PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

“Degraded deity”


You've heard it before: It only takes a few muscles to smile, hundreds to frown. This means smiling is energy-conserving; frowning, a waste of it. And while cooling it and taking things in stride is necessary, worrying is so unnecessary, a waste of time, as virtually nothing gets solved especially by worrying too much. Not only that. I bet you haven't heard of this: Worrying is a sin, particularly too much worrying. It took someone to tell me that. And I feel duty-bound to tell this to you. Wait, where’s my little book of quotations?

A quote attributed to Feltham drove home the point: "He that despairs degrades the Deity, and seems to intimate that He is insufficient, or not just to His word; and in vain has read the Scriptures, the world and man."

Worrying, apparently, has its roots in lack of faith. No wonder it is considered weakness. And haven't you noticed? A worrier indeed tends to be always angry, grouchy, grumpy. His behavior tends to rub people the wrong way.

I should know. One of my monumental flaws is being a worrier. Again, it took me some well-meaning people to realize that. An encounter with such people while I look irritated has never failed to mirror my state of irritation on their faces. Frazzled line once crumpled the countenance of a rather angelic-looking salesgirl after I frowned over the wrong size of a shirt I had bought from her.

I have grown warts and white hair worrying about my future, my job, the absence of a clear career-path, my family. I have acquired premature lines on my face worrying about the end of the world or a brewing war with China over the Spratley Islands or the coming of the anti-Christ from the Middle East. I've grown older bothering about my finances, my bills, my present work, my looks. I'm anxious about the global economy. I worry that my LPG tank at home might explode, that the young ones at home would bump their soft heads on the wall. I worry that one day, on my way to work, a slab might fall on me from a skyscraper or a daredevil car racer might sideswipe me as a I huff and puff to beat the grace period.

One thing I've noticed about fussing and fretting is that it has a multiplicative property. A quote from Massinger says, "To despair is but to antedate those miseries that must fall on us." Worrying, I've found, is like grumbling. It is actually a grievous offense and a worrier, much like a grumbler, is punished with the unleashing of a new set of things to get upset about. The worst tragedy would be for worrying to become an almost unbreakable habit because of this.

My teacher in high school once remarked during the height of a storm that we the young always complained about the weather. "What's wrong with you?" he asked his class, bewildered. "During the summer, you complain about the heat. During the wet season, you complain about the rain, the flood, and the muddy roads." He implied that it's a good thing we didn't have winter and autumn in the Philippines; if we did, we would find fault with the snow and the falling leaves as well, assuring us a year-round life of complaints, until life itself becomes one big complaint.

Years later, I found myself in Manila nursing a bad cold in the heat of the El Niño. Imagine having cold at the hottest, crankiest days of your life. Like a bad cue, I remembered my teacher admonishing us about the weather. In resentment at being corrected by authority from the distant past, I blew my nose so hard my eardrums nearly got flushed out.

With my propensity to anguish over things being almost genetic, I can't say for certain when I would stop worrying altogether. Just like chain smoking, I know it's hard a habit to break.

But that's what God is for, thankfully. If everything is certain, then let's just stop all these things about faith and start relying only in ourselves, in our own efforts. He will help us overcome our worries if we take the plunge of trusting.

In spite of all the negative things around us, it pays to whistle while we work, sing a happy tune or two. Worrying won't guarantee that things will get better. What we should watch out for is the temptation to go the extreme way, to the other direction. The presumption is that we are doing our best we can wherever we may be, and we are constantly guarding against complacency. The movie, 'The Lion King' talks about hakuna matata or a worry-free existence, while the Australian film 'Strictly Ballroom' cautions that "a life lived in fear is a life half-lived." Great men have advised us "to live till tomorrow will have passed away" and rightfully observed that "it is late before the brave (or faithful) despair."

The Bible itself points to the birds in the air and the grass in the field, which thrive because it's the Almighty who feeds them. “His eye is on the sparrow.” Surely, in His eyes, we are notches higher than birds and grasses? But we tend to keep on degrading the Deity.


1998


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