The Tightrope


26 Aug
26Aug


"You seem to be on a tight rope." 

The words momentarily stun me, my feet stopping mid-stride.  

My eyes tip up from my frozen stance to see the eyes of my 18-year-old son gazing at me, his voice matter-of-fact and friendly – but concerned.

It’s the day before my son’s freshmen college orientation. Then, just two days later, we would move College Boy into his new life, away from home, leaving us only a family of three. Mom, Dad and 13-year-old son. That’s it.

Our household of six down would be down to three. 

How does one make dinner for only three people?

Our first son had only been married for almost four months and was now living two hours away close to his in-laws, my heart still painfully processing this one. Our second son had just moved a few days into a house with his friends for his senior year of college and was off for training as a college orientation leader. And now soon this precious third son of mine would be off, too. Time marches on. It doesn’t pause waiting for anyone. It didn’t for me these past few days either.

“You seem to be on a tight rope.”  The words that momentarily stunned me moments ago continue to ring in my ear.

He is my child who notices. Who sees. And who will speak. 

My flurry of emotions continues to run on overdrive. I think ahead to the whirl of the next few days…of this afternoon. There is so much to impossibly do. I must have been flustered. And he must have noticed.

Just moments ago, I had hurriedly arrived home from the supermarket with College Boy and irritatingly realized that I need to turn around and go back to get the very thing I had neglected to buy. Magic Erasers. How does one go to the store for Magic Erasers and not bring them back?  So, I’d have to make another trip out - yet again. So here I was, running a-mile-a-minute to drop off the purchases from the first trip and head right back out again. I might have dropped my keys in my rushed frenzy. I might have been sighing. I might have had pinched lips in consternation. I probably appear way too distracted and very overwhelmed. It was as if I could imagine that I sported this heavy coat of impatience and agitation amidst feverish activity.

Yes, I admit, I may be stressed. 

I push the accelerator far too much on the way back to the store.

Thoughts swirling miles per hour around me, I think of the waiting to-do list that still needed to be accomplished in the three hours I had appointed to me. 

With those Magic Erasers, a small fridge sat ready to be cleaned out from a summer of use in the camper so it could be brought fresh to a new dorm room. Shelves needed to be installed in College Boys’ home room before he left for school. He wanted to hang his artwork in his new room that he had joyfully stolen from the son who had married and moved away. We had chosen from College Boy’s personal photography together, choosing fiery sunsets and majestic Alpine mountain scenes.

 The time together was precious - but all registered on a ticking time-punch machine. 

Both the chiropractor appointment at 4pm and a meeting at 7pm that night loomed in front of me reminding me that I needed to get my hefty list finished to be there at both in time. We still had to hang the shelves, choose what size of his photographs, go buy the frames, pack up College Boy, help him figure out how to apply for an online campus job, and make the elaborate dinner that he had chosen from my new cookbook – five years ago. The index card with his dinner choices had remained unmade on the refrigerator already for five long years, just waiting for the perfect moment that never seemed to be just right. How I longed to go back and just live in the moments of back then. Why I thought I had to now make it tonight of all days, I don’t know. Yet somehow, making it today seemed vitally important.

It marked the end of something that would soon be in the past. That end somehow had to be acknowledged. 

The index card just couldn’t sit up on that fridge with its sparkly heart-shaped magnet one more day. Somehow, I could squeeze in that special dinner and have one last special meal with our family - even if it were just four of us.

The Cajun pepper steak recipe was easy but needed to simmer for an hour that I just didn’t seem to have. The stuffed mashed potatoes was a new recipe but easy enough. The strawberry shakes were homemade, the recipe appearing simple and straight forward. But the cake - that luscious and beautiful Strawberry Brownie Bombay Cake - was a recipe that would challenge even Martha Steward. The steps involved were staggering, and between that cake, the from-scratch dinner, my to-do list and both of my appointments, I was running ragged.

The words to my children flew out of my mouth about all of the things we had to do today and what order they would have to be done to achieve everything on the list. I was talking a-mile-a-minute, words flying out of my mouth, contracting themselves. I bordered on a detached hysteria with my two sons and all of the remaining frenzy of assignments. Yet, I kept reminding myself over and over to be patient and nice, not too bossy and above all - try to not act too crazy in this chaos. I was making a memory, don’t you know, and I had better not mess it up.

But it didn’t work. 

I couldn’t guilt myself into acting calm.

It was an anxious tightrope to walk.

And I was failing.

“You seem to be on a tight rope.”  His vivid words echo back in my mind as the car starts off towards home for the second time in one hour- this time with the Magic Erasers clutched in the front seat next to me.

Yes, I seemed to be walking a tightrope of behavior. 

College Boy described it well.

A word picture forming in my mind, my thoughts turn toward the landscape inside of me. I am trying to walk a fine line between being productive and just enjoying this precious time. My feet walk forward seeking to project a balance of competence with preparation. I had seen only one path through this day and I was careful to not botch it and fall off. And I was close. I constantly felt like I was teetering on the edge of that fall. My foot dangles over the wire, my hands gripping the balancing pole, as I suspend over an empty chasm of guilt. If I successfully walk this tightrope, I will not fall into that void. One very small mistake and the entire day could be ruined.

It all hinged on me. 

It all hinged on me making that successful trip. Of not botching this up. On not failing.

Peace was in short supply and my irritation was affecting those closest to me. I could plainly see it now and the thought of affecting those closest to me devastated my heart. I know I couldn’t arrive home from this trip in the same manner that I had arrived from the first trip.

