The word “worry” is rooted in the Old English wyrgan, meaning “strangle,” which is pretty much what worry does to us, when you give it some thought. We hear all the time that useless worry steals our joy, and it also prevents us from focusing on those things help nurture our spirit. This always seems clear to me in hindsight, but during moments of worry, I have found it difficult to just not worry. I am getting better at it, though.
Here are some things that I have wasted time worrying about over the years:
- Nuclear Holocaust: In 1984, my fifth-grade teacher had a preoccupation with the possibility of nuclear war. He spoke of it frequently, in ominous tones. He was obviously worried about it. For instance, he told us that if a nuclear bomb was dropped on Salisbury, all that would be left of us would be our shadows, radioactively etched into the charred, smoking ground. On the positive side, however, he told us that if a nuclear bomb ever was dropped on Salisbury, we would not have to worry about it because we would all be killed instantly. A few classmates later told me they would lay awake at night, terrified.
- Urban Legends: “Did you know that every peanut you eat takes seven years to digest?”, my aunt proclaimed from her rocking chair, dramatically waving her finger in the air. I cannot even begin to imagine what she might have misheard that would make her say this. Her words worried me. I am now 40 years old and still think of this when I eat peanuts.
- Sasquatch: As a child, I had no sense of the difference between the East/West Coasts, so in my mind, Sasquatch could leap into the window of our home at any given time. This was silly of course. Sasquatch lived on the West Coast.
- Slavery: Someone thought it was a good idea to allow me to watch the television mini-series Roots, based on the novel by Alex Hailey. The miniseries originally aired in 1977, which means I would have been…about…four years old.
- Unidentified Flying Objects: The Sci-Fi series Project UFO aired from 1978-79 and for one year, this was a household favourite.
In retrospect, I understand that worrying about any of this was pointless, because what good did it do? Regardless of what happened, worry did not and will not change the outcome. We are promised in today’s first reading from Isaiah that our God will not forget about us, for his love for us is greater than the bond between mother and child. Jesus reassures us in Matthew’s gospel that there is no need to waste our time in worry, for “tomorrow will take care of itself.” He understood, I think, that worry places a spiritual choke-hold on us. I take great comfort in this…although Jesus probably never had a teacher worrying him with threatening tales of nuclear warfare and death-shadows.