My pastor told me a story about a man he knew who had been a paratrooper in WWII. Before they dropped into France, the paratroopers were given the chance to pick whatever weapons they wanted, whatever they could carry, from the warehouse. This man, Perry, picked one gun with a spare clip. Most of the other soldiers weighed themselves down with every last thing they could carry, determined to protect and defend themselves. Perry said he knew he could get more from the fallen soldiers, if he needed it, so he just took what he needed right then to survive.
When they dropped to the ground, the ones who had taken lots — as much as they could carry — broke their legs upon impact.
Ever feel like that? Like you’re carrying way more than you can handle?Oh, wait, of course you do — it’s summertime. And lazy summer days in hammocks and sipping tropical drinks poolside seem to exist only in fiction — at least around here.
I’m trying. I’m hyper-organized, filling calendar squares carefully with minute-by-minute breakdowns of time. I’m quick to suggest letting go of anything that is not absolutely necessary and critical. I’m giving myself permission to leave piles of things in corners if I just don’t have time to deal with them. (Mind you, this is nothing new; I’m just finally giving myself permission to let it go.)
My eldest daughter is about to return from a month-long trip to China and is feeling confused about where to go from here — she’s two years into college and not sure what direction she should be going. My middle child just graduated from high school and will be going to college 7.5 hours from home. My dad started chemo and radiation last week for esophageal cancer, and he’s in Florida, so I have limited opportunities (or ways) to help. My husband is in training for a new job he loves, and I’m thrilled about that, but it means that for the next 7 or 8 weeks, nearly all of the day-to-day responsibilities of running a home and family fall exclusively to me.
And although it is so easy to let my worries and fears and helplessness weigh me down, the only positive thing I can say about myself right now is at least I’m not holding on to too much. It’s all there, hovering at the edges of my consciousness. The weight of it is tremendous and not for the faint-of-heart. But if I allowed myself to carry it all around, to try to fix it all or bear the burden for my family, I’d be demolished on impact. Some might say I’m in denial, which is entirely possible — or maybe, for once, I’ve been somewhat successful at turning it all over to God.
It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I know I’m not strong enough to let these things consume me. There will be times that I agonize over whether I’ve given my kids all the tools that they need to make wise choices. When I wonder if I’ve done my job well enough as a mom so that they’re prepared to step into the next phases of their lives. When I cry because Dad is so far away and feeling bad and I’m not able to do a darn thing. When I wonder if I can get all of my work done in the bits of time snatched in between driving to camps and doctors’ appointments and packing for the occasional vacation weekend or workshop. When I know my kids want more attention than I’m able to give them and are tired of eating fast food. When I’m too tired to work and all I want to do is lie on the couch and escape into some fictional world.
I know I should pray. But there are times that even that feels too heavy, too hard. All I can do is close my eyes and offer up a wish-thought-prayer. Imagine myself floating down gracefully through the skies. Knowing that God has His hand on me, that He’s lifting the weight of my burdens so that I can soar gracefully rather than crash violently. Trusting that I’m not jumping into a frightening situation. Believing that I’m moving slowly towards the just the place He has in mind for me — not as a soldier facing danger but as a skydiver who’s enjoying the ride.
And trying — tentatively, carefully — to open my eyes and realize that the view from here, from within the center of this journey, is spectacular. Always changing. A view I’d never get to see if I didn’t hand all of my worries to God. If I never left the plane in the first place.
All I have to do is take time to notice. Not be in such a hurry to land. And open my eyes wide.