“When you leave a place … Let go”
Driving back from Wooster, Ohio I was distressed and so out of sorts I couldn’t enjoy the ride or the time alone with my husband, Marc. I’m exhausted from all the demands of Christmas and expectations that surround family during the holidays.
I’m the oldest and only daughter who lives too far away to really help relieve my aging parents’ struggles with chronic illness and dwindling resources. I feel particularly guilty because my younger brother, who has fewer resources than I, takes the lion’s share of caring for their house while denying his own needs. But, he hovers over each detail of their lives and challenges the whole family with verses from Scripture and wishful thinking to change the course of our parents’ decline.
Recalling the stress of the past days, my ankles are zinging with pain from a flare-up of plantar fasciitis. Yes, my own Achilles heel is both psychic and physical and it’s throbbing full bore. Not until I finally ease into my own bed do I remember EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. Taking the book from my nightstand, I open it to the “Instructions For Freedom” and begin processing my own dilemma with the book’s wisdom.
“Life’s metaphors are God’s instructions.”
O.K., God I’ve had my fill of anxiety and guilt. I have slammed up against my own limitations. I’m naming and claiming this rotten mood and trying to figure out what to do about it. Silence. God, my inner ear feels particularly blocked right now.
“There is nothing between you and God.”
Yes, I’m hours and miles away from the Christmas events and my Wooster family yet I continue to nurture the angst and hold the scenes up for judgment. Emmanuel, how can you be with me? How can I know you are with my parents, with my brother?
“With all your heart, ask for grace. Your wish is your prayer, your being here is God’s response.”
Help me Lord. Help me rise above all this useless complaint, grant me your peace. I want to be more like Jesus, St. Francis or maybe even St. Clare. Mother Teresa could do this! I don’t think I have the right spirit, here. God, I’m not doing this very well. What do you want of me
“… Let go.”
Ok, you’ve created me to be as I am, your person formed for this time and in this place. With your grace, help me, dear God, let go of my useless self-pity. I want to surrender all to you but I cannot let go on my own. Where shall I begin?
“With all your heart, forgive.”
Then I remember the Lord’s Prayer.
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
With all my heart, I do forgive. I forgive my brother and imagine myself embracing him with gratitude for his care and compassion for his struggles. I forgive myself for being so impatient and like a mother who is touched by her child’s remorse embrace my own aching heart. Forgive … reaching for the cross and Christ crucified, I ask God to forgive my need to judge even His ways … My God, my God … and with that the tears let go.
“When you leave a place. It’s safe. Let go. Watch the heat of day pass into the cool night.”
The tears wash through my cranky and sprung temperament. With a renewed heart and spirit I’m able to phone my parents and hear how they recall our 2010 holiday. They remember we ate, laughed, prayed and celebrated together. I know they will often share the memories of this Christmas with tenderness and love for each one of us.
“ … only love remains. Begin the rest of your life with great joy.”
No daughter, sister, wife or child of God could ask for more. Happy New Year!