Holding On & Letting Go

frayed-ropeI know this subject all too well.  The waiting, the uncertainty that one faces in those difficult “limbo” situations in life.  One Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1988, I was at home alone when the phone rang.  Suddenly I was in a blur of emotions as I sped to the hospital – accident…signatures needed to authorize major surgery… head injury… vital signs… those words you never want to hear together with the name of someone you love.

The waiting began.  Three months of nothing but working night shifts, eating, sleeping and sitting in the hospital next to my brother, Ray, lying in a coma.  Our parents had gone through a painful divorce the previous year, and I needed to stay strong for my mother’s sake.  And all this while, I had been preparing to leave my life behind and go permanently to the mission field – there was no turning back, no return in my mind; I prayed everyday in those long months that I could have Ray’s blessing before I left – I didn’t want him to wake up to find himself abandoned by his only sibling… I needed to know he gave his blessing.

In September, I flew to Canada for a week to visit a friend, and though it was a time of refreshing for my spirit and soul, on the last evening before I returned to Kansas, as that friend and I sat talking I began crying… as if a floodgate deep inside of anguish and grief, confusion and questions finally opened.  As the tears at last began to subside, I heard God ask me something that I will never forget:

“Do you love me?”

“Of course I love you!  I’m going to the mission field in a fortnight, aren’t I?”

“Do you love me?”

“I’m giving up my job, income, car and cat to serve you – how could you ask me that?  Of course I do!”

“Do you love me?”

At that moment I knew he was asking me to give up something I had never even considered: my brother.  And at that moment I knew I had come to that crossroads: Do I hold on, or let go?  When the Creator of the Universe asked me to release someone lying in a coma while I was a thousand miles away, I knew I had no choice but to trust Him.  I could do nothing for Ray by holding on.

I replied, “Father, if you choose to take my brother, I trust you.  If he is a vegetable the rest of his life, I trust you.  I can do nothing else but trust you.”

I felt such a release, and a peace that I hadn’t felt in all those months of waiting and holding on.

The next day I returned home, and as soon as I could I went to see my brother.  As I sat there, at peace for the first time at his bedside, suddenly he looked at me, and spoke!  As we talked I told him that I was soon leaving for the mission field, and of his own accord he gave me his blessing…one of the most precious moments in my life.  Three days later, Ray tried to stand up while alone in his room, lost his balance and fell, hitting his head; this shifted the swelling in his brain, leaving him deaf to this day.

The Lord gave me that window of three days to speak with and be understood by my brother, and I will forever be grateful.

Priorities

priorities-signActs of random kindness  are all around us waiting to happen!  In Matthew 10:42 Jesus says that even a cup of cold water given with purpose has a definite reward.  Any kindness done with purpose is seen by our Heavenly Father:  Helping a neighbour, encouraging a friend, calling or visiting a shut-in, aiding a stranger in distress; even a simple smile at the cashier.  That smile may be the only one they see that day, and it may be enough to turn the tide for them.

There are literally thousands of ways to be a blessing:  When you bake, share with others; when you go to wash your car offer to do it for a neighbour as well; when you see someone with a disability, ask if they need assistance (e.g. a wheelchair bound person in a grocer’s); when you see a neighbour struggling in some way, reach out.  It might be as simple as letting someone cut in to traffic in front of you, or making a phone call to someone you know who could use encouragement.

All these things require that we get out of ourselves, leave the comfort zones of our private little worlds, and begin to look around, begin to train our senses to reach beyond our needs, our schedules, our artificial limitations; we have a lot more capacity and potential than we give ourselves credit for.

“But wait”, you say, “I don’t have time.”  Really?  The average user spends over 6 hours on Facebook per month (if you’re on a computer; double that if you’re using it from your mobile phone); Twitter takes up on average 89 minutes per month per person; just reading emails consumes over 25% of an average worker’s time during the work day 1.  People think that if they multi-task they’ll be more efficient with their time; but it’s actually the opposite:  Tasks done simultaneously take an average of 30% longer than tasks done consecutively.  So you see where I’m heading… it’s about priorities.  Balance.  What it’s not about is a driven sense that we have to use every single second of our day in a frantic attempt to use our time wisely.  Even Jesus went away to a quiet place to spend time alone with the Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16).

God understands our daily schedules in a modern, hectic world that’s geared toward constant bombardment of our senses.  But as Christians we have the responsibility and the privilege  of pulling back to spend time alone with God; that’s where we’ll get our priorities straight; that’s where Jesus not only got his priorities right but where he found the strength to fulfil God’s calling on his life.  And if you’re like me, time and again you’ll realize that especially on those days when you think you don’t have time for a moment or two alone with God, if you actually invest that time with him, the other tasks in your day will fall into place, your time will be ample, and you won’t be stressed at the end of the day.  By experience I’ve found that the principle of tithing works with time too (Malachi 3:10).  And somewhere in there you’ll find joy in reaching out to others around you in small or large ways.

Reflections:

What act of random kindness (ARK) can you do this week?  And are your priorities God’s priorities for your life?

Isaiah 63:7-8; Jeremiah 9:24; Acts 28:2

Gathering Pebbles, Casting Crowns

20-12-08 - Gathering PebblesYears ago I had the privilege of corresponding with Hannah Hurnard, the author of “Hind’s Feet on High Places” and subsequent books, regarding the text of one of her poems for use in a song that I was writing.  In that book, she captured powerful images of our walk with God.  The heroine of the story was told by the Good Shepherd to gather a pebble and place it in her satchel each time she learned a valuable lesson.  She sometimes felt weak or discouraged, and carrying around a bag of rocks seemed pointless; she was tempted to throw them away but she didn’t, out of simple obedience.  Upon finally reaching the high places, she was asked to give up those pebbles; she resisted at first because she had earned them through many trials.  But when she gave them to the Good Shepherd, those ordinary pebbles were transformed into precious gems, to fit into her crown.

 

Sometimes life brings difficult tests, and powerful lessons, whether the power lies in the magnitude of an event itself or the sublime moment of revelation.  How often am I tempted to cast away those pebbles – to forget those moments?  I happen to keep a pebble on my desk; it is a beautiful pebble worn nearly smooth by years of being buffeted in a mountain stream.  I said “nearly”.  There is one bump on the otherwise smooth surface, and when I hold it in my hand, the soothing texture is interrupted by that one place not yet perfected when I found it.

 

This pebble reminds me of the past:  This ancient earth is but a hiccup in eternity to the mind of God, and yet he loves me enough to die for me, and likes me enough to live with me.  It also reminds me of myself:  The process of being polished is not always pleasant, but the result will be beautiful.  And that one rough spot reminds me that I still have some work to be done in the polishing process.

 

John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” and Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to “…fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

In Revelation 4:10-11, the elders fall before the Throne to worship the Lord, casting their crowns before him saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

 

One day, those pebbles will be turned to jewels, and I will have the privilege of knowing that I have done nothing to deserve the crown they adorn.  I will recognize the author and perfecter of my faith because I am intimately acquainted with Him, and so recognize who truly deserves that crown.

 

Reflections:

What are those pebbles in your own life, those times of trial or hardship?  Don’t forget them, discard or disregard them; God will use them for His glory, and your strengthening.

Genesis 28:10-22; Matthew 21:42; Isaiah 28:16