The Value of Pondering

Is there a difference between worrying and pondering?

I've been asking myself this question all week.  Several different things have been distracting me lately.  Filling my thoughts day and night.  Now, I'm wondering if it's ok to be thinking THIS MUCH about things.



First, my baby started his Senior Year last week and my heart is all over the place about it.  Some days, it feels like the natural next step in his life.  Some days, it feels like the beginning of the end.  Some days, it feels like some sort of weird joke.

I'm feeling nostalgic.  So proud of his hard-fought victories.  So frustrated at my failures as a mom, played out in his life.  I think back to days when I thought I was catching a glimpse of the man he would become and I compare it to who he is now.  And then I ponder the man he is yet to be.  My heart is full and stirring and messy.

And I wonder.... how much of this is normal?  How much is because I almost didn't get to see this day?  How much of who he is now has come as a result of my near-death earlier this year?   How will those challenges play out in his heart as he progresses to manhood?

Did I fully realize the challenges he (and I) would face, the young man he would become, and things he would do when I held him as an infant?  Is that even possible?

After the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds who told of the angels praising the birth of the Messiah, Luke 2:19 says, "But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant."  Until today, I always thought that meant she wondered at the miracle.  But now, I wonder if she was thinking of more than that.

I wonder if she had any idea of how much her heart would ache at every milestone.  She must have understood on some level that the day he took his first step was not just wondrous, but also sad.  It was one day closer to his death.  She must have understood on some level that she couldn't keep him at home to love all over him forever, but that one day she would have to share him with the world.  She must have understood on some level that he was going to break her heart when he let himself die on the cross.  But could she really understand any of that?  Truly understand it?

Or would she, like me, have mixed emotions all the time?  Would she, like me, rejoice and cry at the same milestone events?  Would she, like me, spend hours playing back sweet memories in her mind and wondering about his future?  Would she, like me, struggle with worry, trying over and over to let God have his way in her/my son's life?

What does it mean, she "often pondered what they meant" ...


Second, I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.  He has kids.  Small kids.  He and his wife are going through a health-crisis-nightmare similar to what Chris and I went through in February.  This time, I'm watching it unfold before me.  I'm not a player on the stage, merely the audience.  Yet, I feel panicky and stressed.  It's as if I'm watching my February happen all over again, from the outside.   It feels yucky.Is Jen feeling overwhelmed like Chris did?  Is Craig praying through tears like I did?  Are their children sleeping all piled together in the same bed like ours did?I can't stop wondering.


Third, my lungs are stable but I don't feel strong.  I've already shared that I have struggled with a fear of getting sick this winter.  God is giving me peace about that.  But I am also struggling with how to move on.  I have decided to live like every day has a purpose.  To make small commitments for the fall and plan, PLAN, to see them through.  To assume I will still be here for New Year's.I read something today in Joni Eareckson Tada's book When God Weeps, that is helping.

"If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." (Philippians 1:22-24) ... "It's ok to be torn between the two, ... but as long as you remain in the body, your family and friends have something to learn. Something of eternal importance."

I'm not sure what eternal importance I have to offer my friends and family.  But that doesn't matter right now.  What matters right now is that I am learning that I am alive.  And if I am alive, it is for a purpose.  I cannot live out a purpose by staying in bed wondering if I'm going to get sick again this winter.  But I can live out my purpose if I get out of bed, make it to that coffee date, teach a few kids something about the gift of music, feed my family, and help my baby graduate!



Is it possible that all this nostalgia and emotions could simply be "pondering?"  Pondering sounds so much better than worrying, doesn't it?  The difference, for me, between worrying and pondering is the view point.  If I can think back over the past 17 years and see the victories and the failures, the loving memories and the bitter memories, from a much higher view, a view point that sees my son's whole life as one long path that may have a few bumps in it but is still heading in the right direction, then I'm pondering.  But if I focus much more narrowly, seeing only the nitpicky details, the flaws and detours and not the overall direction, then I'm worrying.  Of course, I'm worrying.

Did Mary do that?  I'm sure she worried at points along the way.  But in this verse, I think she pondered the significance of what she was living through.  She was treasuring the highs and the lows and putting them all in context of the consistent, timeless truth that God has a redemption plan and He will fulfill it.  Hmm....Nowhere in the Bible (that I have found), does God judge Mary for pondering. So, ok.  I'm taking a breath.  I'm letting myself ponder.  I'm treasuring sweet things in my heart.  And I'm trusting God with the future: mine, Joshua's and Craig's.  I'm doing a messy job of it, but I'm trying.