Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Monster at the End of This Blog Post


Several weeks before we were to leave for Ireland, Steve’s updated passport had not yet arrived. We sent it to the passport office with ample time to spare, but for whatever reason, there seemed to be a delay. Anxiety rose in me; for a few days I pushed it down. But one day I panicked. I just lost all control over my anxiety and worry and then produced the worst-case scenario in my head. Well, I guess we just aren’t going to Ireland. Steve’s passport isn’t going to get here in time. At the beginning of June, this litany of thought raced rampant through my head. 

I went to the mailbox every day. Just white envelopes or flyers advertising stuff I didn’t care about or need. Each day the barrage of anxiety heightened. Now, Readers, I did the things I was supposed to do. I prayed. I waited. I prayed some more, but none of these disciplines seemed to shut down the worry. I knew it was absurd. I told myself in no uncertain terms that I was downright silly. But Tamera didn’t seem to have her listening ears turned on, and so this went on for a week.

A few people knew about this struggle. All of them had sound advice. Advice I couldn’t seem to assimilate or employ.

Now, what I could tell you, and this would make a great story—a desirable testimony—was that I finally let it all go, gave it over to God’s hands, and the moment I did that the passport arrived. That seems to be the weightier of testimonies, right? The ones where we flail and struggle and fight, and then we give it over to the Father, and it all works out just fine? And we applaud the giving over.

But I never actually gave this anxiety over to Him—whatever that phrase means. Simply put? I was just an everlovin’ mess. Saying those words, I’m giving this problem and worry to you, remained just words. Those phrases carried no transformational ability in my spirit. They offered no respite from my turmoil. Those words were rote phrases reiterated to me by well-intentioned people for most of my life, but they had no power to save me in the crisis, at the moment.

Perhaps, you are thinking this woman was blowing the situation completely out of proportion. Yes, yes I was. That is the point.

Then one day, in plenty of time before the start date of our trip, I went to the mailbox. And I reached my hand into the vaulted recess of that black box and pulled out a large cardboard mailer. I recognized it (because mine came in the same type of mailer a month before), and I knew what we would find inside.

I walked into the house and texted Steve. He asked me if I had opened it.

“No!” I replied.

“OPEN IT!” he typed back.

I did. And there was Steve’s little blue book—his face and information on the glossy pages for all of Ireland to see.

I stood in the kitchen (many epiphanies happen for me in the kitchen), and this strange, odd thought popped into my head. There is a book I read to my children and now to my grandchildren. A Little Golden Book®. And our family has more than one copy. The title?

Grover, a Sesame Street favorite, reads the title of the book and then is the narrator through the whole story. He tries to no avail or success to get the reader NOT to turn the pages because there is a MONSTER at the end of the book.
My grandsons laugh uproariously and watch my face intently when I read this book to them. I employ every type of voice and level of volume I possibly can—every animation regardless of how over the top. The book just seems to call for types of dramatics. The boys can finish my sentences as I read. They play along as if Grover’s attempts to keep them from turning pages is real.

Grover is beside himself. He does NOT want to encounter the monster at the end of the book. But after the cutting of rope, breaking of wood, knocking down of bricks we finally arrive at the last page. The twist?

Grover realizes that HE is the monster at the end of the book. No other. Just Grover. Grover tries to save face. He tells the reader that they shouldn’t have been scared. But then on the very last page, Grover is covering his face and in the dialogue bubble he mutters, “I am so embarrassed.”

The day I held Steve’s passport in my hand, I was so embarrassed. I was the monster at the end of the book. I was Grover. AKA Tamera.

For weeks I had dreaded opening the mailbox. I worried and fretted because there was no US Government official envelope in the assortment of daily mail. While I stood in the kitchen with the passport in my hand, I realized I never did come to trust God for this issue. Instead, I just kept worrying it, had it been a stone the edges would have been smoothed, perhaps even a hollowed spot rubbed on the surface. Somewhere in this head of mine, the wiring shorted—and I thought my worried frets would make a difference. I knew better. I. Knew. Better. But I couldn’t let it go.

I stood for a long time and looked at that passport. Once again the Lord had been faithful. Maybe someone will read this and conclude that the due process happened. We sent the passport application in, and it followed its normal trail. Perhaps. But our deadline was real, and the time frame was being pushed to the very outer limits.

But the issue wasn’t about a passport. The problem wasn’t that I was worried. The concern wasn’t that I kept looking in the mailbox (that’s where the passport was going to show up, right?).


Here’s the issue.

I allowed my anxiety to outweigh and overshadow what I know to be true. The more I fretted and worried the greater the problem became.  My daughters know my adage: all problems start small, and if left unchecked and unresolved they roll down the hill, gaining speed and amass more girth as they roll.

I rolled my little bitty monster down the hill.

The monster I faced at the end of this situation was not the lack of a passport or the change of plans, but the monster was me—that’s it. Just me. Not the devil. Not demons. Not even circumstances. Just me.
Me and all my need for control. Yes, there it was. Self-deception led me to believe I had the adventure under control. Almost obsessively, I planned this bucket list trip. I wanted everything (and I do mean everything) to be perfect and to transpire without a glitch or hitch. Details were important because I knew we had a one-time shot at this adventure. And the passport’s tardiness messed with my plans. (Sometimes pilgrimages have detours).

I confessed all of this to a good friend; she is indulgently kind to me. Later, she gave me a gift, just a small one. A 4 inch tall Super Grover--superhero cape and all. The cape could not nullify all my end-of-the-book behavior. (He'll stand on my school desk this year).

The passport incident reminded me that for all my plans, I am not the one in control. I can’t keep people from turning pages. I can’t stop the progression to the end of the book. I’m not in control, and much of what I fear is a tiny monster that has been rolled down a hill.

But God is not afraid of or hindered by my Grover-like tendencies.

So, go ahead turn the page.


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