It was two in the morning. Hints of moonlight streamed across the darkened walls. An air purifier hummed in the corner of the room. The night was silent, and if it hadn’t been for the thunderous roar in the pit of my stomach, I would have been asleep.
I can usually sleep through anything, sirens, fireworks, or the clap of thunder. But a hungry stomach, apparently that wakes me up.
I lay in bed that early morning and argued with myself. On one hand, I was starving, and figured I should eat something to settle my angry stomach. On the other hand, if I got up, I knew I’d be tempted to stay up, to wash dirty dishes, sort through mail, and clean the bathroom I hadn’t gotten to the day before.
I took a deep breath and tried to relax. And as I did, I thought back to the days when my children were little, and waking at 2:00 a.m. was normal for me.
The young mom stared at the ceiling, cast in a light glow from the street lamp just outside her bedroom window. She placed her hands in the air, imitating the shadow puppets she’d created earlier in the evening for her two boys.
She looked at her husband lying next to her. She envied him, how quickly he fell asleep, how quietly he lay in one position for hours. She glanced at the clock. 2:15 – the same time it was last night, and every night before that.
Her mind began to wander. Even though she had stayed up late, she still had many tasks to do: plates teetered in a pile in the sink; marks from soccer shoes were smudged across her kitchen floor; her son’s pants sat in a basket, waiting to be hemmed, and if she didn’t do it soon, he’d outgrow them before he had a chance to wear them, just like the pair before, and the ones before that.
Special outfits were needed for school this week, red for Monday, green for Tuesday, and a hat for Wednesday. She wondered where the cowboy hat was, the one he had wanted while on vacation a long time ago.
She remembered the cookies needed for a party later in the week, and how she’d have to make one more trip to the grocery store.
Her mind was reeling now, hundreds of thoughts all melded into one. She jumped out of bed, shivering as her feet hit the cool slabs of the wooden floor. As she snuck out of the bedroom, she wrapped her thick robe around her shoulders, closing the door softly behind her.
In the kitchen, she flipped on the light, squinting as her eyes adjusted. It was eerie being up this late, or rather, this early. No pitter-patter of little feet, no cries, no shouts, no laughter. Not even a bird. She hit the button on the coffee maker, inhaling deeply as the first drips of black water hit the pot.
Grabbing a pen, she began a list for the new day. By the time her family slid out of bed, the young mom was showered, dressed, with breakfast waiting on the table. Fresh chocolate chip cookies sat on a plate, and the fixings for dinner were in a bowl in the fridge.
The young mom was happy she had accomplished so much, and though she smiled at her family, she was tired. She wished she could sleep a whole night, could wake up refreshed and renewed, but the truth was, she didn’t know how.
Worrying had become an addiction, a nightly habit she didn’t know how to let go of. Worrying stuck with her through each stage of her children’s lives, as pre-teens and teens, as young adult men who were gone and married. She didn’t know life without worry.
It wasn’t until her accident that worrying took a new face. It seemed her body only wanted sleep, and the only worrying and thinking she could do would be for herself. She needed to heal, and in order to do that, she had to let go of the one thing she’d relied on most of her life – worry.
The Bible tells us not to worry, and all those times I read it, I didn’t understand. I thought worrying meant I cared, but the truth is, it meant I wanted control.
I think worrying has many aspects, and there are many reasons God tells us not to worry. He wants us to trust in Him. He knows what worry can do to our bodies, and how it infests our minds.
Worrying harms our health, giving us high blood pressure, making us gain weight. Worrying makes us tired, unhappy, dissatisfied with life. Worrying takes time and energy. And if we are giving our time and energy to worry, how can we give it to anything else?
I’m not much of a worrier anymore, and rarely wake up in the middle of the night. For both of those things, I am thankful. But maybe I wouldn’t be if I had never been a worrier. Maybe I needed to learn a few lessons. Like: Worrying isn’t worth my time. And: Worrying steals life.
I have learned to let go of worry, and hang on to life.