Do you ever throw yourself a pity party? You know, one of those parties where you’re the only one who shows up? When you’re all by yourself, down in the dumps, knowing absolutely no one can possibly relate to your life situation?
I had a day like that last Sunday.
Feeling sorry for myself is easy on gloomy days when I can’t get to church for the 5th week in a row because my son Joel, who has autism, won’t get out of bed (and I am so worried because this is totally not like him!); when my mother’s dementia and confusion are worsened by a bad bout of pneumonia; when my weekly Wednesday radiation treatments for endometrial cancer lead to bone-deep fatigue on, of all times, the weekend.
Look a little further, the Lord whispers in my ear in the midst of my moaning and groaning.
I walk to the window and look out at maple trees a week away from golden glory, leaves adorning the grass beneath them. I look further to see walnut trees already bare, their too-soon-denuded branches framing a dark and brooding sky.
I open one of my favorite books, Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections by Macrina Weiderkehr, and read these words:
Shedding her last leaf
She watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
Wearing the color of emptiness,
Her branches wondering:
How do you give shade with so much gone?
These words jump out at me: “Wearing the color of emptiness.”
Maybe that’s what these feelings are. Not self-pity, but an emptiness. An emptying of my own strength. A giving up of my role as general-fixer-upper-of-all-things-broken.
Face the truth, Kathy, I tell myself. You can’t fix your son’s autism. You can’t undo your mother’s dementia. You can’t cure this cancer. Without a doubt, you can do things in each situation to bring healing. And that’s a big part of your role in life—to bring the hope of God into seemingly hopeless situations. But fix them? No way!
Do you ever beat yourself up because you can’t find the right treatments, the right doctors, the right therapies, to cure your child’s disability?
Perhaps what God is telling us through the daily unfolding drama of the trees during this autumn season is this:
Empty yourself and make more room for God.
But if I empty myself like these trees, Lord, how will I give shade and nurture to those I love? How do I fulfill my role as caregiver when I am so empty?
I look out the window again.
I notice how the walnut trees, though bare, let me see all the way up to the heavens. With their leaves gone, the view is opened to the fields beyond. There’s more light, even on this gloomy day, in that portion of the lawn now. I watch red-tailed squirrels playing tag, jumping from limb to limb. And there’s the robin’s nest that I knew must be there by all the comings and goings this summer, but which I couldn’t see before.
I pick up Macrina’s book, and read a little bit further:
The sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
They kept her hope alive.
And I remember how, in the midst of my pity-party on Sunday, the Lord gifted me and my husband with a glorious sunset as we putzed around the lake on our pontoon boat.
The very next morning we awoke to a heart-stoppingly beautiful sunrise.
Sometimes, like these trees, we find ourselves in a time of waiting as well as letting go.
We wait for healing in our children. We wait for joy in our marriages. We wait for mended relationships in our extended families. We wait for sleep; sometimes for our children, sometimes for ourselves.
Will you join me in the sacrament of letting go on this autumn day, even as the trees go about their business of letting go?
Will you join me in the sacrament of waiting as we head toward the barrenness of winter? Will you let the sunrise and sunset keep you company in the waiting, fueling your hope for new life in the spring?
Rooted and grounded in the love of God, our letting go and our waiting will be rewarded as we find that very emptiness is a place where life opens up—a place where we can receive love and power beyond all of our earthly imaginings!
What might God be nudging you to let go of today?
For what do you wait? Consider writing it down in your journal, and giving it over to God, then waiting with expectation rather than with anxiety and fear.