“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
It started right away. We hadn’t even left Nashville.
“Did you notice that we land in Chicago at 5:30 and our flight to London leaves at 6?” I ask casually.
“Hm,” Patrick responds, rubbing his chin. “I guess I didn’t.”
“If we’re delayed at all we may not be able to make our flight.”
“It’s okay. We’ll be fine.”
“You’re right,” I lie.
We’re not fine. The flight is delayed. We land in Chicago ten minutes before our flight takes off. We run fast down the airport corridors, zigging and zagging through unsuspecting passengers. We’re sweating. And when we arrive at the gate we yell, “WAIT!”
“I can’t believe we made it,” I laugh as we take our seat for the 7-hour flight. I feel relieved. Thankful. In control.
We made it, I exclaim internally, wiping sweat from my brow. We are the last ones on the plane.
And then it started again.
“I’m concerned we won’t make it to the London Eye,” Patrick says checking his watch. “And if the taxi doesn’t take cash, then we’ll definitely miss it.” Patrick eyes the tables in the restaurant. We just need two seats. No one has moved since we entered over an hour ago. We’re expected on the other side of town in forty-five minutes.
“We should just go,” I say, eyeing a plate of steaming mussels with envy. There’s an undertone of blame in my voice. And suddenly, I realize it’s a script we’ve been repeating over and over again since this whole journey began.
When did we become so worried all the time?
As Patrick and I have started this three-week journey, the first lesson we realized is just how out of control traveling makes us feel. We are incredibly risk-averse* people. We like to manage our circumstances. We want to be on time. We don’t want to waste money. We don’t want to miss out. We can’t imagine losing a reservation or getting kicked out of a cab or heaven forbid looking stupid in a foreign country. I want to look cool, feel cool, and be collected at all times. In fact, I spend most of my energy at home every day making sure that’s the case. I’ve gotten so good at manipulating people and circumstances and money and time that I don’t even realize that I’m doing it anymore.
One step in a foreign country, and there it is, rearing its ugly head. Worry.
Why do we want control? Control is a fleeting, misplaced sense of security.
Today and tomorrow we are touring Amsterdam. The city is surrounded by canals in rings, and the canals are lined by tall, intricate buildings with sculptures, brown stone, and charm. The city was built centuries ago on three layers of sand. Some of the houses teeter to the side in a semi-permanent lean. Locals talk of global warming and rising waters.
We meander the cobblestone streets, over canals, dodging bicycles, and let the cool breeze brush our faces. And I notice a young mother pedal by with a one-year-old son saddled in the front and a toddler daughter seated on the back. None of the three family members are wearing helmets. She wobbles for a moment around a tourist, and the children wobble with her, unfazed that their fragile skulls could hit the pavement, unprotected.
Patrick and I are risk-averse. I think a lot of other Americans are too. We wear helmets. We want to know that we can avert every kind of disaster by willpower, money, preparation, or some combination of the three.
But we can’t have that kind of control. It’s not ours to have.
*A former version of this post said we were “risk-adverse”. And while adverse and averse are words that sound similar, they have completely different meanings. Many thanks to the friend who helped me find the error. 🙂