By Jane Tawel
Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, advises to “hold things lightly in your hands”.
I’m trying to visualize what that might mean. What if my goal was: Instead of buying, borrow from the library or a friend; instead of owning, rent; instead of grasping at more, let go of more; and instead of being busier, become less needed.
I have a couple of friends, Deanne and Richard and Florence, who are trying to help me let go of the thousands of books I have. I love books. I mean, I really love them. I love holding them, snuggling with them, touching them, writing cute notes and serious notes inside them, laughing with them, crying with them, thinking through important stuff with them, delighting in them, digesting them, getting excited by them, and fondly telling others about them. I have read books with my children, I have taught books, shared books with book clubs and small groups, discussed books, and written about books. Books are the first thing I like to see (after coffee) in the morning and the last thing I like to see before I turn off the light at night ( I don’t need to technically see my cute husband, he just spoons right in when he comes to bed).
Some of my books are here to stay until I see if I have grandkids to read them to. Some of my books, I read and use over and over again, like Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Phantom Tollbooth. But some books I could and should let go of but I just don’t want to. I like them. They are like childhood friends, or mentors — we’ve grown up together and are still growing up together. Books are like children who are always well-behaved and who always like me.
But speaking of children, what I am really having a hard time with and always have and fear I always will, is holding my children lightly in my hands. There is that constant throbbing underneath the surface that if I do not hold them secured by the three tightened strands of worry, prayer, and good advice, that there will come that knock on the door followed by the worst words any parent ever hears from the officer on the other side. Loosen just one of those strands tying my child to safety, good choices and eternal happiness and the whole balloon of her or his life will float wildly into the path of onrushing metaphoric air traffic, and burst into a million pieces scattered upon an uncaring, unfeeling earth. A good parent is the constant securer of tethered lines.
When I first began the journey of motherhood, I made a pact with God. I said, “anything, anything at all, God, but my children”. Well, wouldn’t it be nice if God-pacts worked? Wouldn’t every parent who ever lived, say,” anything, anything at all but my children, God”. Wouldn’t the parents of Rwanda and the past parents of the Holocaust and the future parents of kids with leukemia be happy? Like Abraham, a parent could sacrifice a sheep, cut it in half, spread the blood down a line, and then walk in between the cut sacrifice, forming a covenant with God that our offspring would multiply and live long on the earth and forever in the heavens.
When I pray for my children, I beg God to keep them safe for another day and then I beg God to let them walk in relationship with Him so that we might spend eternity together in His presence. One morning lately as I was praying and begging for my children, God sent one of those piercing arrow moments to my heart and as clear as day, I knew He was saying, “Jane, this agony and longing that you feel for your own children’s safety and salvation, this is what I want you to feel for every child of Mine.”
So maybe God doesn’t really expect me to hold my children lightly in my hands. Maybe He just wants for me to hold every child of His as tightly, as tethered, as cherished, as agonizingly beloved, as I do my own child. Maybe God wants me to keep grasping all of the ropes that bind His children to Him, and hold on to His God-tethers until my hands bleed. As His God-hands bled out His life when He tethered my life to His cross.The cross was and is The Savior’s three strands, holding me tightly, and never, ever letting me go.
So I will pray and train to hold things lightly– things like houses and clothes and washing machines and car bumpers and even salaries — okay, I’ll work on holding the books lightly as well. I will hold all The Stuff so very, very loosely, that my hands seem as if they have been injected with helium, floating freely and carelessly above the pleasures and wants of this world and present life.
But I will clutch to the heart of Christ in me, the children of this world. The children from my womb, the children in the streets, the children scarred by war, the children wasting in nursing homes, the children in the churches and the children in the Pentagon, the children in Russia and North Korea and Central America and San Francisco, the homeless children and the multi-homed children, the Republican children and the Democratic children, the children with cancer and the children with trust funds, the children who know Him and the children who seek Him — I will ask God to secure the tethers of their lives, and I will worry, pray and when possible, offer advice. Mostly, I will ask God to help me love each child as He has so dearly loved each of His children– firmly, tightly, with a hold as hard as nails.
I will make a pact with God. I will make a covenant and it is this: God, I don’t know. I simply, don’t know much at all. But You do. I will trust You, to care for and deeply love my children, because they were never really mine. My beloved children have always been first and foremost, Your beloved children. I will not wrest the ropes binding my children to You from your nail-scarred hands because I somehow foolishly think I love them more than You love them. And I will beg You to help me treat my children, as You have treated me, with truth when I know it, with help whenever I can give it, with guidance when it is accepted, with my presence when it is asked for, with my silence when they need to be still, and with love that knows no limits and which is never, ever, ever loosely offered. I will ask You, my Father, to make a way in me to love each of Your children as I so love my own flesh and blood. Create in me a Love like Yours — Love that binds a child so tightly to the Parent’s heart, that nothing can separate them from that Love, not even death. “For neither height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39)