I was familiar with worry by the time I got down on one knee. Worry had gained a foothold in my life as I observed the slow unraveling of my parents’ marriage as a junior and senior in high school. They made it official in 2000, a few months prior to my commencement in the football stadium on a warm night in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Worry set up shop in my soul, and though its power quietly crested and collapsed like a wave, its grip remained—and still remains—just as constant as the ocean.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” I long to internalize this call from Jesus. I do. I really do. But the sobering truth remains: worry dwells with my faith.
Will I be like my father?
Abby and I will mark six years of marriage this December, and though our marriage has been relatively smooth, I still worry. That worry materializes in one question: Will I be like my father? Will I too be disposed to anger, to outbursts, to words that can’t be taken back? I fear that though this isn’t the norm now and that forgiveness marks our marriage that anger may overtake me eventually.
Worry has only evolved with the addition of a baby. “A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child,” remarked the poet Longfellow. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” adds Solomon. Even now I’m anxious about how I will speak to my son as he ages: Will I be like my father? Will I shout at him or instead squelch the frustration that rises up inside?
The pointed question piles on top of the more universal worries—the apprehension about my toddler’s physical health, the safety of my wife who teaches in the tattered landscape of a school wrought by gun violence. Yes, worry for them dwells with my faith.
In addition to worry as a husband and a father, I worry about me. Me being me. My outward appearance in the midst of other people conveys that of a confident stoic, but beneath the skin is a frenetic stress mess. Career aims. The monthly budget. Running. Adequate sleep. Service at church. Writing. Better writing. Family. Sex. Reading the Bible regularly. Retirement planning. My list is lengthy.
I’m running with my worry.
I’ve noticed a shift lately among a few of the runners I follow on Instagram. The pictures no longer convey a sense of strength and fortitude all the time, and the captions are surprisingly lengthy. Instead of a few pithy words and fun emojis about a new achievement, they are offloading their baggage about setbacks, injury, and personal struggles outside of running that usually stay inside or are disclosed in the company of a therapist or counselor. “Adventuring isn’t always about bringing your perfect self to the table, it’s seeing what you’re made of when shit starts to go down. Digging deep when problems arise,” said one about her preparation for an upcoming hundred-mile race marked by minimal shuteye and an injured hand.
Though I’ve finished multiple marathons, I haven’t encountered the complexities and nuances of traveling one hundred miles. But, as the saying goes, life is a distance sport. Our own hundred-mile race. It’s a grind, replete with worries, some big and some small.
Incidentally, I process worry through running. It’s rare for me to step out of the house for sixty to ninety minutes and not return without a clearer head and renewed mind. Good music helps, but there are many quiet prayers that accompany each footstep—prayers for strength and peace. “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul,” writes the psalmist.
I’m making peace with worry.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This command is chock full of life, replete with hope and help for the anxious heart beset with weariness. Pray, says Paul. Pray when the words lodge in your throat and restlessness looms large. And that prayer alone is worth something.
In a recent Fathom article, Aarik Danielsen writes, “We might not feel like the self God declares over us yet—still he beckons and bids us to come. Approaching God, even with our weak expectations and mustard-seed faith, we trace the lines of real life.”
That’s it. That’s what I’m doing by bringing my worry before the Lord. I’m tracing the lines of real life.
As strange as it sounds, maybe I should make peace with the worry. I can’t wish it away or will it away. Worry is part of life. But, as Paul said, the peace of God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Cover photo by Nik Shuliahin.