Fret Not

When our daughter Naomi was a toddler, and it was time for a family outing, I would often let her play on the front porch until it was time to go. The family would pile into the car and buckle up, while I went back and forth to gather up our stuff from inside the house.

My intent was for little Naomi to have some fun during that prep time. When it was just about time to go, she would look up from the pile of shoes she was playing with, and interpret the event very differently.

Her two-year-old brained processed the event this way: “Hmm…mommy and daddy are getting into the car with my brothers and sister which means they are about to go bye-bye. The car just made that noise again which means it is about to move. The doors just closed. I am still here on the porch by myself which means…I AM GOING TO BE LEFT BEHIND. I WILL BE ALL ALONE. AHHHHHHH! WAHHHHH!”

Crying and screaming would erupt, which was the appropriate response had we in fact planned to abandon her that morning. Her only help in a dark, empty house would be house pets without opposable thumbs.

I would rush to her, pick her up, and wipe her tear-stained face. As I strapped her in, the rest of the family would invariably chuckle about this together. I mean, Naomi, sweetie, did you really think mommy and daddy were going to leave you behind all by yourself? How many times have we done that to you?

The answer, of course, was not once.

I also process events differently than my Heavenly Father, and respond in the same, silly way. I fear that I have or will be abandoned. There I am on the front porch, trying to figure out how to put these shoes on all by myself, and I look up just in time to see God about to drive away. Then I’ll be all alone in the world to fend for myself. WAHHHHH!

How many times has He done that in my life?

The answer, of course, is not once.

So instead of the joy of looking forward to a great adventure with my Father and His family, a dark cloud of worry envelopes my mind until I can hardly think about anything else.

There is a dark basement of our lives, filled with stress and worry, and the foundation underneath that basement is the fear that we have been abandoned. That darkness has a way of creeping upstairs into the rest of the house, disrupting our own peace of mind and damaging all of our relationships.

If we said the lie we were believing out loud, we would realize how ridiculous it is: I am alone in the world. No one bigger than me is around. I now have to fend for myself.

Time for some foundation repair. I can say to you, no you silly, you have not been abandoned. But that’s not enough. You still wouldn’t get it. You need to let your Heavenly Father scoop you up into His arms and look into His loving eyes long enough for you to say, you’re right…I am being silly.

As God told a stressed-out, tear-stained face people through the prophet Isaiah, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

He is with you.

I’m going to keep staring into His calm and loving face until I believe that deep down. Until the foundation is repaired and the darkness of doubt is cleared out. I want to strap into this next adventure with a tear-free face. 

Alright Dad, you’re right, I was being silly. You got this…let’s go.

— Mike O’Quin, author of Java Wake and Growing Desperate

P.S. For more on this, how the reality of God’s nearness is even more powerful than self-affirmation, see my friend Clark’s recent blog post, The Greatest Weapon Against Self-Doubt.

Naomi Snow DayI received a phone call this morning at 6 AM from the Austin Independent School District, a recorded message announcing that school was cancelled today for “inclement weather.”

That inclement weather is a winter storm blowing in, icing over the roads and teasing Austin with a tiny bit of snow, a rarity for Central Texas.  A big smile crept across my sleepy face as I had the delightful job of letting my kids know the awe-inspiring, mind-boggling, joy-inducing news: NO SCHOOL TODAY!

This is something that never happened to them when we lived in Indonesia, as snowflakes tend to avoid the equator.  So for the first time ever in their lives, winter weather has halted a regular old grueling day of wake up, jump up, get your day started, learn your lessons and do your homework.

Ana sent me a text message from her room at 7 AM asking if school was cancelled.  Instead of texting back the answer, I had to deliver this unbelievable message in person.  I tiptoed into her room with the news at bedside and the reply was an exultant, whispery yell, “YESSSSS!!!”   She’s still in there sleeping now to celebrate (8:53 AM).

Next Jordan stumbled of his room, worried that he had missed his alarm (I had gone in earlier to snatch it away).  “Dad, I overslept,” he cried out.

“No you didn’t.  No school today!”

What???!!  Fist pumps.  A twirl.  A lifting of his face to offer praise to the heavens.  A run to the window to confirm the news.  His “YESSSSS” that was louder then Ana’s.

Stephanie and I were the most excited about Naomi’s reaction, as our princess born in the tropics can’t remember ever seeing snow in her five-year-old life.  Little Naomi looked through the doorway at the white rooftops and started squealing.  “No school today?” she asked.

“No school today!” we answered, even though she never has it on Fridays (that’s okay, five-year-old’s aren’t known for their calendar adeptness).

More squealing.  More wide-eyed wonderment at the light, white frosting on the ground (definitely not enough to make a snowman, but impressive for us Texans nonetheless).

That feeling of waking up to a snow-cancelled school day, there’s nothing quite like it in the whole world.  I remember growing up in a small town in Arkansas, listening to the radio on mornings when it snowed, and hoping against hope that the grind of school would be obliterated by a day of frolicking in white powder with my friends and making a snowman.  Those were the days before the news was delivered by automated messages to your cell phone.   Yet still unbounded joy then and now.

I have a couple of questions for you.

The first is, how long has it been since you have experienced joy?

Think about it for a minute.   It’s been a while for me, honestly.  I want to have that wide-eyed wonderment that Naomi has in her face this morning more often.  I want to “fight for joy,” as John Piper says.  In fact, that is one of my New Year’s resolutions, to fight for joy every single day this year, for joy to be normative in my daily life as Paul admonished us: “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

The second question is, how does God feel about you when you experience joy?

I experienced joy as a father today as my kids experienced joy, maybe even to a greater degree than theirs.  I was giddy with the thought of delivering the good news.  The anticipation of their faces lighting up lit up my own heart with joy.

Make God joyful.  Be more joyful.  Clutch on to Him more tightly this year than you ever have.  Let the reality of “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah  8:10) permeate your life.

You have to look carefully to find the mini-snowman
You have to look carefully to find the mini-snowman in this picture

Now get out there and scrape enough snow off the driveway to make a mini-snowman.

— Mike O’Quin, author, Java Wake and Growing Desperate