Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Curse of the Planners

Ever since I can remember, I have been a planner.  When a person loves making lists and has always been taught to be goal-motivated, I think it is impossible for him to escape developing such a habit.  From the smallest things to the biggest ones, I have a tendency to try to plan everything.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  After all, my plan to go to college motivated me to work hard in school and my plan to become an author led me to start writing online.  But there is one major drawback to being a person who likes to control and plan every major aspect of her life in advance: I have an incredibly hard time surrendering to God and His Providence.

As one of the few students who always dreaded group projects because it meant I could not be in charge of every aspect of my assignment, allowing another person to direct anything for me is a struggle.  Along the way my problems with stress and anxiety have made it very clear to those around me that though I might have a strong faith, I have much to learn about surrendering and trusting God completely.  I remember my Dad challenging me once while I was having yet another breakdown over college decisions, saying that if I was that worried about this that I was trying too hard to figure it out, and that I needed to reexamine my relationship with God.  In song lyrics, magazine articles, radio shows, and books I kept hearing about this process of surrendering everything to God, and the more stressed I became, the more the concept of not worrying anymore appealed to me.  Finally I asked my spiritual director how I could begin this process, and stop worrying so much.  He baffled me by laughing and responding simply with, "Just don't!".  Initially I was frustrated.  I was hoping for a step-by-step process, a how-to list, a plan.  But instead I received an impossible direction- to stop worrying.  Thinking that it would be of no use and that I would be able to call him in a month to tell him his advice was meaningless and that he needed to elaborate, I decided to put it to the test, and when I felt myself feeling overly-anxious about something, to simply try to stop.  This proved to not only be exceptionally difficult, but also incredibly perfect (irritatingly enough). 

Slowly but surely I learned to catch myself in the midst of stressful times and mentally slap myself out of it.  I started using phrases like "God-willing" or "I'll have to wait and see".  When I was tempted to give up or to convince myself that worrying was just something I did naturally and couldn't be helped, Gary Zimak's reminder that the quest to end anxiety is a daily struggle that must be fought saved me from giving up, and helped me revisit the challenge, though begrudgingly at first. And though I still have far to go in the process, I have found that just stopping and asking myself, "Why are you worrying so much about this and trying so hard to solve this on your own when God already has it handled?", has not only saved me many a headache, but also led me to discover the joy of living in the now.  As Christ asks His followers in Matthew's Gospel, "And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? [...] Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day," (Matt 6: 27, 34). 

So as these last weeks at home fly by, and I find myself tempted to worry about the future- how I'll survive without my family, how they'll survive without me, how I'll balance everything without being overwhelmed, or how I'm going to fit all my clothes into my tiny dorm closet- the words of Audrey Assad's song, "Everything is Yours", keep coming in my head, and I'm trying very hard to pray along with her, telling God that "If everything is yours, if everything is yours, if everything is yours, I'm letting it go, no- it was never mine to hold."

Though I'm finding that this is much easier said than done, I know that He will help me find a way.  And though I don't think I'll ever be entirely free of this cross, I hope that God will lead me to use this struggle as a way to find grace, instead of as a way to fall from it.

May God bless all the fellow worriers out there, and may I leave you with a prayer that my Mom gave me many years ago- a prayer that has continually helped me along the way:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Abigail! I'm another one of those planner/worriers. I needed to hear this. God bless you! ♥


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