My wife and I attend church each Sunday morning with our children. This year, our church meetings start at 9:00 a.m.
Today is Sunday, and my wife and I woke up around 7:00 this morning, but we didn’t get out of bed until 7:30. An hour and a half is not much time to get ourselves and 7 children up, fed and ready for church; so, we called a quick family meeting for prayer and then encouraged the children to get ready for church while I made sugar and spice muffins.
I promised them that the first person to finish getting ready would get the first muffin. It worked well. Everyone scrambled off to get dressed, shower, brush hair, etc.
I then made the muffins and put them in the oven to bake. While they were baking, I did some dishes and cleaned the kitchen table. The muffins came out great and were promptly attacked by all seven of our children around 7:50. At first, I had to keep the ravenously eager mob away till our daughter who had won the right to the first muffin finally reappeared. I then ran upstairs to get myself ready while they ate and hopefully left to walk to church.
The morning had been busy for me, so I didn’t have much time for thought until I got to church 10 minutes late and settled into the pew with my family. Despite trying to pay attention to the service, thoughts started to come hard and fast — “how am I going to provide for my family?” “how are we going to avoid becoming homeless in June when our pre-paid rent runs out?” “why are my business attempts not working out?” “why can’t I get a job?”
These were just a continuation of the same line of thinking that had been playing through my mind between waking up this morning and actually getting out of bed 30 minutes later. In fact, right after getting up, my wife asked me what I was thinking. In an effort to avoid answering, I replied, “depends on the moment you ask,” because my thoughts had been racing and each moment came with a different worry. She pressed me and asked me to tell her what I was thinking right when she asked. I don’t remember my exact words, but they were something like, “I was thinking, ‘God, please don’t let my family become homeless.’”
My busy activity during the next 90 minutes kept these thoughts mostly at bay until I got to church, but I had no defense then. I sat through two sermons, and, though I enjoyed them, my anxiety kept mounting as my mind flipped from praying to God for help in meeting my families needs and avoiding homelessness to reviewing my long lists of failed efforts to change the disastrous financial direction we are headed.
I feel like we are all on a canoe rushing down a river toward a gigantic falls. The water is smooth here — only the occasional rapid — but the current is strong and fast, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get us closer to the shore. Each second, the roar of the falls gets louder in my ears. My kids don’t seem to hear it, but I do, and I know what it means. It is a steady, ominous sound. Sometimes, it seems to be the only thing I can hear.
I’m sitting in the back of the canoe. I’m looking at my family, watching them take in the scenery, enjoy the beautiful day and having fun with each other. My wife sits right in front of me. She can hear it. Occasionally she tells me she’s getting scared. I’ve noticed that she has started to paddle frantically. When she expresses her terror, I usually snap back that “I know, and I’m trying my best, but nothing is working.” I’m terrified too.
Everything that I value most in the world is in this canoe. It was my idea to get in, and my idea to try this route. It is my fault we are in danger. I’m supposed to be able to keep them safe. But I can’t. I’m going to lose it all. If we go over the falls, all of them — my wife, our five daughters, and our two sons — will be dashed on the rocks or lost in the churning water. I can’t save them all. Our older children have a chance. They can probably make it to the shore alive, but what about our two middle children and our two youngest? The youngest two can hardly swim.
“OH, GOD. PLEASE HELP ME!”
There’s just one more sermon to go, but I can’t sit still any more. I haven’t taken my ADHD meds and praying in my mind isn’t enough. I head home, drop on my knees at the foot of our bed, and pray out loud:
“FATHER, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF MY WIFE AND OUR CHILDREN. PLEASE DON’T LET THEM BECOME HOMELESS. PLEASE PROVIDE FOR THEM. I CAN’T DO IT, BUT YOU CAN. I’LL DO WHATEVER YOU ASK ME TO DO. JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO AND GIVE ME THE POWER TO DO IT. IT MAY LOOK TO OTHERS AS IF I WILL BE THE ONE PROVIDING FOR THEM, BUT I KNOW IT WON’T BE ME, IT WILL BE YOU. JUST YOU. I KNOW THAT MY EFFORTS ARE NOTHING. I DON’T HAVE THE POWER OR THE WISDOM TO PROVIDE FOR MY WIFE AND CHILDREN OR TO KEEP THEM SAFE. BUT, YOU DO.”
“I KNOW YOU DON’T ALWAYS SAVE PEOPLE — EVEN INNOCENT PEOPLE OR CHILDREN — FROM SUFFERING OR HOMELESSNESS. SO, IF, FOR SOME REASON I DON’T UNDERSTAND, YOU CHOOSE TO LET US BECOME HOMELESS, I WILL STILL TRUST YOU. I WILL TRUST THAT IF YOU LET US GO OVER THIS CLIFF, IT WILL BE OKAY. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, AND NO MATTER WHAT MY WIFE AND OUR CHILDREN HAVE TO GO THROUGH, I WILL TRUST THAT YOU WILL EVENTUALLY SAVE THEM.”
I take my ADHD medication and head back to church. I missed the last sermon. But, I feel better. I commit to not worrying about the possibility of us becoming homeless for the rest of today. Instead, I will study the gospel and recovery literature (I believe the principles and literature of recovery are part of the gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ), I will be present with my wife and children, I will try to serve others. I will let tomorrow take care of itself, and I will dedicate the rest of today to God.