On the way to work, I couldn’t help but notice what appeared to be a very large dog ahead. As I got closer, I could see that he was laying flat on his side in his driveway, very near the road. Not uncommon – my pup lays that way often. But my dog has never done that in our driveway while attached to a leash. I can only assume that after an exhausting walk, he was done. He was too exhausted and he wasn’t going any further. His owner started gently pulling and trying to coax him up, however he ignored her completely. This poor woman then tries to pull him harder and scold him – nope, not budging. I couldn’t help but chuckle – she was trying her hardest to get him where he was safe, but he wanted nothing to do with it – he gave up. As I caught a glimpse of them in my rear view mirror, memories flooded back. Yep. Been there pup. Been there.
Life can be so exhausting. Daily, we are reminded of work appointments, meetings with teachers, help with homework, figuring out meals (whether it be for the whole week or 1 meal at a time), taking care of loved ones, bringing meals to those hurting and struggling… the list goes on and on. And, to be honest, just naming those is kinda stressing me out, so I’m just gonna stop there. You’re welcome. At times, it seems life is never going to let up – the pain of the world just keeps crashing and adding to our already overwhelmed existence.
When my son was in third grade, his teacher asked to meet with me. I sat stunned and in shock as she so gently recommended we have him tested for Asperger’s. Asperger’s? All I could picture was that kid from the TV show Parenthood – would that be our lives? The tears freely flowed. We endured hours and hours of psychological testing, many doctor appointments, and allergy testing (an allergy can sometimes mimic autism symptoms – crazy right?). Stressful for anyone, but when you struggle with chronic illness, all the added stress was ever so consuming on my fragile frame.
I cried so many tears during that period. “God, you know I can’t handle this – it’s TOO MUCH!“, had become the cry of my heart. Life was throwing so much at me and I wasn’t equipped with a catcher’s mitt to be able to catch it. The diagnosis had been handed down and I knew in that moment, our lives would never be the same. My heart just wanted to shout “I quit!!” to the world pressing in so closely to the fine line of my sanity. Odds are, if you suffer from chronic illness, you have wanted to give up at some low point in your journey. Everyone encourages us to not give up and push through this rough patch, which is kind and born of a caring heart. But, in all actuality giving up and giving over is exactly what we need to do.
Giving up isn’t what we are programmed to do, but it’s exactly what we are called to do. “That is why, for Christʼs sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) I have experienced unexplainable strength in my biggest times of need. I have sat beside a hotel pool with a full-on temper tantrum from a struggling 10-year-old yelling “Mean Mommy!” at the top of his lungs – all while avoiding gaping stares amidst physically agonizing pain. You would think I would be used to embarrassment by now – I’m not. But in that moment, I knew I couldn’t handle that distress, so I gave up and gave it over. In His faithfulness, God gave me strength, unexplainable strength, to handle that chaos with firm, yet caring, hands. For when I am weak, then I am strong…
I patiently waited for his anger to subside, and anticipated the 5 minutes of clarity that so graciously follows. In those few minutes, he calms down and listens. He listens. He somehow is able to understand what he couldn’t in the midst of his previous flailing. He gives up his previous mindset and is available and open with new lenses on his previously blind eyes. Clarity. In those few brief moments before his struggles draw him back to his black and white world, he is able to be disciplined. He is able to learn from his past experiences. He is calm and we are able to see this world from the same window. It’s God’s beautiful grace at the end of turmoil.
I often wonder if God sees us through those same eyes. Does He just wait patiently for my temper tantrum to run its course? Is He waiting for me to give up all control and trust in His ways? See, our God knows that once we give up all that we are clutching so tightly to – once we come to the end of ourselves and our own strength, there we will get to finally see from the same window. For His strength not only gets us through the struggles we daily walk, but it gives us clarity as to His ways. We are able to learn from our reluctance of giving up and giving over. For when I am weak, then I am strong…
That dog’s image comes to me when I feel myself clutching tightly to the things I believe I can control. Why do I hold so tightly and throw that “Mean world!” tantrum, even when I KNOW I can’t survive on my own strength? But, then in that moment of raw clarity, I realize no matter how hard the world tugs at my collar, I can choose to give up, right there in the middle of everything, to give it over to the One from whom I draw true strength. For when I am weak, then I am strong… Give up and give over.