The Long Surrender, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about throwing out my lower back and learning to surrender my plans to God’s. Turns out the urgent priorities that had to be postponed or cancelled as a result were only the first small lessons God had for me.

We cancelled a trip to Texas, and I pushed back a few other appointments and projects. But certain things—like the baptism of our second grandchild in North Dakota and Trevor’s graduation party here at home—could not be held off. As a result, the following weekend I found myself walking gingerly through a Bismarck hotel lobby while Jodi lugged suitcases and bags to the elevator and up to our room.

Of course, this pushed my insecurity and vainglory buttons: In my mind’s eye, I could see the clerk and all the other guests eyeing our family, wondering why a strapping middle-aged man wouldn’t lift a finger to help his overburdened wife.

I was not permitted to pick up our new grandson or roughhouse with our older one. I could hold the baby while seated, but if he fussed, I couldn’t stand, bounce, or sway—I had to give him to someone else. I took photos at the Baptism, but that also drew attention to my lack of mobility.

Everyone’s seeing me hobble around like an old man.

The following week we prepared for the grad party. We had yard work to do; shopping, cooking, and baking; setting up canopies, tables, and chairs; and more—and I was under strict orders not to lift, bend, or twist. Had I been able to help with this work, I may have grumbled, but being unable to do it was worse. I had to lean on Jodi, the kids, and friends—even visitors from out of state.

And after the party, the same thing: I watched as others did the work I ought to be doing. I had to pitch in as best I could. It was humbling to say, time and again, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

Then last week I traveled to Michigan to see my folks. I don’t see them as much as I’d like, and I constantly wish I could help more around their place. But this time, I had to forewarn them: I wouldn’t be able to do much physically.

When I arrived, Mom admitted she had hoped I could finish the tree trimming my older kids has started when they were there earlier in the summer.

Here’s an opportunity to help—and naturally, I can’t.

I felt sorry for myself that first evening. The next morning, I prayed that my time there be fruitful, and set about listing their motorhome for sale online. Within a few hours, I had dozens of inquiries, and a young man came to look at it. While he was checking things over, I cleaned out the camper’s cupboards and drawers, a little at a time. When I was done, the man purchased and drove it away.

I mounted a flag bracket off the front porch and displayed their old flag. I walked their dog.  I tightened a stair railing and hauled their recycling. And we talked, laughed, and even cried a little—sitting and visiting for many happy hours.

It’s easy to pick the low-hanging fruit: to throw myself into the heavy lifting, get dirty and sweaty, and take pride in working hard. It’s easy to do what’s expected.

It’s much more difficult admit I can’t do those things—and then to step outside of myself and see what else I can do. But when I surrendered my pride, I began to live up to God’s expectations and to bear much fruit.

This post appeared in the August 7, 2022, issue of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

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