“So make up your minds not to worry about your defenses beforehand…” Luke 21:14
It was a beautiful fall day, clear blue skies, warm sun shining through the autumn leaves, which is why my mother allowed me to walk home from piano lessons with my two younger siblings rather than pick us up. Halfway home, my palms started sweating, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I could sense someone walking behind us whose footsteps matched my own in pace. With a flip-flopping stomach, I willed whoever this person was to pass us. I was walking with a five and a seven year old, for goodness sake; any reasonable adult would politely step around us and be on their way. But the footsteps continued, until blessedly, we crossed a street and they stopped. In a panic, I ducked up the alley that led to our house, taking the shortest route to the safety of home. Right when we reached our garage, I was grabbed from behind. I pushed my siblings toward our house, screamed, and then, blessedly again, was let go.
Flickr user: soilse
This incident, suffered at age ten, shattered my sense of safety in the world. For the next few years, I refused to walk anywhere alone. I had a sophisticated typology worked out in my head that told me whether I should be concerned about a passerby on the street: women, especially with children, were safe, single men were not. Each night I anticipated the call to bedtime, so that I could scramble upstairs ahead of my sister to check under the beds and in the closets without being seen.
Fast forward twenty years. I am a new mother, and my husband is traveling for work each week. My fears, which have come and gone over the years, are back in full force. Each night, I put my son on my hip and walked him through the whole house, checking under beds and in closets, double checking the door and window locks, before putting him down to sleep.
A few weeks into this routine, I started to think about what I was teaching my son by our nightly walk around the house. He was being habituated into a world of fear, and while I certainly wanted to protect him, I also wanted him to grow up unafraid. And deep down, I wanted to be unafraid, too. So, I made up my mind not to worry. Or rather, I started praying nightly to have the strength not to worry, to have the trust to give up my routine. Turning to God made it possible for me to move away from my worry and fear, which is not gone completely but does not dominate my life in the way that it once did.
One of the things that Jesus tells us in this week’s gospel is to make up our minds not to worry about our defense beforehand. This is not a recommendation to be foolish; there are still times and places where I will not walk by myself and I always keep my doors locked. But it is an invitation to put our trust in God, to turn to God in prayer with all of worries. For it is in this that we can find freedom from our fears.
What is it that worries you? What is it that you fear? What would it mean to bring these worries and fears to God in prayer?