God used that stubborn maple tree to draw me closer to him. Here’s how. Each year we get our gutters cleaned out. But only after the trees surrounding our house have shed all their leaves. Every tree in our neighborhood had released their leaves. Except the one closest to our house.
Our gutters couldn’t be cleaned until all the leaves on that tree were gone. Why did I become so frustrated with that maple tree? Because it represented one more thing I couldn’t control.
Health is one thing we can’t fully control. Not the health of our loved ones, or our own. Those of us raising kids with mental illness (MI) have learned that lesson the hard way.
In addition to our son’s MI, my husband’s health made me feel a bit helpless. His gallbladder needed to be removed. As we waited for the day of surgery, I didn’t stray far from home. At any moment, he could suffer another gallbladder attack.
My imaginary jar of control was filled to the brim. I was successfully handling daily chores—Howie’s and mine. Howie and I controlled what he ate, being careful not to add any fat to his diet. I was even able to control how much attention I’d give to my own physical symptoms (growing fatigue, worsening back pain, annoying runny nose and sore throat…). God helped me ignore all my own pain as He gave me endurance.
The tree became the straw that broke my control container. I couldn’t check off ‘gutters cleaned’ from my to-do list until that tree cooperated!
Why are you hanging on for so long? Let them go!
Those two words, “hanging on” echoed in my mind.
Hanging on … Hanging on …
Hanging on can be good or bad. I wondered if I had been hanging onto thoughts of the life I dreamt for Chris. Before his MI hit, he seemed on track to lead a fulfilling life. First there’d be college and then a job. Followed by life with a family in a suburban home.
God had other plans. I wondered if I’d fully accepted God’s plan for Chris. Then I reminded myself of God’s faithfulness. He had enabled Chris to graduate from college. Since then, Chris has remained active.
My deliberate shift in focus back to God’s faithfulness reminded me of what Jonah expressed. For three days he lived inside a great fish, ensnared by his surroundings. Finally Jonah turned his heart to God and said,
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:7-9).
When we feel our life ‘ebbing away’, it helps to remember our Lord and cry out to Him. Our Creator, who kept Jonah alive in a fish, will sustain us. He’s the God of nature who controls all things. Who has power to do more than we can imagine. Who loves us more than we know.
So here’s the good part of hanging on. When we hang onto God, we can relinquish all control to Him, trusting that He’ll care for us and our family.
Maybe we can’t relate to being swallowed by a great fish. (I can’t remember the last time I heard about someone on the news surviving such an ordeal!) It’s easier to envision wandering in a wilderness. In Psalm 63 we read about how David clung to God when he was in the wilderness.
Perhaps you’re wandering through a period of emotional drought—void of joy and peace. Let David’s words be your prayer to God:
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).
Hang in there and cling to God.