A few days ago I posted on the parable of the rich fool and the wisdom to be found in spare closets and fewer things.
Little did I know that I have much more to learn on this topic.
But that’s what’s so compelling about our scriptures–each time you read them the Spirit reveals something new, something so eerily, no– purposefully appropriate for today.
In the twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus continues by deconstructing the practice of worrying. ”Consider the ravens,” he remarks, “they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (12:24-25)
I hate to admit it, but I can be a real worrywart. I hate to admit it, because I despise the out of control, overwhelming, guilt, and fear worry instills. I hate that my own vanities and my own weaknesses are what drive me to it, but most of all I hate that not only do I know it’s a waste of time, but I do it anyway! I hate that as Jesus suggests, while we’re worrying, the gift of life and all that really matters are passing us by.
Two weeks ago today I was in a meeting with orphanage directors here in South China when my phone starting ringing incessantly with an +09 number that could only be a skype call. And my heart sunk as I finally answered it knowing that whoever was on the other side would only be dialing me over and over here in China in the case of a dire emergency.
Since that time my Grandpa has been in the hospital, fighting a weak heart, and recently failing organs. When I opened up about the difficulty of being here and not there the next day, one of my Chinese friends discouraged me from worrying. I could feel the anger and the exasperation well up in my throat as I choked out and snapped, “Well I am worried, because he’s very, very sick!”
Truthfully it wasn’t just this remark but a number of interactions that have made me frustrated with my Chinese friends lately. They can’t understand why I’d ever want to leave China, and they’re kind of mad at me for making plans to leave this July, and for not being able to tell them for sure when I’m coming back.
And I’m mad at them, especially at times like this, for not being able to see and understand that I’m not only their Lin En, the woman who loves to talk to them about their families and their lives here, but also a person with her own family and friends, and a life that I left behind in America, too.
We usually understand each other so well, and so I want them to get all that, too, you know, just instinctively, right?
But when I read a scripture like this one I see that my energy, my anxiety, and my worries are futile. You see, I could focus on the ways my friends here just don’t get it, or the parts of my life they’ll never fully grasp, or I can marvel in the blessing of God providing me such amazing, supportive, loving, accepting people in this foreign place when it seemed entirely likely that I would never belong. How humbled I am to be so loved by my Chinese friends that they tell me they can’t do without me, and that I understand their culture and their concerns to the point that they can’t imagine me anywhere else but here.
And how careless I am to assume that their urging me not to worry is an indication of their lack of understanding or concern, but rather an understanding of myself on a level that I thought only God could grasp. See, when I’m afraid, full of worries and fears, they see beyond that to me at my best and not at my worst. In asking me not to worry, do they not rather invoke all this is precious and good about humanity, God, and life itself?
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. –Luke 12:32-34
I’m still rather ragged thinking about my Grandpa and my family back in America this week, but I think it would make them happy to know how good God has been to me here in China. And when I meditate on those good things, both my American family and my Chinese one, I do feel a little snippet of peace, and I pray my Grandpa does, too.