Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trust and Faith, Daily Choices

I was in Philadelphia, checking the internet news, when I saw the headline about the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis. Naturally, I looked for every link I could find about the situation because I’ve crossed the Mississippi River many times on this bridge, although it isn’t my preferred route through the Twin Cities.

One of the reports said that about every 20 years a bridge collapses. That triggered vague memories of a bridge falling into the Ohio River quite a few years ago. I had to cross the Mississippi River, from one state into another, when traveling to and from college. The rumor on campus was that the bridge was of the same design as the one over the Ohio River.

Whether we trusted the bridge or not, we crossed it. I suppose that isn’t literally accurate. Maybe we didn’t think about trusting the bridge. Maybe we made a conscious decision to take a chance and cross it. If we truly hadn’t trusted the bridge, we could have added an extra 50 or 100 miles to our trip and taken another route.

One of the commentators stated at the time of the I-35W Bridge collapse that now many people will have anxiety about crossing bridges. That may be true if people actually think about whom or what they trust. But generally, I’d say that people trust things all the time and don’t give a moment of thought to the idea of trust or belief, until something comes along to shake up our belief system. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines belief this way: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.

We trust a chair when we sit on it. We trust the floor to hold us up. We trust the roof to stay up there. We trust that the big branch won’t fall off the tree (known as a widow maker!) We trust that the gasoline we put into the car will go into the engine properly and not blow up. We trust that the food we eat isn’t full of horrible germs. We trust that the other drivers on the highway have maintained their cars and are paying attention to what they are doing. Sometimes, unfortunately, our trust is misplaced.

In most of these cases, we’ve either made a decision to go with the odds being favorable, or we don’t even think of possible negative occurrences. Or we stick our heads in the sand. Our mental health would be impaired if we had to process each and every situation we encounter. We could be eaten up by anxiety.

I tend to be too easily anxious. If I start worrying about something, I’m a mess. But sometimes I’m able to “let it go.” Sometimes it seems like my faith in God takes away my anxiety. Other times I want to control the future and other people and I lose sleep in rumination about a subject.

When my thoughts and faith are at their healthiest, I know that I’m not in control of most things, and I rest easy, because worry is just a waste of energy. I’ve actually had less anxiety about flying since 9-11 than I did before that. I used to be teased about gripping the edges of the seat of the plane, as if that was going to make a difference in an emergency. I was amazingly calm before major surgery a few years ago.

This week, however, I’ve lost sleep over several little things that I “want to control” and things I have second thoughts about. The middle of the night darkness magnifies some thoughts. I want things to happen my way. I worry about possible diseases. I want my children to make good choices. I must be thinking that I can play God rather than trusting in God.

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