Big worries, little worries: the bi-focal work of our spiritual lives

Last night my husband were talking about North Korea and DACA, and then we peeked in on our safely sleeping children. “I can see why it is so tempting and so common to become myopic,” he said.

Especially if our up-close life is generally good -- and even when it isn’t -- there is a pull to focus in, forget the far-away, the lives of others who suffer or are in peril. It is a temptation that forms its own sort of peril to the souls of the privileged, like me.

And yet because I am one of those annoying conversation partners who always defends any beleaguered idea, I said yes, but we can’t forget to focus on the up-close, either, because it is the physical life we’ve been given by God, the people and places who will teach us to how to better live and love, if we are paying attention.

This morning, part of my prayer was spent wrestling with God, pleading with Christ about North Korea. I fear a new wave of violence and loss, another sad chapter in the global human story of life lost to war. I also felt I needed to pray about a parenting decision that is smaller-than-small beans in the scheme of things. It is not as simple as “casting your cares on the Lord,” (a phrase which admittedly makes me cringe) but it is as simple as naming, honestly to God, all the sizes and shapes of your worry. It is integrating; it helps make us whole in a mysterious way. I do not always do this -- well or at all -- but when I do, it is my consistent experience that God is gracious with every manner of anxiety, big or small.

We need help to see both that which is far off and that which is close more clearly. To understand them as part of this one life, our complex ugly and beautiful reality. I have heard (and will no doubt learn first-hand soon) that it takes time to adjust to bi-focals; some people give up on them completely. What if this is an essential skill we’re learning our whole lives, whether or not we struggle with physical vision. How to hold in our field of vision that which is far off, and also that which is near? How do we encourage one another when it is tempting to give up on the work it takes to hold both?

 

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