When my oldest son was 3 and my second son was 1 and I was pregnant with their younger brother, the oldest child stood on the side of a shopping cart and pulled it over on himself, slamming his head to the asphalt parking lot. As I lifted his body, his eyes rolled back in his head and he lost consciousness. At that moment my maternal instincts kicked in. I scooped his limp body into one arm and grabbed the baby in the other arm then ran to the front of the store, shouting at a woman headed in the same direction to call 911. I know the voice that came out of me must have sounded like that of an animal.
Miraculously, my son recovered without even a hospital stay, and for the most part appeared unscathed by the entire incident. I, on the other hand, was profoundly changed. I couldn't even talk about it in the days following, until one morning I was on my hands and knees cleaning the floor under the kitchen table, a daily chore with two young boys, and had a revelation.
These are not my children. Never were. Not mine to cling to so desperately. I have been given the gift of stewardship over them. We were selected for each other with the understanding that we supply what the other needs, AND that our creator can take either of us back when it pleases Him.
This experience prepared me for the morning, a little over two years later when my daughter, only one week old, spiked a very, very high fever. I will never forget the ambulance ride from our small county hospital to the MCG Children's Medical Center. Or the commotion that surrounded us in the emergency room. Or the tears that kept welling in my eyes, quietly trickling down my face, and my fruitless efforts to fight them back. Or standing in the hall listening to the pitiful wale of my tiny infant as residents whisked her away to a small room to perform a spinal tap. And I will always remember the prayer I said, standing there alone, time completely stopped:
Lord, I know she is yours and not mine. If you need her back, I will try to understand and I am so thankful for the week you gave us. But I also want you to know that I really would like to have more time with her, please. Amen.
I have tears in my eyes right now thinking about how he has given me seven years.
You might think that these experiences set me free to enjoy without fear the time I've been allotted with my family. But try as I might, I still held too tightly to my children. I tried to protect them from every threat to their happiness and health. I refused to go away on trips with my husband, because I didn't want something to happen to us and our children to be orphans. For me family trips were an all or nothing deal; we all go or we all stay home. I stood by that, even after a friend said, "So you'd rather that you all go down in a fiery crash together, than for your children to miss you but live long fulfilling lives?"
Last winter my husband made me face my fears. He planned a week long trip to Costa Rica for the two of us. When I tried to worm out of it, he took it as personal rejection. In the last few days, while making final plans and lists for my mother-in-law who stayed with our kids, I had to come to grips with getting on a plane without my children and leaving the country.
I had a little epiphany that not only enabled me to go on that trip, but was truly the first step of my journey into the fearless life: I had to accept that bad things happen. They just do. Events, tragic or otherwise, for the most part, are beyond human control. I have been given stewardship over my children, but I cannot protect them, or myself, from every potential heartache.
What I can protect my children from, however, is the sorrow and regret over life not lived.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Accept that bad things happen. Hug your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends. Then do something you've avoided because of worry over "something bad" happening, such as letting your husband buy that motorcycle he really wants, taking a summer sabbatical to sail up the Atlantic Coast, letting your child go out of state to college, etc. and etc. Something bad might happen, but you've got to do it anyway.
What will you do today to live fearlessly?