Lindsey Mitzel fights her motherly impulse to control what she can, finding strength in the words of Padre Pio and in Scripture.
He woke up calling for me while it was still dark out. My husband brought our one-year-old to me, arms outstretched and squirming to be handed over — I struggled to wake up, caught between sleep and awake. He kept practicing getting on and off our bed. It startled me — I wanted to make sure he didn’t fall. Somewhere in this half hour of sleepy-waking a thought began to form in my mind: I’m really not in control of very much.
For all the time spent in life thus far, my circle of influence is pretty small. Day to day, it essentially extends to what my family will be eating and where I will need (or be willing to) drive to. Yes, my life impacts others, however, I also don’t have control over that. My toddler continued his morning exercise routine as I tried to keep him from toppling over the side of the bed. I thought, “I can keep my baby safe in this moment, but if I forgot him for a second, he might get hurt.” It was followed by another:
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
I realized that in these early moments, what I could control was physically holding my toddler so he didn’t get hurt; however, he existed simply because the Lord remembered him every second. I was protecting him as I needed to, as best I could, in the moments he needed me, but there was not a moment God wasn’t holding him in existence in His mind.
Today is the feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio). This holy man is famous for saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer.” So much of my own anxiety stems from my inflated understanding of what I have control over. As mothers, it’s natural to be concerned about our families. Having concern for our husbands and children is part of how our hearts are formed and is God-given. Worry and anxiety, however, is distorted, and can mean I transplant my will into the place which belongs to God. It can lead me to mistake control for safety, sanity, peace, freedom, etc. If God is not enthroned in my life, I cannot be at peace, because someone else (or something else) has taken His place.
It’s amazing, however, to take a step back and realize how intricately God formed not only us, but every living thing and our entire world. The intricacy in which our bodies are made and survive each second is astonishing. The complexity of our interactions with each other and the world is remarkable. The forming and constant changing and reordering of ecosystems, micro and macrosystems largely remains a mystery to many who spend their lives observing and researching. The impressive piece to this, in my mind, is the sheer greatness of our God. More remarkably, He is a God who deeply cherishes each one of us. In both St. Pio’s famous quote and in Isaiah 49, God reveals His love for us; Padre Pio states that, “Our Merciful Lord will listen to [us]”. In Isaiah 49:16, the Lord reveals that we are “engraved [on the palms of His hands].”
If I’m really honest, I think much of my own anxiety is related to my limited understanding of the world, and even more honestly, of God. It is hard, as well, to be given charge over such dependent little ones; to need to care for their every need. It offers me a helpful perspective of how it is that God cares for me and how I am completely dependent on Him, however, it does nothing to help me remember that I might be in control of what I serve my kids for lunch today, but I’m not in control of what they will choose to eat (among other things)! Likewise, the Lord chooses to co-create with us, however, each soul is created and held in creation by Him alone. I know every toe and chunky cheek of my babies like I know myself, however, in time they will grow and have deep thoughts of their own—their souls are all unique and meant for communion with God alone.
The Lord has given me an image for these times when I find myself feeling particularly anxious: an anchor. I am not particularly nautical myself, however, someone close to me is an avid fisherman and recently bought a new kind of anchor. Having just offered that I’m not particularly nautical, I cannot fully appreciate the technology of this anchor, however, my understanding is that a normal anchor literally anchors your boat to a general place with a bit of drifting due to the nature of the waves that continuously push against the boat. This other kind of anchor works against that effect to help the boat to stay more or less in one place. When this was explained to me, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. St. Paul tells us,
[This] we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil. (Hebrews 6:19).
Our anchor is the hope we have in God’s promises to us. God does not lie.
To anyone who also may be struggling with questions and worry right now, I offer again the simple words of St. Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Our God is massively bigger than any problem we perceive. Our God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Our God is merciful (Ephesians 2:4). Our God loves us beyond measure (Ephesians 3:18), and it is impossible for our God to lie. Unlike so many things in our world, He is truly trustworthy (Hebrews 6:18).
Copyright 2021 Lindsey Mitzel
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About the Author
Lindsey Mitzel is a nurse practitioner and mom to four littles. When not wrangling with or reading to her kids, she can usually be found doing something outdoors. She appreciates dry humor, a good pun, and strong coffee. You can read more about her at Eight and a Half Months. Lindsey also occasionally writes for Be Love Revolution's Tiny Thoughts blog.