Discernment, Reflectionary

Do the Right Thing


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life  more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:25-29, NRSV)

I have to admit it. I’m a worrier. When you consider that I’ve been aware of this passage since I was a child of 8, it’s a sad testimony to my faith that I continue to worry.

I’d like to tell you that I don’t worry about food and clothing and shelter, those classic first chakra, survival-related worries. I’d like to tell you that since I have spent my life in what have been, compared to most people’s, luxurious circumstances, it never occurs to me to worry about such things. But somewhere inside me is a baby who is hungry or cold or lonely, and she worries, and so do I.

As if that were not enough, I also worry about what I like to call "big" things. Most especially I worry about doing the right thing.

I don’t mean the simple, everyday choice-making we all do that comes down to ethics or practicality or preference.

I mean the kinds of things that determine the trajectory of our lives.

Oddly enough, I have long eschewed the idea of God as a Santa Claus-like micromanager, somewhere far away keeping lists of naughty and nice people and doling out punishments and rewards accordingly.

But I behave as if I believed in Santa God.

When faced with a major life choice, I worry that if I do the "wrong" thing, I will ruin it all.

As you can probably imagine, this creates a high level of tension.

I tend to get carried away with causality. If I do this, then inevitably I will be *unable* to do that or the other. One wrong move and everything is down the toilet. In contrast, one right move will certainly smooth the way. And I suppose this all goes back to the underlying survival fears.

This is one of those matters where in my role as pastor to others, I would lay out a kinder world view, one in which we are not doomed if we make one wrong move, or one less than stellar decision, or simply don’t read the signals the right way.

Jesus is laying out another way of approaching life, the one I find so easy to recommend to others.

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:33-34, NRSV)

Or as Eugene Peterson renders it in The Message:

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t
get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help
you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Right now, you say? Oh. That does put a different nuance on the whole passage. If I can focus on what God is doing right now, both in me and in the world, maybe I’ll have a better sense of how to discern what I am being led or called to do.

But if I don’t buy into the notion of the micromanager, the guy who has everything mapped out for me, who or what is this God and how can she or he be "doing" anything?

Once The Princess told her Sunday School class that she thought of God as being "a big ball of love."

What, then, is Love doing in me and in the world?

It can be hard to see when I allow myself to be filled with worry. Perhaps what I need to do is invite anxiety to stop blocking the view; then I will be able to see what Love might lead me to do.

11 thoughts on “Do the Right Thing”

  1. This is so much easier said than done, so it’s good for me to be reminded of it.
    So much of what I do directly involves others (I’m thinking of teaching). It’s hard not to worry about the fact that what is right for one person in one moment may not be right for another.
    This isn’t a criticism of this post, just me saying that man, it isn’t easy.

  2. FWIW, I was raised in a theologically conservative church (and at least one theologically conservative parent), and I find myself having to check the beliefs I absorbed as a child. They aren’t helpful. Your beliefs of origin may well be the source of “Santa God”.
    And yet, God does provide…

  3. Amen. Sometimes I am able to rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than my mistakes, and the faith that God can turn my mistakes and their consequences to good ends. Sometimes I’m not!

  4. Yes. I worry far too much, too. Do we think God is going to be surprised or derailed by anything, much less a decision we make prayerfully and with as much wisdom as we can? Yet somehow we act like we do.

  5. So, in the midst of all of this worrying my dear friend, how’s your prayer life? I have been thinking about you and look forward to more burgers and prayer.

  6. It’s better, friend. It’s better. Writing this was a good piece of process work, although perhaps could have used the burger accompaniment! God be with you this morning.
    Some of this fed into the brief scripture reflection I will give this morning (not a full-fledged sermon), and I’ll post it later on the Small Church blog.

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