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The sneaky guardians of our insecurity
My brain is flesh and blood, yet it has thoughts, ideas, and plans. It is always working, even when I sleep, to try to sort my life out, protect, and promote me. My brain has big ideas, and it seems to think that it’s got the corner on wisdom, but my brain is a primitive part of my soul casing; my flesh. It’s not the smartest part of me, just the most vigilant. My brain comes up with all kinds of crazy schemes in the pursuit of safety and comfort. And I call these schemes superstitions: a term my husband gave to me one day when I told him that I had this worry that whenever we went on vacation without our daughter, we were going to die, and she would be left all alone. I seriously used to call friends before big trips and ask which one of them would take her if we never came back. Eeek!
Superstition. Defined by the dictionary on my computer as “a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief” usually makes you think of another entity other than yourself, that you cannot see or hear, but you know is there, waiting to attack you, but I’m starting to think that supernatural causation can also include the idea that if I do a thing then something is going to happen to me that is beyond any kind of evidence or logical based proof. It is beyond scientific data and spiritual reality. I can’t prove it, but I just know it’s going to happen.
So, I started to think of some superstitions that otherwise sane people, like me, can hold without even knowing them as superstitions. Instead, we call them “fear” or “being prepared for the worst-case-scenario.” Do any of these sound familiar?
Thinking that things are going pretty well right now, so that means the other shoe is about to drop and things are about to get bad.
Believing that if I don’t make the right choice, I’ve ruined everything God had planned for me.
Thinking that if I say something out-loud, it's more likely to come true, especially if it’s a bad thing.
Believing that if something small goes wrong, it's a sign that the rest of the day is going to be bad as well.
Thinking that talking about a possible negative outcome makes it more likely to happen. So, I just avoid talking about worst-case-scenarios all together.
Fearing that by being too confident, I am setting myself up for failure or tragedy. Like when I don’t want to make plans too far in advance.
Until Michael called my fear “superstition,” I had never thought of it like that before, but now that I frame it using that idea, it changes everything. I’m a worrier by nature, but assigning my own cause-and-effect between something I do or don’t do rightly and unrelated outcomes isn’t worry, it’s superstition. Knocking on wood doesn’t influence the future, any more than walking backwards erases the past.
I guess at their core, superstitions are just this person’s effort to exert control and predictability over life's uncertainty. It comes from my insatiable need for comfort which relies on certainty and order. I always want to know what’s coming next, if I’m being honest with myself. I want control of the future, and superstitions erringly promise to give me just that.
I used to have a security blanket when I was a little girl. I thought I gave that up as I grew, but maybe I just traded it for superstitions; my mental security blanket. So, the next new thing (to me) is to teach myself to embrace uncertainty and to surrender my need to control everything, and that starts with calling a superstition a superstition, and so refusing to give it the power I once did when I just called it worry. The only certainty in this world is that God is God, and I am not, and He can be trusted with all the stuff I thought I needed to manage through superstition.
Do you have any superstitions; things that you worry about happening if you don’t do something right? I’d love to hear about yours, so I know I’m not alone!
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. - Oswald Chambers