The appointment card sat on my desk for three months. Over those months various penny finds would sit next to it. Each one had a story I kept meaning to write but couldn’t take past the idea stage. I’d jot some notes but the page would stare back at me just like that card. Fatigue is to blame for the writer’s block. The demands of carrying for my aging mother while helping my kid’s transition into adult life are taking their toll.
I could have moved the card. Put it in the back pocket of my day planner like every other appointment card. I didn’t because the matter at hand has required a tremendous amount of prayer. I’ve hated praying about it because it causes me so much anxiety, but just like my Mother’s vision the answer is hard to clarify.
Finally, it was the day. I woke up in a cold sweat but managed to get through my morning routine despite perseverating on a few details for an event I’m planning, that could have waited. This is not uncommon for me. Stress has an uncanny ability to focus my attention on the wrong detail.
Another cold sweat rolled over my body as I pulled up to my Mom’s doorstep. Knowing what we were in for I broached the subject with her.
“Mom, you realize Dr. Carter is going to recommend cataract surgery.”
“But, I can see just fine.”
“I know you think that but it’s pretty obvious that’s not the case.”
“I don’t think so.”
Knowing better than to argue with her I said, “Okay well he’s going to strongly recommend this and if you decide you want to do it I can find a nurse to help me with the aftercare.”
“I don’t want to do that. I’m fine.”
And there it was, the phrase I hear all too often—the one that chills my spine. It’s my Mom’s go to even when all the evidence suggests otherwise. It’s what makes all appointments challenging. Fortunately, the two doctors we interact with have great bedside manners but I can tell they’re searching for nice ways to confront her denial just like I am.
The eye appointment went just like I expected. Her vision has deteriorated even more since her last visit and the doctor wants her to have surgery. He gave is pitch, she gave him her rebuttal, and I sat there agonizing about the whole thing.
At dinner that night my sweetie asked how the appointment went. I dropped my head and started crying. Through my tears I managed to tell him how much her vision has deteriorated. He and Chase listened and I could see their concern for me and her.
“It’s tough, because from her perspective she’s doing fine. She can do all the things she wants to do so you’re probably not going to convince her,” he said.
“Well, that’s part of my struggle because I could. With her memory the way it is I could totally manipulate this and make it happen,” I countered.
“Yeah, but you don’t want to do that.”
“That’s what’s hard because I know it would improve the quality of her life but I also know it has to be her choice.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” he said.
Chase reached out and squeezed my hand and said, “Yeah Mom you are.”
I looked at them both and wiped my tears.
God speaks through the people you trust and I know this is the clarity of thought I’ve asked for—so why is it agonizing? Because I’m a fixer by nature and, not to sound arrogant, I’m pretty good at it. Give me a problem to solve combined with my stubbornness and as my Dad would say—I’m a force to reckon with.
Restraint in a time of need is not my gift. Working the problem is. Standing on the diving board watching my Mom swim into murky water is crazy-making. I want to dive in and help her but to do so would put the relationship we have at risk. More than she needs to see well, she needs to trust that I will not violate her will. These are her decisions to make, even if her pride might be getting the better of her.
Later that night on my desk when I saw the appointment card and the scattering of pennies that surrounded it I thought of God and the divine restraint He has to exercise. If it’s agonizing for me what’s it like for Him? How many times has He held back in favor of preserving the relationship between us? As I ponder it I’m not sure I want to know the answer. It feels uncomfortable to think God respects me that much.
I had a pastor friend who always used to say, “God is a perfect gentleman—He will not step on your toes.” If life is a dance perhaps this is the lesson God wants me to learn—that restraint as a gifting is equal to, if not greater than courage. Sometimes we just aren’t called to fight every battle.