Title: Sarah’s Worry Warts and Grandma’s Worthy Worries
Scripture: Philippians 4:5c-7
©
Copyright 2010  Rev. Bill Versteeg


“The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

“What is this Mom?” Sarah called out with a certain fret in her voice.

Mom turned to pay attention to Sarah’s beautiful young nine year old hand with flawless skin and no scars. On the side of her middle finger was a small itchy irritating bump. Without realizing it, she had been scratching it, now it was red and starting to bleed at one edge.

“Does that hurt dear?” Mom asked.

“No, it just looks bad.” Sarah answered.

“Let just watch it then dear. It might just be a bug bite. Try not to scratch it. Maybe I should put a band aid on it.”

And with that comment, Mom got a band aid and carefully wrapped it around Sarah’s irritated middle finger.

It would be a full day. First school, and then right after school before supper and then Gems, Sarah and Mom were going to go visit Grandma in the nursing home, something that they did together every Thursday. It made for a busy and tiring but good day for both of them.

School flew by. Learning was hard work and time went so quickly when Sarah worked hard. Every once and a while she would wonder if others noticed the band aid on her finger, but no one mentioned anything. Regretfully, she could not but notice. When she used her pencil, there was the band aid around her finger. She couldn’t stop wondering what was happening beneath it. Was it growing? Was it turning ugly? What was underneath the bandage distracted her through math class, and then reading break. By the time the last bell of the day rang, it was everything she could do not to rip the bandage off inspect her diseased finger.

She didn’t feel very outgoing and it seemed none of her friends went out of their way to talk to her. This was one day where she did not live by Grandma’s rule, “To have friends, you must be a friend.” By the time mom picked her up, the band aid was off, her finger was itching and bleeding again from her scratching, and she had a headache. In the end, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to go to Grandma’s with Mom. She hadn’t had a very good day.

“Where is the bandage?” Mom scolded when she got in the car with her bleeding finger.

“It came off.” Sarah responded with a hint of guilt about her white lie. Yes it came off - with her help. She just had to see what was happening. And in the end, taking it off just did not help.

“Ready to go visit Grandma?”

“Hrumph.” Mom could see Sarah wasn’t in a good mood. Sarah’s usual smile and nod were missing.

“Let’s go, she needs us to visit her and it will be good for you and I to focus on someone else.”

But on the drive to Grandma’s house, Sarah could not but notice the small round inflamed bump growing on the side of her middle finger. She was worried.

The drive to the nursing home where Grandma lived was short. And soon Sarah and Mom were visiting with Grandma in her cosy living room. As usual, Grandma had prepared a great snack for all of them along with afternoon tea, with extra sugar for Sarah. The conversation had hardly started reviewing how the family was doing when Grandma noticed Sarah paying attention to her finger.

“What is it with your finger?” Grandma asked.

Sarah shrugged. She wasn’t very talkative. And the irritation on the side of her finger kept her from focusing her attention on the conversation. “The bandage came off...” she started.

“Let me get you a special band aid.” Grandma was quick to her feet and off to the washroom to get one.

She returned with a good quality cloth bandage. “Let me see that finger. What is it that you are so obviously worried about?”

Sarah gave her hand to Grandma who gently took her hand and looked closely at the irritated sore on the side of her finger. She looked at it closely. “Ah, I remember these!” said Grandma. “I had them when I was your age too. You are getting a wart. Is this your first one?”

In answer to that question, Sarah looked up at her Grandma and asked: “What is a wart?”

Grandma did not know what actually caused warts. She did not know about the virus that can get into our skin and cause irritation. But her answer was very practical. “Well dear, they are small bumps that grow on our skin, most often on our hands. Warts, they come and go with time. The worst thing that you can do is worry about them and scratch them because if you do they can get infected.” And with that she rubbed a little cream on the sore finger and attached the special cloth band aid. “Don’t worry about it. It will disappear with time.”

It just seemed that Dr. Grandma knew what she was talking about. At least for now it was enough for Sarah to focus on the conversation and not on her finger. And so the conversation went on. Family, friends, the church, Mrs. Smith’s cancer, a young person struggling with drugs, missionaries, city troubles, issues in the news. As she listened to Mom and Grandma talk, it started to become clear that Grandma was, well it looked like Grandma was, well, worried. Much of the talk in this conversation with Grandma seemed to be about the troubles, the troubles of the world, the troubles that others were experiencing. And these troubles showed up in the furrow of her already wrinkled brow and the hands that would patiently wring slowly together, almost as if they were folded. These troubles especially showed up when they talked about how some people did not have food or homes, and how so many people did not know the Lord and about the struggles that missionaries were having in countries where people seemed to be fighting with each other just over drugs and money. Those troubles show up in her eyes and in tears that freely rolled down her cheeks.

