I have a problem. Actually, I have two problems. One is a Shi-Tzu named Gracie. The other one is a Shi-Tzu/poodle mix named Aggie. Like most families, we love our dogs. We love our dogs because they love us. Hence the problem. My dogs love us so much they can’t bear to be apart from us. When we leave each day for school or work, they begin an excavation project under the fence in an effort to escape the confines of the yard and find their people. Most of the time, this is not too big of a problem, because I come home at lunch and drop rocks or bricks in the holes and thwart their efforts. Unfortunately, the rains have softened the dirt and made an escape possible with just a few hours of digging.
I am grateful that neighbors keep finding my dogs and returning them to me, but I can tell that this cycle of dig-escape-find-my-people is negatively reinforcing my dogs’ bad behavior. In their doggy brains, their efforts at finding us prove successful over and over again. I can tell they think this is working because they are now digging with even more gusto! It does not matter how many rocks/boards/step stones I drop in their holes; they just keep digging. I know that their efforts reduce the likelihood that they will see us at the end of the day. We will always come home to them if they are patient. Some day, they may get lost if they keep digging out. I just can’t figure out how to convince them of this!
The saga with my dogs struck a chord with me while listening to a sermon by my friend Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, TX. His sermon, based on Matthew 6:25-33, touched on the fact that we can often be as clueless as my dogs when it comes to worry. Time and time again we find ourselves in situations in which there is nothing for us to do but wait patiently on the Lord. Steve gives an example of a child playing sports. We can make sure that our kids have the proper safety equipment and know the rules. But, if we are going to let them play, then we have to acknowledge that whether or not they get hurt lies beyond our control.
We have trouble admitting that we don’t have control over something in our lives. We especially don’t like not being able to do anything to alter our circumstances, so we worry, which feels very much like doing something. We do love to be doing something. When what we worry about does not happen, we negatively reinforce the act of worrying. Subconsciously, we believe that our worrying helped prevent some great evil from occurring. In actuality, our worrying did nothing to prevent trouble from coming our way. Instead, worry added unnecessary trouble to our lives. Studies show that perpetual worry adds undo stress to our lives and threatens our health.
Most of the time, when we simply wait on the Lord, trusting in his providential care, things will work out just fine. Not worrying will save us from all manner of trouble in the meantime. If the bad thing we are worried about does happen, worrying will not make us better prepared on that day. It will simply have robbed us of the joys we could have experienced up to that point. Better to simply trust that not everything in this world is up to us. The things that are, let us do with grace and skill. Those that aren’t, let us turn over to God, trusting he cares for us.
Now, if I could just convince my dogs not to worry about me when I’m gone.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? – Luke 12:25-26