Fanny Packs of Faith

In Louisiana Ladies, Payton Denney by Lola Magazine

My mother-in-law wears a fanny pack. Since meeting my husband in 1995, I can’t recall a time when she hasn’t adorned one. I remember wondering as a teenager what she carried in it. Unlike my mother’s large and fashionable handbags, the practical fanny pack only allows room for hauling the necessities. So my assumptions as to the contents of the pack settled around cash, credit cards and Kleenex. There they have remained until recently.

Twenty-six years later, I sit in the bleachers at my child’s soccer game and survey the contents of my overflowing purse. I’m embarrassed to know what is and isn’t in there. I’m hopeful that it contains the items I deem necessary for this trip, but I cannot be certain that I’ll be prepared to address a need of my child or someone around me when pressed for assistance. The truth is that I can’t recall the last time I cleaned it out. With each day that passes, I add to the mess. A larger purse does not equate to being more adequately equipped.

This feeling of inadequate preparation does not rest solely in my handbag. I find that this feeling has spilled out and is permeating all aspects of my life. There’s never enough time in the day to perform the tasks I categorize as “successful.”

If my workday goes over without a hitch, I receive a text message from school about another failing grade. If we’re on time for school, someone announces that they forgot their facemask at home. Giggly as we arrive home from a successful date night, Pat and I enter the house to a dining table full of laundry and a feverish child. I. Just. Can’t. Get. It. Together.

I’ve stopped watching the news because it’s negative, and I can’t possibly handle one more ounce of stress. My social media connections inform me that all the world is divided, our leaders are evil, and we’re all going to be dead or broke in a matter of months. And while I feel responsible for my part in defending our world, I’m too tired to deal with the emotions those hard conversations bring.

I know that I am not alone in these feelings. When I asked some social media friends what worries them in the coming days, weeks, months and years, I was inundated with responses with concerns about our country and the future for our children. There were questions on whether we are “enough” and whether we’ve adequately prepared our children to make it on their own. There were worries about COVID, violence and threats to our religious freedom. Nothing was off limits, including student loans, long division and entitlements.

But the comment that resounded with me the most was one that was also liked and replied to by others, “It would be easier to list what I’m not worried about.”

When I asked to see that list, she came up blank. Nothing, no category of her life was free from worry.

The only way I know to cope with this encroaching state of worry is to retreat, otherwise known as hiding. Oftentimes, I have to hit an emotional bottom before seeking help. I am tired of this yoyoing game of “I can do this” and “I can do nothing.” Something has to change.

As often quoted, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. So, I went looking for an answer. In my search for sustainable change, a friend turned me onto a book that he credits as the “best book (he’s) ever read.”

Pastor and Author, John Mark Comer, wrote The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World. In the book, he explains that the source of our anxiety is caused by our disconnection with God because of the hurried state we live in. Comer believes that “hurry is the issue underneath so many of the other issues of our day and age.”

As Comer began research for his book, he uncovered that this hurry epidemic is neither new nor mild. Comer discovered that American philosopher Dallas Willard called hurry the great enemy of spiritual life. Willard urged, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

As it turns out, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman coined the term “hurry sickness.” They defined it as “a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.” The consequences of having it can be devastating and our technologically connected world perpetuate its growth.

There it was—my problem and my solution. The busyness of my life is robbing me of my peace. It’s often shocking to me how far off track I can get as a Christian. I’m supposed to know better. I have life experiences to remind me that true peace only exists when I’m actively pursuing my relationship with God. I’ve lived Psalm 34:18. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” So why do I stray from my daily communion with Him?

One of my favorite authors, Corrie ten Boom, says, “If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” As I often explain to my kids, there are forces at work in the world which we cannot see. Make no mistake that the devil is sneaky and is constantly looking to gain a foothold in your life. He gets me with busyness every time.

But there’s hope. Women often have a knack for sifting and arranging priorities. As a friend and I were discussing this study/communion time, she protested, “I know that I need to read my Bible and set aside time to pray, but after I’ve worked and cooked dinner and studied, there’s no time.”

She’s right. Much like my purse, if we put God in last, He will get lost in the mess. However, if we toss aside the oversized tote and fill our pack with necessities, we’ll never have to doubt what we’re carrying around. And so, after 26 years of wondering about that fanny pack, I now know that my mother-in-law was putting first things first. She needed the use of her arms for more important tasks than carrying unnecessary baggage.

We cannot fully protect our kids from the things of the world, but God can. Our job is to prepare them for the future by arming them with a strong faith and scriptural foundation. I don’t believe that we are carelessly placed in this date and time. However, we should be on guard. The danger of allowing hurry to take over our lives is that there’s no room for God, our protector, to train us for the daily combat that is our calling.

We don’t have to be perfect teachers. We just have to be faithful students. Our children are watching, and they will be a product of the environment in which they are raised. I pray that I don’t underestimate the spiritual calling on my life. I hope to be as brave as Queen Esther as she took her life in her hands when approaching the king on the behalf of God’s people. There’s no reason to believe that God will not protect me as He protected her.

So, slow down. Breathe. Rest. Pray and listen. Be on guard against hurry.

“Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” – Esther 4:14

You don’t want to miss it.