It was a cold, clear autumn day. A few leaves still clung to the trees as a chilly wind whipped them this way and that. They had been shades of bright orange, red and yellow just a few days before. The almost constant wind and cold had dried them out and left them all a dull brown. Still, they held onto the familiar branches as though afraid to let go.
As I walked the kids in from the bus stop that afternoon, I considered how much I had in common with those last brown leaves. In the space of eight months, I had learned about my husband’s infidelity, tried desperately to save my marriage, tasted the bitterness of rejection, moved my three children across an ocean and into a two-bedroom townhouse with my parents, gone back to school, and started a job after eleven years of being a stay-at-home mom.
The change was overwhelming
Instead of waking my little ones to prepare them for the day, I started each morning at four o’clock and clocked into work at a coffee shop at five. Instead of dropping my littlest guy at preschool and heading to the gym, I wrapped up my shift around eleven and went home to listen to lectures online and read until the kids got off the bus in the afternoon.
Rather than tending to a spotless home and cooking delicious dinners, I did the best I could to keep our small space tidy. I learned to stretch our budget and time. Instead of watching Netflix after the kids went to bed, I finished up my homework and cried myself to sleep. I lost my marriage, my home, and so much of my identity I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
I felt like I was walking through fog and drowning in the change
On that particular evening our schedule was too hectic to cook dinner. Instead, we made plans to meet my parents at a local restaurant. It was already dark when we pulled into the parking lot. I gave myself my tenth pep talk of the day as I turned off the ignition,
Be strong and courageous. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go….But God, I don’t feel like You are here. Why are you so silent? Why do you feel so far away? Why do the cold and the darkness keep pushing me down?”
I tried to tuck my anxious thoughts away as I helped my four-year-old son out of the car. I pulled his hood over his ears to protect him from the chill and took his hand for our walk across the parking lot. Then something in the clear, dark sky caught my attention. The moon was big and full and breath-taking, so we stopped to stare at the beauty in the middle of our mess.
As we started walking again, my little guy squeezed my hand and said,
“Mama, did you know that God is holding your hand?”
I smiled and said something simple like, “Oh really?” I briefly wondered what had brought about this conversation. His next words took the breath right out of my lungs, “Yep. You can’t always feel Him, but He always feels you.”
Freedom to dance
Even five years later, the memory of that moment is crystal clear to me. He always feels me. Even in the moments when my world was upside down, and I was clinging to parts of my old identity like the brown leaves on the trees, He was holding my hand. Not only was He holding my hand, but He was kind and patient enough to listen to my unbelief and use my own child to teach me truth.
The change was cold and hard, but He was steady and unchanging. Even when He seemed to be silent. My security did not rest in the visible branches of my identity, but in my Creator who, though unseen, is the only true reality. That evening I realized change would not be the end of me and I noticed that when the leaves finally let go of the trees, they danced.