Finches and a Tortoise

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This is the first chapter of what I hope will be my first book.  You may be wondering why I would post my content online if my desire is to publish and sell a book someday soon.  The simple answer is that I need accountability and motivation.  I’m hoping to get feedback to keep me active in writing, whether it’s the responses of people who are encouraged or the comments of people who challenge my content.  God willing, the feedback will keep my creativity flowing and will keep me digging deeper to understand myself and my place in this world.  I pray that my own exploration will lead you on a similar quest, resulting in peace and rest for your soul.

I’m on a journey of facing the fear of suffering, and letting the Lord heal me of deeply rooted thought patterns that have impacted me in more areas than I previously realized.  I expect to find restoration as I willfully commit to travel the road toward freedom from fear.  So, chapter by chapter, I want to understand past experiences that have formed my thinking, and re-evaluate them in the light of Truth.

I won’t be able to tie a neat bow at the end of each exploration, but I’m okay with that.  What’s essential for me is getting to the place of trusting my heavenly Father regardless of the circumstances.  I welcome you to travel with me and find your own healing along the way.

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On my morning walk I found myself smiling as I observed a group of finches in the scrub brush along the trail.  They startle easily, and as I approached, they all flew off in unison.  I love their tiny little bird bodies and the variety of colors displayed on their chests.  To me, they somehow seem like a group of teenage girls gossiping and giggling, abruptly departing to go somewhere else.

I remember standing in front of a big glass cage full of colorful finches during the many nursing home visits to see my great-grandmother and then later, my grandmother.  I would watch the little birds flit from branch to branch.  They seemed to be the only bright spot in a building full of decay. 

The care facility was clean and well managed, but all my young eyes saw were old people, mostly in wheelchairs, who all seemed to be out of their minds.  They would reach for me, tell me stories that didn’t make sense, or even talk to my sister and me as if we were characters in their lives.  Dull eyes would look us over and see a long-deceased sister or cousin or friend.

I hated going to the nursing home.  Yet I think that even as a child, I understood the importance of being present, visiting loved ones whose minds were rapidly deteriorating.  I often wondered if they knew who I was or cared that I was there.

Aside from the finches, there was another bright spot in my visits: the garden!  It was beautifully manicured, full of rose bushes, flowers of all sorts, a swimming pool, fountains, and a small pond with a bridge.  I would often stand on that bridge, hoping to see toads or other signs of animal life.

During the spring and summer months, my sister and I would go hunting for the resident tortoise that roamed the grounds.  I’m not sure if the same tortoise lived at the facility all the years when my great-grandmother and grandmother were there, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Were it not for the finches, the beauty of the garden and the excitement of the tortoise hunt, I think my experience of interacting with the aged would have cast a darker shadow in my mind.   As it is, I really struggle with the thought that my own parents, or even my husband and I, may one day be in a state of failing body and mind, with the years going slowly by until the Lord finally issues the one-way ticket home.

There is no way to know what is going on in the minds of people trapped in the throes of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  I fear that they are more aware than we realize, screaming for relief or understanding when they can no longer form the words.  I fear the coming times of knowing that my mind is leaving and that I have limited time left to communicate with the people I love.  I fear being the one who is forgotten.

What good does all this fear do me?  Certainly, it provides no surety that I won’t face this type of suffering.  This fact made me think of Jesus’ words to his apostles in John 14:27 (ESV): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In all honestly, I’m not yet at the point of being unafraid.  But likely, neither were the apostles.  I’m sure that when the time came for Jesus to experience the ultimate suffering, the apostles were very afraid.  After his death, nothing short of an encounter with the risen Savior would transform their lives, minds and hearts, freeing them from grief and confusion.

So, Lord, I need an encounter with you to set my mind free from fear.  Protect me from the dark thoughts that rob me of the peace you left for me.  Let not my heart be troubled or afraid.  Let your light shine on me, in me and through me.  Amen.

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