It’s 5:23 a.m. on a Sunday and I am awake. I reach for my phone. There is no text from my 13-year-old son, who is in China, and my brain jumps straight to the conclusion that he must have gotten lost in a crowded Beijing market. In the pale light of dawn, this thought seems as plausible as any other.
In the space of 24 hours, my three children have been on three separate airplanes. My predominant summer anxiety has always been around how to keep them all busy. This summer they are suddenly off to see the world—my 15-year-old son to a camp in California, my 10-year-old daughter to visit family in New York, and my middle child with his father on the other side of the world. Having them in the air has me feeling ungrounded. To counteract my restlessness, I get up and go into practical mode. I text my ex-husband to make sure Boone has the hotel address in his pocket. I transfer a little money to Lincoln’s debit card for airport food. I text Genevieve a reminder to take her digestive supplements.
As the sun rises, my dark thoughts being to lighten. I tell myself that I’m not worrying, which is, honestly, as tiring and useless as worrying.
That morning at church, we sing one of my favorite songs: I send my love over the mountains. I send my love over the seas. I send my love into the heavens, and it returns to me. Today I hear it in a new way, as a benediction and a promise. I sent my older son over the mountains to California, I sent my younger son over the sea to China, I sent my baby girl into the heavens to New York, and they will all return to me.
I think about all the things I must let go, and how the letting go has to happen before people, experiences, or opportunities can return to me in new and unexpected ways. Irrational fears aside, it’s not really so hard when it comes to children. Letting them go is inevitable, and none of us is alone; every other parent knows what it’s like.
The real struggle is in applying the same spirit of surrender to my other babies—my hopes and dreams, my plans and purpose. I too often fall into trying to wrangle with my goals and it takes a sense of being off kilter to remind me to relax.
So I’ve come to a decision: striving doesn’t suit me. I’m giving it up.
My new “non-work ethic” is inspired by the verse: Not by might, nor by power, but by spirit... (Zechariah 4:6) because I like to go a little Old Testament now and then. But the same idea is found in New Age and New Thought philosophy.
Abraham Hicks talks about launching rockets of desire. What a great metaphor for dreams. Once a rocket is off the ground, there’s nothing to do but watch it light up the sky. Hans Christian King has a similar take on the power of prayer. Once a prayer is spoken, he says, dwell in trust and do not repeat your request. To do so is to introduce doubt.
Recently I met someone who was curious about my writing. “How do you manage it?” he asked, knowing I have three kids.
“I just show up,” I said reflexively, because this is my covenant with Spirit. The truth is that I stumble most when I try to do just what he said: manage it. That’s when I get in my own way. I become even more unsure, worried, or impatient with my “results.” I cling more tightly to that desire for tangible proof that I’m not wasting my time or my life. I grab for the rocket’s tail.
Before long, I hear from my son in China. I open my computer so we can connect on Skype and his face appears. There he is, safe and sound. He excitedly tells me about the really cool thing they did that day: they haggled in the market! He is now the proud owner of a hand-carved wooden sword.
Listening to his story, I have to agree that yes, haggling can be fun—on the streets of Beijing. But do I really want to haggle with Spirit? I can afford to live in trust, knowing that all I love, all that I dream about, will return to me.
And so can you.