I am great at worry. It’s a gift really—a family heirloom you might say. If there were a university that taught the subject, I’d be a shoo-in for an honorary doctorate. Having children really honed and refined this gift to grandmaster status. Granted, raising three kids in Africa gave me an edge that many in my peer group haven’t had, so I’m not sure it’s fair to gloat too much.
After all, we had armed men try to break into our house while we were sleeping, a suicide bomber blow himself up a few hundred meters from our house, and a whole slew of potential illnesses, that people were dying from, literally at our fingertips.
Most of us take for granted that we can drink from the tap. In three of our four African posts, we didn’t even brush our teeth with the tap water. I remember my little daughter asking us, when we were visiting family in the States, if she could really use the tap water. We bathed two of our infants in heated up distilled water because the water piped into the houses wasn’t potable.
We had to disinfect all our produce in a bleach/distilled water solution. As careful as we were, I still had food poisoning at least three times in our seven years of African living, but blessedly, we did avoid it for the children.
The worry over my children is the hard part for me. In Africa, when my children got a fever the possibilities were mind-numbing. Malaria was always a fear, which is why we slept under mosquito netting, but dengue, Ebola, and every illness we vaccinate for were all possibilities. Of course my mind ran the gauntlet of imaginable diseases with every fever. I have so much in common with Nemo's father.
I’m stunned really, that I didn’t worry myself into oblivion. I did come close with my third pregnancy. It was so different from the other two that every day was a battle of wills between my sanity and my fears. I felt like I was warring with the devil. A tenuous grasp on hope was a thin fortress to the daily worry that something was wrong and that I was a long plane ride away from any adequate medical care. My fears came close to engulfing me.
“Worry” is really just a polite way of saying “fear,” and quite frankly, I’d like to pitch them both from my life. I can’t blame it on my experiences in Africa either, after all, there are plenty of Africans living in situations far worse and they manage to survive without fretting themselves into a tizzy. My mind knows the disadvantages of letting fear control me, but the rest of me hasn’t agreed with it yet.
Fear is a weapon. According to the scriptures, fear and charity, like light and dark, can't occupy the same place at once. I certainly recognize that faith and fear can’t co-exist, so my fear wallowing has come at a high cost. I must somewhat superstitiously feel that thinking through every fearful possibility gives me some kind of control over the outcome. In actuality, it leaves me utterly susceptible to despair.
I suppose it’s a control I’m not willing, no, not faith-full enough to surrender. I’m not sure when I will be, but I hope I figure it out before I pass it on to my children. It’s one family heirloom I’d like to auction to the highest bidder—a penny would do.