My precious children deserved better. 

I deserved better.

…Anchor of the soul.

A verse that I read just a couple of days ago at my dear friend’s kitchen table over steaming cups of cinnamon spice tea and precious heart talk whispers in my ear.

…Anchor of the soul.

What was that verse?  I can’t exactly remember the words.

…Anchor of my soul.

Well, yes, whatever that verse is, I unquestionably need that anchor right now. 

…Anchor of MY soul.

As I realize the effects of my actions upon those people dearest around me, tears come to my eyes and a heavy sigh escapes. My head wants to drop with the weight of my actions but I stare straight ahead as I drive my car out of the grocery store in prayer to God. I know I desperately need that peace. The calm. The quiet unruffled contentment.

I will ask Father.

I spill out the events of the day to the one person who can handle it in its entirety. All of my feelings regarding the many changes that swirled around me and my feelings of regret for how the day was turning out escape from my mouth. I get it all out until words fail me and start to feel slightly calmer and more understood.

Weary and soul spent, the issue finally brought out into the light, my inner landscape is now quiet enough that I can finally ask God for what I feel I am lacking. The words automatically tumble from my mouth, “Lord, give me peace.”

Interestingly enough, something stops me and gives me pause.

…Anchor of my soul.

Wait…a thought starts to dawn on me. Don’t I…don’t I already have that? 

Don’t I already have peace?  

Didn’t Christ tell me that I already have everything that I need for godliness?  Isn’t it found in Him already?  So…so maybe…do I presently possess it underneath this familiar coat of frenzy I currently wear?  Is there really another coat underneath this which looks quite different?  Am I…could I…could I possibly be already wearing it? 

Do I simply need to take off this coat which doesn’t portray who I really am?  

…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3

…Anchor of my soul.

I pass the Biggby coffee shop at which I normally stop when making this trip. The sign dissolves into the background of my rearview mirror.

I can almost smell the scent but the fragrance of Christ is permeating my SUV in an entirely new and different way.

…Anchor of my soul.

A glimmer of hope begins to invade my thoughts. I sigh, eyes open, exhaling all of the agitation and hysteria that had become a heavy, binding coat around me.

…Anchor of my soul.

My words pour forth to Christ amidst watery tears that begin to leak from my eyes. The dam of emotions that had formed start to give way as I bring more of my heart to Father. “Lord, you know I need peace. I am not going to ask you for something you have already said you’ve given me. Instead I want peel off this coat of impatience and flustered behavior and reveal what you have already done for me.

 “Show me the peace that I already possess in you. 

“You are my peace…my comfort…my joy!  I have everything because I have you, Lord!” 

…Anchor of my soul.

The held-back tears finally escape bringing with them the fresh air of joy, delight and anticipation. I am not what I do.

I do not need to walk the ‘tight rope’ of behavior. 

It’s not about what I do but who I am. I am the daughter of the King and that King has died, and then ultimately lived, to make me holy, righteous and secure. Sure – behavior matters but it isn’t the source of my righteousness.

It can’t motivate me. 

Only Christ can. 

Behavior. Identity. The first never finds results in the second, but the second always finds results in the first. Behavior management doesn't lead to our identity in Jesus Christ. Our identity in Jesus Christ, however, always leads in the fruit of pleasing behavior to Father through radical trust. Now, I rest in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way. 

I am wired for this. 

No striving. No formulas. No lists on how to develop this. I am simply wired.

Phew. The tightly-wound tension drains from me and underneath I sense a joy that was not there mere minutes ago.

Relief. 

My car reaches the garage and I linger for just a moment looking around at the canopy of green trees in the forest around me. It’s my favorite part of the yard, the juxtaposition of the majestic tall brown oak trunks against the many shades of green stretching through the blue sky.

I slowly walk back inside, my heart a thousand times lighter. 

I swear there was a song singing somewhere in the recesses of my heart. I think ahead to three days from now when our bustling house of six will be a household of three. This day may provide chaos, but, oh how I want to cherish every moment. I can look forward to this day, I can smile and I can help my son patiently through all of these online computer questions. I can even handle this challenging Bombe cake. What could frazzle me?  I have the God of the universe as my source of patience and peace.

It doesn’t even have to come from me.

…Anchor of my soul.

The joyful phrase brings a smile to my lips as I walk into the house.

The afternoon passes swiftly but sweetly. I throw licorice ropes down the basement stairs to my son’s open mouth as he runs up and down to the basement to pack.

College Boy and I talk and I share with him how his comment stirred a beautiful wake-up call in me and how Father and I worked it out altogether. 

Strains of the Piano Guys float in the kitchen as my 13-year-old son completely takes over and tackles the complicated Strawberry Brownie Bombe cake. I chop red, yellow and orange peppers for the steak dinner and watch my college son walk through the kitchen in shades, striking an impromptu peace sign with his hands.

Yes, peace!  My heart is heavy…but it’s weighty with love …and hope…and joy…and peace!

…Anchor of my soul.

A strain of the “This is Your Fight Song" permeates the air around us. The victorious cello hints at the hope of a battle well won. Tears come to my eyes, stinging with joy. My heart is full.

…Anchor of my soul.

I smile.

I am so thankful I have a God who fights for me….who walked the tight-rope so that I do not have to…whose finished work allows to me simply rest and enjoy and simply be.

Glory!


This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.… Hebrews 6:19








 




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