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BIS LIVES Blog

Harvest Time and Letting Go

a reflection on fall catholic

Metaphors are a powerful tool for teaching, and there are few metaphors richer than that of bringing something new to birth.

Two Kinds of Birth

I always find it interesting when men use childbirth metaphors to illustrate a point. Although one of my favorite authors is such a man and I’ll allow it because I think he’s onto something. He describes what he has observed are the two experiences of birthing that come with bringing a child into the world.

The first, of course, happens after much love, prayer, and nurturing of an anticipated child until the day of their arrival—by plane, social worker, birth mom, delivery, or c-section. There is raw emotion, relief, excitement, anticipation, fear, pain, and joy. This leaves the new mother feeling elated, exhilarated, exhausted, and in need of her own nurturing. Beginning already at this time, we instinctively begin the slow process of teaching this new life the basics: how to eat, drink, use a potty, and so on.

The second birth he describes is more theoretical, but no less real. It is the significantly longer process of pushing a child into longer and longer durations of independence, until eventually the child understands the basics for themselves and can sufficiently move about in the world, without assistance.

Between the two, he describes the second as the more painful.

Letting Go is Harder

I remember thinking about this passage when a friend of mine was worried about her son who enlisted in the Navy. I think of this description when I think of mothers whose children have won gold medals in the Special Olympics. I think of women whose children are physically healthy, and those whose children are facing life-threatening illness. I think of those with a child in prison, or hired for their first job.

It is a complicated dance of independence on the part of one and letting go of the other.

Each of these snap-shots offers a glimpse of an experience where the illusion of control has been released with no guarantee of outcome one way or another. It is a surrendering of our own best-laid plans and trusting the wobbly, unpracticed approach of those we love.

Insert your own struggle. Most of us will fight tooth and nail to avoid this kind of vulnerability if we can help it whether our own, or that of another.

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Time for Harvest

When I imagined what the topic of harvesting would surface for me, I naively pictured pumpkins, colorful foliage, harvest wheat, and crisp apples. These illustrate the practice that instructs us to unclench our fists and generously offer back what we have been given. In general, I try to give a nod to the season outside of my window to inform the way I enter a season, spiritually.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the deep ache I would be experiencing as I sent my littles both to school for the first time and came home to my empty house. It’s been a fresh glimpse at how independent they have grown and how ready they are to be in this new arena. It’s enough to make me swell with pride and crumble over one of many milestones that mark their move toward independence and the role I play in letting go, so that I might graciously step out of the way to allow them to shine as only they can.

Not Alone and Not Mine Alone

It has also amplified my own heart’s desire—expectation, if I’m honest—for the details I had filled in for myself. This empty house is a reminder that my own vision for my life is not mine alone. In many ways this new era has ushered in a season with its own rhythm. It has felt something like dormancy, which, without my knowing it, has quietly paved the way for other callings to take root.

We know this in our bones. The hardest work is often done in the dark. Unseen and uncomfortable for a time.

…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. –Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

 

The light begins to wane this season. Would that we have the courage and grace to unclench the fists we have tightened on the things we desire and to enter into the quiet place where we hear our most intimate invitations.

What might it look like for me to release my grip, even a little, on something near to my heart? What might it look like to do that with joy?

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Katie Cassady is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a wife and mom to two little girls in Denver, CO. Steeped in theological reflection, beekeeping and motherhood, she is appreciative of any and all wisdom she can glean from those living intentional lives of faith. Find out more about her here.

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