddling my thumbs and getting anxious to get going while waiting for my kids to get out of school (I have about a 20-30 minute wait to pick them up), I made an outline of notes for my next lecture. Another day I cleaned out the car. Another day I stopped at the gas station and bought gas. Another day I took care of paperwork in the school office.
Instead of getting frustrated with the state of my house and wondering when I'd ever find the time to clean, I wiped the sink out after brushing my teeth and the scrubbed the shower down while I was in there and waiting for my conditioner to work. I picked up three things that had been sitting out and put them away - right now, because I could. I remind the kids to pick up and put their stuff away when they forget. I kindly ask John to put his things away too. :)
I realized that if I stuck to my cleaning schedule, which is doing one big cleaning thing each day, I wouldn't have to scramble all the time when company comes.
If I just put things away right away, it takes a minute or two and keeps the house neat.
If I just do that thing right now, I don't have to pay catchup later.
And I save a ton of worrying for today in the process.
Many of these things are things I have known for a long time in my head. And I even practice some of them on a daily basis - like my daily cleaning chore or putting things away.
My farming ancestors knew this. When the wheat needed to be harvested, you harvested. When the garden came in, you canned. When the cows needed to be milked, you milked them. When something broke, you repaired it. And as long as they did these things, they rarely wanted for anything of value. They had food on the table and cash in the bank for clothing and the roof over their head. They couldn't change if a hail storm came or the rain didn't come, so they didn't worry about it. They did what they could, and were just fine.
My head knows it works.
Sometimes it takes a long time for my heart to catch up.
Jesus is right, we certainly have enough trouble for the day without adding tomorrow to it too.
Soli Deo Gloria.