I Don’t Know When to Stop Worrying

I don’t know when to quit worrying.  Decades of reading murder mysteries and watching current events give me far too much visual fodder for imagining the worst and I always do. Will my boys ever be old enough that I blithely hear of their exploits and DON’T feel a twinge of worry?

Last week, Middle ManCub was home from his high-stress job in Haiti for a week of rest and relaxation. We spent that quiet week at Grandma’s cabin with him, catching up on sleep, conversation, and good food.  He brought us nice Haitian rum….oh my! The good stuff! We drank a lot of coffee and listened a lot.

Early in the week, he told us he wanted to walk up the coast to the next larger town. He’d been dying to walk on the beach all by himself for miles and miles. Most mornings, however, the pull of his warm bed kept him tucked in until noon. The tiny twitch of relief each time that happened was an early warning sign that I had some irrational worry simmering. I mostly ignored it.

Two days before he needed to board a plane back to Haiti, Middle ManCub rolled out of bed at noon. He lounged about drinking coffee and eating bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. It had rained heavily the night before and looked like it might rain again. We all puttered around the cabin, reading, writing, cooking, and in general doing nothing.

At 3:15, Middle ManCub leaped to his feet and announced, “I’m going to walk up the coast to Small Coastal Tourist Trap now. I’ll give you a call if I need a ride.”  He shoved a water bottle and some sandals into his backpack and loped down the steps to the beach.

What? Didn’t he know it was 15 miles? Didn’t he know that the storms were still circling, spitting out torrents of rain and bolts of lightning periodically? Did he even take his phone? Did he know when sunset was? Had he put on sunscreen?

Question after question raced through my mind.

And sure enough, I spent the rest of the afternoon fretting. I imagined calling the Coast Guard at midnight and finding his lightning-struck body on the beach at 3 AM. I imagined a gang of bad guys (bad guys? Really? On the beach?) attacking him, beating him, leaving him dead on the beach. I imagined him dying of thirst (in one afternoon) or shivering  from exposure during the long night hours before finally perishing just before dawn.

And phones…bah! There’s no cell coverage along the coast! He wouldn’t be able to call for help. He would barely be able to call for a ride home because that small coastal town has such spotty cell coverage. Furthermore, I hadn’t seen the boy’s cell phone being charged and I knew firsthand how quickly a battery charge runs out when the phone is constantly seeking a signal. If he set out with a low battery, he’d NEVER reach us!

And then can we talk about shoes? He didn’t actually grab sandals. He grabbed an old pair of Crocs that he’s  been wearing for years. Would he even be ambulatory by the time he reached that little town?

Worst of all, I was pretty sure that no food had gone into that back pack. With no calories, how would he keep warm if he ended up being rained on and out in the elements overnight?

And then there are those bad guys…waiting behind a sand dune to jump him….

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to keep from hyperventilating, aware that my heart was racing faster than it should.

There was a tiny part of my brain that KNEW that I was worrying needlessly and inappropriately. There was a tiny RATIONAL part of me that was very aware that

  1. Middle ManCub is a MAN, not a boy. Yes, a gang of bad guys could certainly overpower him, but a GANG of bad guys is unlikely be to hanging out on a remote piece of beach, waiting for a scruffy college kid with no money.
  2. Middle ManCub has backpacked enough to have a little bit of sense about trekking for any distance.
  3. He had water.
  4. He DID have shoes.
  5. He was only going 15 miles and that along a very defined route.
  6. He DID have a cell phone.
  7. It was only August so death by exposure and cold were not likely.
  8. He’s actually walked this stretch of coastline before.
  9. Mountain Man and I both went on more dangerous adventures when we were his age. In fact, this probably didn’t even qualify as a dangerous adventure…not REALLY.
  10. This young man walks in GREAT faith in his God Who he trusts implicitly.
  11. He spends a great deal of time in a WHOLE LOT MORE DANGER every single day that he is in Haiti.

And that last might really be the crux of the biscuit for me. I don’t worry every single day, day in and day out, about Middle ManCub in Haiti because I don’t even KNOW to be worried. I don’t know WHAT to be worried about. And it’s probably just as well. I am forced to leave him in God’s hands and actually LIVE out my belief that nothing can touch him but that it comes through those Great Hands.

So there we were, in the United States, in a rural, coastal area. And I was free to go all out on the worrying. Which I did. Which was stupid. Surely God’s hands are big enough to reach the U.S. too. Surely He doesn’t need the extra horsepower of a mother’s worry to keep His eye glued to that particular sparrow.

I don’t, in fact, want to keep my kids from doing big adventures, dangerous things, high callings. I want them to RUN into their calling with their arms wide open. My mind knows that. My heart even knows it most of the time. My gut? Nope, it worries and worries and worries.

Sometimes it feels like Romans 12:1 (I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your spiritual act of worship) is my call to walk AWAY from the worry, present my worrying gut as a living sacrifice and live with my back to the worry.

The place I need to start is a resolve to NOT picture Middle ManCub’s body crumpled on a beach, or splayed on the broken pavement of an alley, or broken on a busy Haitian street.  I simply must stop picturing those things. That is my first offering.

Best of all, at 6:45 that night, Middle ManCub called for a ride. Fifteen miles in three and a half hours–he felt pretty good about that. And so did I.