This time, Sarah was the one who was quick to get up and get something to help Grandma - a tissue paper to dry her cheeks.

“That’s OK dear. Thank you so much. Don’t worry about my tears. They seem to come easier every day.” Grandma thanked her and dabbed the tears from her own face. But even as she was doing it, Sarah, with her consideration felt like she had interrupted something. Her tissue suddenly seemed out of place. And she could not figure out why. How could a tissue interrupt a conversation? And yet even though the conversation with Mom and Grandma continued, it just wasn’t quite the same.

Grandma’s hand wringing stopped. The tears stopped. The conversation became the usual, light conversation about the weather, vacation plans, clothing and the business that comes with being parents with kids in school and life in a nursing home.

Almost two hours had passed, it was time for Grandma to go down for supper, it was time for Mom to take Sarah home and get supper out of the oven. Before they arose from the table to go, Grandma said to them both: “Let’s pray before you go.”

And so they prayed. Sarah prayed for Grandma, Mom prayed for Grandma and the rest of their family, and then Grandma prayed. Grandma prayed long and her words seemed to be chosen carefully. Sarah peeked out to look at Grandma as she prayed with her confident, yet trembling elderly voice. And she was surprised at what she saw, as Grandma prayed for all those troubled hungry people and missionaries, tears were freely rolling down her cheeks, and once again her hands were wringing, just like they were folded. And then Grandma finished by praying for Sarah’s finger, remembering that God even hears of our needs before we ask him in prayer.

At the end of the prayer, Sarah could feel a sense of peace in the room. At least she felt it in her heart. Grandma had prayed for her finger. It was like, now that God new about it, everything would be OK. But somehow here finger did not seem very important any more. Instead, she thought to herself as she sat in the car on the way home, she had discovered a secret about Grandma. Can you guess what that secret is?

(Let the GEMS offer suggestions - the secret is that when Grandma talks to others, in her heart she often talks to God. Some things are not worth worrying over, some things, because we believe in God and have love for others will create worries in us, worries that the Spirit of God places on our heart so that we will carry them to the Lord in prayer. The GEMS may or may not mention this “secret.” Regardless, the following should make a good conclusion to the story.)

Sarah did not know for sure. All week long she wondered if she was right. And the more she wondered about it, the more she wanted to know. Was Grandma praying while she was talking to others, to Mom and her?

A week passed by quickly. Sarah’s finger healed, although that bump remained. But it was just a wart. This time when Sarah went to visit Grandma, she had to ask, but to ask, she would have to confess that she looked up at Grandma while they were praying.

So when they talked again, she came with courage and said: “Grandma, I am sorry but last week I opened my eyes and watched you pray. I am sorry, but I noticed that you cried and you folded your hands just like you did when you were talking to us. Were you praying when you were talking to us about all the problems that other people have?”

“Yes dear, it seems I pray all the time, even right now as you are talking to me, I am praying. What else can I do here in this nursing home?”

“How do you do that?”

“You can do it to. Just like you are in this room with me, Jesus is in this room with us. He is in my heart and he is in your heart. And just like we talk with each other, we can talk with him about all our problems. And because he lives in us, he can even hear the thoughts of our hearts. We don’t have to speak to him out loud. He can still hear us.”
It was on that day that Sarah came to understand Grandma’s secret. She always had a friend with her. And she was always speaking to that friend, even when she was speaking to others. She had a friend who she could bring her worries to. And so she did. Sarah could feel the sense of peace that it brought her, as she started talking to Jesus, in her heart, with every concern that worried her.

 


Scriptures teaching about worry is not as simple as is sometimes suggested.  Scripture is clear that that which does not arise from faith are sin.  And so worry about the basic things of our lives, such as clothing, or the number of days that we might live is actually distrust in our heavenly Father's intimate care.  But faith in God creates it own worries.  Jesus himself had compassion when he saw the harvest.  The Greek word for compassion is "a turning of the stomach" as in a deep concern or a worry.  Paul was deeply concerned about those who came to the faith through his ministry "that Christ might be formed in them."  The father of the prodigal son, every day, went to the gate, looking for his son to return home.  Scripture calls us to faith, and when faith creates "worries," we are called to turn those worries to prayer.  They are Holy Spirit given burdens placed on our hearts so that we might pray for them.  For a more detailed discussion on this Christian and faith-filled kind of worry, see A Christian Kind of Worry?


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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