In his book Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen tells this story about the Flying Rodleighs, trapeze artists whom he befriended:
One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, taking about flying. He said, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.” “How does it work?” I asked. “The secret, Rodleigh said, “is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.”
“You do nothing!” I said, surprised. “Nothing.” Rodleigh repeated. “The worst thing the flyer can do is try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and it would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.”
Think of the flyer, learning this skill. He must prepare himself to do two things: to let go, and to fly. And yet it seems to me the hardest discipline might be resisting the temptation to “help” the catcher by grabbing him. It goes against my instincts to release what I am sure of, and it is even more counterintuitive not to grasp for the next secure thing. And yet the flyer’s safety depends on his willingness to let go, and to allow himself to be caught.
If I want to fly, I must trust my Catcher. There is nothing I can do to add to the finished work of Jesus; in fact, my self-initiated efforts can bring disaster. My job is to trust the Catcher. It is the hardest thing to do, and the easiest- and in fact the only thing I have been made to do.
As difficult as it is to imagine myself swinging free and trusting God to catch me, it is even more difficult to imagine releasing my loved ones to Him, setting them free to fly in full faith that He will catch them. As a mom, I find letting go of my children to be the hardest challenge of all. And yet all our loved ones, even our children, are ultimately God’s responsibility. We have very important role, but their salvation and sanctification are ultimately His responsibility, not ours. *
Recently I found myself in a bind with one of my kids. He is very nearly a grown man, and had gotten himself into a sticky situation. He had a choice to make, between a very clear “right” and “wrong,” and it appeared to me he was not going to do the right thing. Because of the circumstance, I was completely powerless to force his choice. Speaking to him over the phone, I told him what to do, but there was no way in the world I could make him do it. I knew I could give him consequences after the fact, but the choice to do right or do wrong was entirely his.
Gone are the days when I could pick up a disobedient child and strap him in the carseat. I am a single mom, so I can’t get his dad to “make” him behave (and I know, dads can’t force their kids to behave, either). When I hung up the phone with my child, I felt like a complete failure. If he chose poorly, then I had not taught him well or disciplined him enough. I have never felt worse about my parenting than I did that evening. I had failed my child, and betrayed the trust God placed in me when He gave me sons to raise.
Or so I thought.
I had forgotten who my son’s Father really is. I had forgotten God will speak directly to my kid without any help from me. My role is to teach my children the Truth, but it is up to them to obey it. That night, my son did the right thing. He didn’t do it because I forced him to, but because he has his own relationship with his Abba Father. I was very glad he did what he knew to be right, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude over what God showed me: He will catch my child. He loves my son more than I do, and He will deal directly with him because ultimately, my boy is HIS boy, and HE is responsible for His beloved child.
I am well aware that my son, like his mother, will choose badly sometimes. But God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on us. God is love; love never fails. In fact, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.” (Psalm 139:8 KJV) And if someone I love makes his or her bed in hell- God forbid, I shudder to even type that- He is there. It’s not up to me to control my loved ones’ choices or to manipulate their futures. If I cannot even “catch” myself- if I must learn to trust God with my own life- how much more I need to learn to trust Him with the people I love best.
Verses for prayer:
Father, I know You, and I know that I can believe You are Who You say You are, and You will do what You say You will do. I am persuaded that You are able to keep that which I have committed to You. 2 Timothy 1:12
God, You are not a man, so you do not lie. You are not human, so You don’t change Your mind. You have never spoken and then failed to act; You have never promised and then not carried through. And as the song says, Lord, Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. Numbers 23:19 NLT, “One Thing Remains,” sung by Jesus Culture
God of peace, I trust You to make me holy through and through. Please keep my soul and mind and body in spotless integrity until Jesus returns. You have called me, and You are utterly faithful. You will finish what You set out to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Phillips
Fill in the blank with the name of someone you love:
Lord, You are utterly dependable for those who have faith in You. I pray that You will give _____ stability and protection from all that is evil. You are the one who gives me confidence about _____, that he/she will learn to act in accordance with Your commands. Please guide _____’s heart into an ever deeper understanding of Your love and of the patient suffering of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3: 2-4 Phillips
I am confident of this very thing, that You, who began a good work in _____, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
I thank You, Father, that _____ has the Spirit of truth, who will guide him/her into all truth. Your Spirit will teach _____ all things and remind him/her of everything You have said in Your Word. Your Spirit rests on _____, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of You. John 16:13, 14: 26, Isaiah 11:2
* I am indebted to Julie Sparkman for teaching me the difference between role and responsibility in the lives of my children. For more information about her ministry and teaching, please got to restore-ministries.org.