I was born in Houston, which is like the fourth largest city in the United States. It’s massive. Full of people. Full of cars. Full of smog. Twice the population of the state of Kansas probably live in Houston. And if you’ve never been in traffic in Houston, you haven’t been in traffic. I get a kick out of people in Wichita who think we have traffic. Ha. No, we have bad drivers; Houston has traffic. Until it takes you an hour to go 12 miles, you haven’t been in traffic.
Fortunately for me, I have never driven in Houston. I hope I never have to. But I remember growing up down there my poor mom had to drive sometimes, when we needed to get to another side of town for whatever reason. I don’t know how she did it. And I really don’t remember a whole lot of it. Most of the time we stayed on our side of town, I think, sticking to side streets and suburbs. But we had a family we were friends with that did require us to drive some distance, and I remember sitting in the backseat on multiple occasions when Mom announced that we were going to take a shortcut.
That was our cue–my brother and me–to groan and ask her not to take a shortcut, because her shortcuts never worked. Of course, we didn’t mind. What else were we going to do? Walk? I was seven and he was five. But it was sort of our family running gag (one of the many) that taking shortcuts were more trouble than they were worth.
So when I got to thinking about the concept of worry this week, the thought of a shortcut popped into my mind. And if you think about it, they’re similar concepts because worrying is easy to do. It’s easy to let it happen. It’s much harder and it takes much more discipline to not worry than it does to give into it. But worry is a shortcut that doesn’t lead anywhere. It makes you feel better somehow because it helps you feel like you’re doing something when you really can’t do anything at all, and for doers (like me) that’s alluring. But it’s an illusion.
Today’s verse is John 14:27.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
This is one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He was crucified. He wanted them to know that He was going away but that He wasn’t leaving them alone. He didn’t want them to worry because He was giving them a gift that would stay with them forever. It’s nice to know we have access to that same gift–the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew that His disciples were going to have a lot on their plates when He was gone. He knew what they were going to face. He knew what would be asked of them. He wanted them to be as prepared for what was coming as they could be. And He knew that worrying about the things they couldn’t control would only slow them down, would stunt their growth, would distract them from accomplishing the great things He had in store for them.
Funny how things don’t change, even in 2,000 years.
Worry is still debilitating. Anxiety still strips us of our effectiveness. And yet we all still cling to it because we’ve given into this cultural lie that it helps us do more. But worry is like taking a shortcut in Houston – it’s stressful, complicated, and you never end up where you think you should be.
Worrying is easy. But it’s usually the easy things in life that are the most damaging.
Fighting worry and anxiety off is hard work. It takes discipline and practice, but it’s worth it. Whoever thought taking the scenic route would be called discipline? Well, I think we all need some of that kind of discipline in our lives. We all need to take time to play. We all need to take time to let go of the things that are driving us and prioritize exactly what it is that we’re doing here.
So skip the shortcut. You have time to take the scenic route. And you actually might enjoy it more.