Sunday, January 27, 2013

Free Fall!

Some days as a parent I feel like I'm in free fall.
Propelled forward at a great rate of speed,
the weight I'm carrying speeding the momentum of the fall,
and nothing with which to catch myself.
Where and how will we all land?

The other day I glimpsed another parents' ordinary, extra-ordinary moment of free fall.  Walking down a busy sidewalk in Center City on New Years Eve, a couple each carrying a child.  Dad was carrying an older toddler or preschooler, maybe 4 or 5 years old.  As I have some experience with this, I know that your range of vision is limited when you are carrying a heavy child in front of you with both arms... specifically, you can't see where you're stepping.  Dad was in such a predicament, and he missed the curb of the sidewalk.

Free fall.

From where I was standing, I saw dad and child coming straight down, like a tree cut in the forest, no bending, no wavering.  The trajectory showed that the back of the child's head was going to be the first thing in direct contact with the sidewalk. I gasped, and things seemed to go into slow-motion.

Here's what I saw:
Dad never let go.   
Human instinct causes us to put out our hands to catch ourselves when we're falling.  Dad did not put out his hands.  His instinct to hold onto his son was stronger than the instinct for self-preservation.

Dad threw himself in the path of danger.  
Even though I saw it as if in slow-motion, I can't tell you how he did it.  But dad somehow twisted and nearly somersaulted his body in such a way that his son never even touched the sidewalk.  It was as if dad curled around, threw his own body -- his head and shoulder -- at the sidewalk to take the direct impact.  He threw his own head toward the sidewalk.

I have a few free fall situations of my own.  Not sure where the impact will be or where we'll land.  Feeling like I have nothing to grab on to.

Maybe the reason I have nothing to grab onto is because I am holding so tight to something that's important to me.  Am I holding onto my child, not willing to let go in order to brace myself?  Am I holding onto my God, not willing to grasp at some passing theory or assurance?
It's time for me to throw myself at the hard parts.  When my son is frustrated because learning a new skill is hard: feel that with him instead of feeling frustrated at him.  The uncertainty of a new approach with feeding: trust my instincts instead following the books out of fear.  The days when I feel like I.Can.Not.Do.Every.Thing: throw myself at what I know is most important (my walk with God, my family relationships), and let the rest "fall" into place.

This is not a resolve to "try harder" and "do better;" I know from experience that this is doomed to fail.  It is throwing myself on the mercy of God, who will always provide a softer landing than a Center City sidewalk:

For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Ps 91:11-12


  1. "This is not a resolve to "try harder" and "do better;" I know from experience that this is doomed to fail. "

    YES. I am learning this with the pregnancy. I simply cannot "try harder" and "do better" most days, but have to take it as easy as possible, swallow some pride, and ask God to be strong for me.

  2. This was amazing to read.