By Michele Morin
Proverbs 16:31; Jude 12; Exodus 13:21,22
I can just barely admit this, but I have finally hauled all the cassette tapes–John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Billy Joel–out from under my bed.
And I’m going to throw them away.
Letting go of this one thing may not free my hands to grab hold of an entire universe, but who knows?
This unloading is initiated, I think, by my oldest son’s purchase of a house: endless boxes and piles of belongings, so overwhelming, and yet minor, inconsequential compared with my extensively curated mess.
Then, there’s the presence of teen sons still in the nest, their growing competence a continual reminder of my slippage toward obsolescence.
The prayer of my heart as I fill the waste basket with relics from the 1980s is this:
“Oh, Lord, please keep my heart from becoming brittle and plastic,
unconsciously stuck in rigid notions of my own right-ness.
Grow in me a willingness to jettison anything that slows my growth toward You.”
Trusting that the body and the soul are somehow linked in their flexibility, I’m exercising these days. Like a tee-totaling mama sneaking her basement brandy flask, I creep off to the furnace room, knock off my little jumping jacks and squats, approximate a push up, and tremble through a 30-second plank. The fear of looking ridiculous is
banished by the greater fear of weakness–of outliving my ability to rise from a chair unaided.
Lilias Trotter, English missionary to Algeria (and brightly shimmering droplet in my cloud of witnesses), prods me to look beneath the surface of this middle-aged Christian life:
“There may be much of usefulness
And of outward self-denial, and yet . . .
There may remain a clinging to our own judgment,
A confidence in our own resources,
An unconscious taking of our own way, even in God’s service . . .
Are we following His steps?
In this long-ago question prompted by a bold woman who aged with grace, I see a call to open my hands; to stop clinging to the trappings of midlife that provide a feeling of safety or control, but may hold me back from experiencing life in the present moment; to cast off the lazy thinking that interferes with my ability to distinguish between God’s will and my own preferences and prejudices.
Am I willing to let go of my attachment to “the right way” of doing things? The truth is that there is more than one way to discipline a child, organize a kitchen, lead a committee, or conduct a Bible study. While my way may have been time-tested, I have to admit that I’m working from a statistical sample that is achingly small. Other leaders, mothers, and workers need to enjoy the freedom of seeing their ideas come to life. People are more important than my perception of success or perfection.
Am I open to new experiences, unfamiliar ideas, people who challenge me? I began listening to NPR in my forties because I realized I had surrounded myself with voices and opinions that sounded eerily like my own. When is the last time you read a book by an author who does not share your background, race, or political leanings?
Am I suffering from an unhealthy attachment to my “stuff”? I’m looking at the bookcases in my house – most of them with double rows of tightly packed books – and asking: Is there room for anything new here? If God called me to a new location, would I pull up stakes and go, or would I be anchored to collections of items that have no value to anyone else but me, and will eventually become a burden to my children as they try to deal with “my affairs.”
Do my open hands free the people I love to follow the call of God upon their own lives? Having poured ourselves into our families, we cherish time with them, but their company is not an entitlement. I have asked God to give me joy whenever my children find purpose, excitement, or an outlet for their gifts–even if that means that time and space keep us apart for a while.
Am I available to serve others with my time and abilities or have I hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign and put the world on notice that I am preparing for retirement? If the Proverb is to be trusted, and my mostly silver hair is to be seen as a crown of glory and wisdom, don’t let me be guilty of false advertising. I want to be wary of Jude’s waterless clouds, carried about by the wind, promising rain, but yielding nothing; like those fruitless trees in late autumn, not only barren, but uprooted. Twice dead.
Do I wake up each morning ready for a fresh following, a new insight into timeless words from Scripture? Is my following marked by an ever-enlarging faith? By joy like a firehose? Will the stumbling footprints of past failures lead to fear-based caution or to greater courage–founded in a memory of seas that split and sustenance that fell from Mercy? Can my heart find grace enough to view, in retrospect, my stumbling steps onto wasteland trails as the exact price for becoming the woman who I am today?
Cloud of My Soul,
Light of My Soul:
Lead me forward.
Through the decisions that lead to a letting go,
Freeing my hands for the new that You have planned;
Through shadow and shade,
When your presence is veiled and in mist;
Through blazing Words and bright Truth,
When the next step is clear and urgent.
Strengthen my soul for the wondering and for the wandering
That are part of my journey forward.
How do you see your life going forward? What are you carrying and what do you need to release?
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who blogs at Living Our Days. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She is active in educational ministries with her local church and her writing has appeared at SheLoves Magazine, The Mudroom, (in)courage, and elsewhere. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy, finds joy in sitting around a table surrounded by women with open Bibles, and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash