Do you remember the old song by Luther Dixon: “Mama said there’d be days like this”? The lyrics seemed to talk about good and bad days, but always came back to Mama saying, “Don’t worry.” No matter what comes, there will be good and bad days.
Today is one of those days, the “Don’t worry” kind, even though I know in my bones that worrying is a waste of time. I used to worry about everything, and you know what? It did not do a single bit of good. Good and bad happened, and I lived through all of it. Tomorrow will come, good or bad, regardless of how much or how little I fret about it.
Today is one day when I can identify with Jesus, specifically Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what was coming, and he dreaded it. I cannot imagine Jesus being somewhat fearful, anxious, or full of dread. He understood that the next day would bring his death, coupled with anguish and feelings of desertion. He knew there would be unbearable pain and that he would have to endure it. Yet, he asked God to take the burden from him, knowing his prayer would go unanswered.
Ok, I am not facing crucifixion, scourging, betrayal, or humiliation. Well, maybe a bit of embarrassment. I am facing a “procedure” that is unpleasant in its required preparation, and then, tomorrow, having to go through with the actual procedure itself. It seems to be the one way to find out if I have something that is lowering my blood cell count, thus making me tired and short of breath after brief exertion. The test could might tell if it is severe enough to compromise my immune system. Important, so I have been trying to keep busy, forgetting about food (I am not allowed to eat today and until the procedure is over tomorrow), and hydrating like mad. I think Phoebe, my cat, knows I am stressed as she has been a bit clingy, which is unusual for her.
Like Jesus, I’ve been praying quite a bit as I do household things that need doing and that I have put off. The prayers fly out like arrows from a taut bow, asking for reassurance, courage, patience, and relief from dread. Usually, my favorite prayer, the Serenity Prayer, credited to Reinhold Niebuhr, does the trick. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” usually gives me a sense of calm and, oddly enough, the very serenity I ask for. Over the years that I have used it as my go-to prayer, I have become much calmer, less anxious, not as worried, and more able to cope with things that come my way. Today, believe me, that prayer is earning its keep in terms of helping me forget the dread I have experienced off and on.
It is no wonder that the Serenity Prayer is such a cornerstone for those suffering from addiction or watching a friend or loved one go through it. Sometimes medication is needed, and I know it can be helpful in my life. Still, I use a connection to God almost like a mantra or perhaps a bead on a rosary.
The image of Jesus in Gethsemane keeps flashing through my mind quite often today. As close as he was to God, I wonder what words he used in his prayer. What did he say to try to come to grips with what he was facing? I know that he felt pain, loss, and desertion on the cross by someone he had always counted on. How devastating that must have been, knowing the closeness he and God had always shared. I think, in a way, I will be feeling something of that total aloneness as I go into the hospital. I will be surrounded by strangers, even though I will have support waiting for me when I get out of the operating room. Jesus had women friends and family with him at the cross, but the main person he needed was not there – or was God there, weeping with the women? Even though I am a person who cannot seem to cry at appropriate times, I feel the pain and loss every bit as deeply as one who stands over a loved one’s casket.
So I will reflect on my “Mama said” tonight, keep reciting the Serenity Prayer, do some much-needed chores around the house, and then go to bed. I will be repeating the prayer once again before I hopefully fall asleep.
Tomorrow is another day.
Linda Ryan is an Education for Ministry mentor, an avid reader, a Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and a fumbling knitter. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter and lives with her cat, Phoebe, near Phoenix, Arizona.