I used to worry myself sick about my children. All those years working in the emergency room left me acutely aware of all the dangers in the world: broken bones, lacerations, concussions, car accidents and all sorts of other harms.
Neil was almost the opposite. He didn’t want our daughters to grow up afraid of anything. He taught them swimming and rock climbing and caving and surfing, and whenever they got hurt he called their wounds a “fun badge.” They came home and told me all about their adventures, proudly showing off their fun badges to prove what they had done.
Between these two distinctly different parental approaches, our girls ended up right where they should be – in the middle, with a healthy respect for the dangers in the world, but willing to take some risks for things that are important to them. And the combination of approaches worked well for Neil and me too, as I learned to relax a bit and he learned precaution. After he died, I was afraid I would tip back over into the worried helicopter mom I was once. But I haven’t.
The past year proved to me that all the worrying in the world can’t change anything. It is a useless activity, and does nothing but sap my energy and twist my emotions. Worry does have an opposite, though – prayer. Praying is much more powerful than worrying, and my prayer is fairly simple. I pray simply for God to stay with my daughters and never let them forget He is there. I imagine gently passing them from my small hands into His strong and mighty ones. And then I let go and let Him do His work.
Having recognized this, I can now substitute prayer whenever I’m tempted to worry, not just for my family, but for my friends and even my patients. God can take care of them so much better than I can. Now that my baby has gone off to college, it’s OK if I don’t hear from her for a few days. I can be confident God is with her and she is enjoying her new adventure. When my middle daughter traveled to Europe recently, and I knew our communication would be sporadic and inconsistent, I could focus on the great experience she was having and trust God’s protection to surround her.
I know life is full of challenges and disappointments, and bad things may still happen to my girls despite my prayers, but I also know that worrying doesn’t protect them at all. And I remember:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made to God. And the peace of God, which
surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.