In life, we often build snares that trap us without recognizing what they really are, and once we’re caught in the trap, we fail to recognize the way to escape. Such was the case in my life.
My 12 hour graveyard shift was almost over, and I would soon be going home to get some much-needed sleep. Getting a call from my sister in the early morning hours, I knew something was wrong. She told me that mom was in the hospital. Her years of starving herself had finally reached their breaking point, and at 64 pounds, she may not survive the day.
I quickly left for home to clean up and then head to the hospital. As I drove that wintry morning, the sky seemed darker than usual, the trees seemed more barren, and the songs on my stereo seemed somehow depressing. For the first time in my life, I found myself weeping for my mom, realizing that I may lose her.
I hadn’t always been concerned for my mom; in fact, many times I simply resented her. Her endless night-shifts at the hospital left little time for her to spend with us. When she was at home, we were constantly reminded to be quiet, because “mom is sleeping.” When she was awake, her attempts to guilt us into doing our chores made me resent her more. The one sparkle in all of this was Sunday Morning. Despite working through the night, she usually managed to make it to church to teach my Sunday school class – a time when I saw her energy and enthusiasm shine out from behind those tired eyes.
As I reflected on her condition, I realized how much I was like her. My life had become everything I had resented in my childhood; but that winter morning, I realized both of us had built our own snares we thought we could not escape. Traps that don’t kill us however, can be sprung, but they need to be recognized for what they are before we can hope to be released. There were things we each needed to understand and let go.
I was only 20 years old when I married into a pre-made family with a young daughter, which soon expanded with the births of two boys. My young family required much more than I had expected however, and it seemed that my efforts, no matter how hard, were never enough to pay the bills. I found myself working seemingly endless hours on the night shift, coming home to sleep when everyone else was getting up. There was little money for food; so many times I went without. At work, I longed for the life everyone else seemed to have. I felt trapped by my life’s obligations.
While at the hospital, I found out that mom’s recovery would take time, but the healing was now beginning. She had no choice but to let go of things in her life that had her trapped; the insecurities that drove her to work incessant hours, and the drive to control the only thing in life she thought she could control – her eating.
She let go, and she never gave up. Watching her health improve over subsequent months, I saw a sparkle of joy in her eyes as she began to enjoy life. She eventually returned to work for a few more years, but with normal hours, turning her energies into time with my dad, the family and missions work at church.
As it turned out, this was also the beginning of the healing process for me. I had been focusing on the wrong trap in my life. I needed to understand the heart behind her actions. I needed to see the love behind her hours at work, and self-denial. All of the resentment which was preventing a healthy relationship with my mom, just needed to be let go. When I finally let go of my own bitterness, my mom suddenly changed in my eyes from an object of resentment to a person I deeply admired. She became my unexpected hero.
30 years later, she is still a hero of mine. Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to fly to Phoenix and surprise her for her 80th birthday. My eyes welled up as she wept in my arms. After the hugs and kisses, stepping into the dining room, I saw the table covered with shoeboxes full of toys and personal necessities. For years, Mom has put together hundreds of boxes for needy children around the world. From her years as a nurse, through her retirement, she has never stopped caring for people.
What about you? Do you hold bitterness or resentment toward someone who loves you? Are you trapped by the hardness of your heart? Someday, it may be too late for healing. Someday, you will not have the opportunity to say “I love you.” Now is the time to recognize the trap you have built. Now is the time to let things go so you can escape the trap. You don’t know, you too may discover an unexpected hero.