The stunt had disaster written all over it. Even as a seventh grader, I sensed this. Someone in my group of friends suggested we take turns balancing on top of the guardrail fence surrounding a local parking lot. For those of you unfamiliar with highway guardrails, allow me to educate you. There is no flat top upon which to balance; the rail immediately turns downward and outward leaving a minuscule strip of metal barely large enough to steady yourself.
With great excitement, I hopped up and began to walk on this precarious ledge. I surprised myself by making it 15 feet. With puffed up arrogance, I thought, “Wow! This is easier than I imagined!” Just then, disaster struck and I tumbled off the guardrail.
Initially, I thought my stumble was no big deal until a warm wetness ran down my left leg. During the plummet off my perch, I caught my knee on the post and the sharp-edged pillar gouged a trail from the top of the knee and ending about eight inches down. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any pain which was pretty amazing considering in one deep area my bone was clearly visible underneath the frayed skin.
I was driven home by a compassionate parent, and then my father drove me to the hospital. The shots to numb my leg were the only thing that hurt besides my bruised ego. The entire incident would have been a minor inconvenience except for one tiny detail. The gash’s location made it impossible to bend my knee. Because of that, the doctor ordered bed rest for at least three weeks. While remaining non-weight bearing would hasten healing, to an active twelve-year-old this was the kiss of death.
Catastrophe was blended into those instructions until my mother massaged hope into my wounded spirit. She played board games with me, went to the library bringing back good reads, made sure I got my schoolwork completed so I didn’t fall behind and prepared my favorite meals. My mother even purchased a gold charm bracelet and every few days, she’d let me open a small box which held another delicate charm.
How do you measure a mother’s love? Or gauge the veracity of her impulse to protect?
Simply bearing a child doesn’t make a woman a mother. The distinction is forged by the constant letting go of self to increase their child’s joy despite their poor choices, the arguments, and the frustrations. Even when their mother’s hearts are pierced with pain, they are an instrument of love providing their children the courage to spread their tiny wings and soar.
A child learns love through actions. They need to feel love encircling them. During my convalescence, my mother taught me the only life worth living is one peppered with miraculous love – love that puts aside plans for another, freely serves and invests the best in others.
Over board games, she whispered the truth that I can believe in my God-sized dreams – and achieve them with His help. That I should fervently pray for my enemies until I see them as people who deserve God’s grace as much as I do. That I should always be the first person to apologize because love grows quicker when you are swift to forgive.
During our conversations over homework, she taught me to count my blessings – to see the good in the things I determined were bad. The accident, she reminded me, could have been worse. Three weeks off my feet was nothing compared to the whole exciting world awaiting me when I burst forth from the protective cocoon of my bed. As angry as I knew she was about my foolhardy risk, she didn’t berate me. Instead, she reminded me to laugh that I tried, celebrate that I dared, learn from my mistakes.
Even as a twelve-year-old, throughout my recovery I sensed the fragility of life. Sometimes you feel broken, shattered and hopeless. The secret is to go to God during life’s turbulence because He is always bigger than our pain. My mom showed me she loved me no matter what, yet her actions taught me God loves me even more. Always, with reckless abandon, He pursues my heart to make it His. He will do the same for you.
Because of her attention, I thrived. And when I got my stitches out and could limp to school, I was different in a way I could have never imagined.
Anguish changes our hearts, but more importantly, it changes the way we love.
We learn how to help people, hear people, heal people because we were once there – right in the middle of their distress. We discover the best comfort is given simply by our presence.
I still bear the damage from that crazy day when I took on the guardrail and lost. Even now, it remains a poignant reminder of a reckless and foolish thing. When I dredge up that mistake, when I examine the gold bracelet, when I look at the ugly scar on my knee, I feel truly blessed. For through my mother’s love, I learned to hear the steady heartbeat of God’s love for me.
Maybe my balancing act wasn’t so foolish after all.