Choosing wonder over worry

The sunshine and warm temperatures invited us outside for a family excursion. We packed a few things and headed to a nearby park for a hike. We meandered slowly through the woods, exploring as we went. My youngest trying to get tree roots up from the ground, convinced they were sticks he could throw. My oldest walking around each bend with a skip in his step, proud to be leading the way.

After following the trail down a hill, we came upon the creek.

It was a shallow, bubbling brook, shimmering with the reflection of the sun.

My husband looked at me with a matching glimmer in his eye. “Come on, let’s wade in the stream. The kids can be wet in the car.”

The boys jumped at the permission. They took a few steps and thrust their arms in to pick up rocks that couldn’t hide beneath those few inches of clear water.

I looked at the rocks, too, but I looked with worry, not wonder. I knew they would hurt my bare feet if I went in. But I was not wearing shoes that were meant for the water. I had dressed for a short simple hike with young kids. Not for a camping-style adventure in the wilderness.

If I went in the water, I would either have to wear the shoes, and ruin them, or carry the shoes, and get sore feet.

It comes so naturally to a child. That instinct to jump in. To seek the adventure. To care more about the potential for discovery than the possibility for pain. To wonder more about what they might experience than what others might think. To know that the most valuable thing we have is not money or possessions, but time.

I lost this instinct somewhere along the way. I wondered if I would get hurt. I worried I would ruin my shoes. I figured I could just do it again another time, when I was more prepared.

“It’s okay,” I said, “You guys go in. I can just take pictures from the shoreline.”

The reasons to stay on the sidelines had formed the chair from which I sat and watched. I surveyed the laughter and splashes and discoveries from a distance. Capturing them in my lens, but not in my experience.

Until I stepped in something.

As I got closer to the waterline, something brushed my ankle. It prickled and itched and burned and I wondered if there was poison ivy in these woods.

Then, suddenly, the shore didn’t seem the wisest choice after all. There was a possibility of pain there, too, it seemed. I stepped into the water to get relief, and remembered.

As I felt the sensation of cool water around my toes, I remembered that sometimes it’s worth the risk of jumping in.

And yes, my feet got hurt. The kids got soaked. My shoes got a little misshapen. The car got a little dirty.

But it was worth it.

And I wonder how many other times in life I have let worry form the chair that kept me on the sidelines of adventure.

Instead of excitement about the potential of a dream, I have worried about the possibility of failure. Instead of enthusiasm about the prospect of friendships, I have worried about the risk of rejection. Instead of awe about the magnificence of nature, I have worried about the cleanliness of shoes.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:25-27

Life is not meant to be full of worry. It is meant to be full of wonder.

To live a better story, we need to leave the shoreline, throw off our worries, and jump in with both feet.  We need to trust that the stream that God has put in front of us has an adventure that is worth the risk.

Linking up with Prodigal Magazine’s "What does it mean to live a good story?" series.

P.S. Turns out it wasn't poison ivy. Not even a bug bite. Just a prickly sting that woke me up and made me move.