staying faithful : imaginary problems

[This is a fake post scheduled pre-trip. Right now I'm probably doing anything and everything in my power to soak up as much warmth as possible over the course of 48 hours. There is likely sweet tea involved. There is definitely Chick-fil-A involved. Full updates next week!]

The kids that I nanny for are a brother and sister, 2 and 4, respectively. They play really well together. But as siblings, it’s in the contract that they get into arguments at least once per hour. It’s relational law.

More often than not, these spats revolve around whatever imaginary game they happen to be playing at the moment. My favorite is when they FREAK OUT over the injustices that have just befallen them at the hands of each other’s imaginary actions. Last week we were playing with their kitchen set. Brother is pretending to make a tray of imaginary cookies, big ones and small ones, as per his description. Sister proceeds to gobble up said invisible baked goods. Brother turns to me and, with a look of horror, wails, “SHE ATE ALL OF THE BIG ONES!!!”

Troubleshooting these situations is always an adventure because you can’t just whip out a tub of imaginary big cookie dough to make another batch, as per my initial attempt. Oh, no! That’s just unacceptable. What needs to happen is an official time reversal in which, as it turns out, Sister did not eat all of the big ones, and there are still some left over for him and me there in the corner of the tray. We just couldn’t see them originally because they were hiding underneath the flower decals on the baking pan.

Duh.

The imaginary crises bring me no end of joy because it’s so funny to see what they come up with and what solution they’ll agree to. But on the other hand, I really love those kids like you would not believe, so I want to fix all of their problems, imaginary or not. And last week while I was desperately seeking a solution that would result in a healing of the Big Cookie Wound, I thought about how much easier it would be to solve an actual, tangible problem – one that was not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is 2 year old logic.

And then…because I can’t turn off the wheels that create odd connections in my brain…I thought about how much easier my life would be if it were not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is my human logic.

Because, really, about 99% of the time I do the same thing the kids do. I work myself into a panic about imaginary problems that only exist in my overactive mind. Problems about what may or may not happen to my parents, my friends, myself. Questions about where I may or may not live or what kind of career I may or may not have. Crises that involve wondering whether or not I’ll ever see a Packers game at Lambeau Field or live within walking distance to Trader Joe’s or Jamba Juice or Chick-fil-A.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

But they are imaginary things of my own creation. There is nothing real about them. It’s just as foolish to get my feathers ruffled over potential future employment opportunities as it is to be outraged at the violation of imaginary personal property. It’s literally no different.

It makes me think of this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

[Isaiah 55:8-11]

…and this:

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

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.

[Matthew 6:33-34]

It would be so helpful to remember those verses more often.

And as for the imaginary problems I just can’t quit no matter how hard I try? God wants to take care of those too, even though they’re fake! I wanted to comfort my little baker in his grief over stolen cookies – whether they were real or not didn’t matter. I wasn’t judging him or discounting him on account of the fact that we were trying to solve a problem about air…it felt real to him so it mattered to me. If that’s how I feel about a child I just get to play with on weekdays, imagine how much greater the love of God for his children and their problems – real or imaginary.

So, friends, may all of your big cookies be real ones. Eaten only by you, and not your sister. And may the fake ones either disappear or be given to the Lord, who is ready and willing to take good care of them – and you, too.

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3 thoughts on “staying faithful : imaginary problems

  1. What a wonderful illustration of our cracked up problems! It’s so true…I spend inordinate amounts of time and energy worrying over and even praying about things that haven’t happened, may never happen, and certainly aren’t as bad as I’ve made them out to be. I just taught on that Jeremiah passage a few weeks ago and I really wish I’d had your perspective on it then. Indeed, how much time do we spend talking with God, really just fretting in His presence, about things that are “imaginary” and all the while He is offering us the real stuff. You’ve struck a chord with me.

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