Strength can be found in Surrender
When I was young the playground had a large disk with cold metal pipes bolted on top to hold onto. We would push it around as fast as possible then jump on. As our weight moved toward the middle, we would spin even faster. Sometimes my fingers would slip off the smooth metal and I would fly off thumping into the compact dirt surrounding it. Whether I ended the ride on the ground unable to breathe or the panting on the platform, my stomach would be queasy and the blurry world spinning too much to stand.
My husband and I felt like we were taking a ride on a playground roundabout.
We were exhausted, dizzy, physically sick after years of losses, isolation and trauma. Then, as we were desperately feeling the need to lay on our backs until the world stopped spinning, our toddler, the bright spot of these years, was diagnosed with a heart defect. It felt like a big kid had come up uninvited to start pushing the roundabout faster just as our fingers were about to give out.
Our son was scheduled for the first available open heart surgery at, arguably, the best children’s hospital in the world. The surgery was not successful. They could not get his oxygen levels to safe levels.
Heartbreak. Our two-year-old son who loved aquatic life, who was intensely cautious but loved adventure, was confined in a hospital bed indefinitely. I sat under blinking alarms warning me that each minute his under-oxygenated blood circulated his body it was causing organ damage which the best doctors in the world were helpless to stop. He could not talk with the ventilator tube down his throat forcing his breathes. He tried to cry, and his body would wrack silently as he fought the vent. With his eyes screwed up tight and tears trailing down his face, his little mouth would mime “mama.” As his mother, my job was to hold down his arms to keep him from pulling any tubes.
It shattered my heart. I wanted to pull him into my arms, but the best thing I could do for him was to hold him down.
As I sat next to his bed, I began to read in Ken Gire’s, Moments with the Savior about how Mary said to the angel of the Lord, “Let it be to me as you have said,” when told she was pregnant with Jesus. Then, how she was told that a sword would pierce her heart because of this child, and how she must have wondered if that day had come when she lost Jesus in Jerusalem as a child.
Yet she never went back on her commitment of, “Let it be to me as you have said.” Instead she “treasured these things in her heart.”
As I sat under those alarms holding my son’s chubby wrists, I thought, “Am I willing to pray that prayer if You take my son tonight?” With cascading tears and ragged breath, by God’s grace, I whispered, “I wouldn’t dare hold onto him out of my own selfishness.” That’s when my husband walked in. He took in the unchanged condition of my son, my apparent hysteria and the book laid open. He said, “I’m taking away that book!” He only knew that when he left me I had a calm that comes from numb emptiness, and when he returned I was sobbing.
He did not know that these were the cleansing tears of surrender.
After several days of testing, late one night, my son was in a second, emergency heart surgery. For the second time that week we navigated the surreal news that they had stopped his heart while a heart lung bypass machine kept him alive. We must have continued to breathe for the hours he was in surgery, but as we sighed with relief when the nurse told us that his heart was beating again, it felt like we were filling our lungs for the first time since they had rolled him away.
We are not promised that life will always be uphill and to the right, success mixes with sorrow. My son experienced an embolism during surgery, and we entered the world of caring for a child with special needs.
Heartbreak. I think most parents anticipate their kids going to school, being invited to birthday parties, getting a drivers’ license and going to prom… I needed to grieve the loss of these dreams, as I navigated a new heartbreak and discovered strength there, not allowing anticipation to turn into a stifling blanket of anxiety.
I had thought strength meant curling in on myself and gripping tighter, like I had on the roundabout as a child when my fingers began to slip off those big, cold pipes.
But strength can be knowing when to let go. Strength can be found in surrender.
As I surrendered my control, fears and expectations, even those I did not know I had, the spinning world began to settle. I was no longer on a roundabout, muscles taunt and fighting down nausea. I was standing next to it with the world in focus.
As we learned a new plethora of diagnosis for my son, I discovered the power of lament and grieving, even those things so small we feel embarrassed to acknowledge. The loss of what we anticipated but did not possess is a loss none-the-less.
I learned to find people, Biblical writers and authors that shared in my sorrow, and safe spaces to sit with my pain.
As I surrendered things like control, I discovered the strength of holder together, one in each hand, the grief of the losses and the gratitude that this vibrant, kind, sensitive soul still shared my air and life.
Corenna Boucher Hoyt has a lifetime passion for ministries of reconciliation and healing. She enjoys speaking and preaching for various ministries. Corenna is an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor, sent as a missionary to Young Life in Rhode Island, where she lives with her two sons who enjoy church, martial arts, music and outdoor activities together. You can connect with Corenna on Instagram @corennahoyt.
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