Rock-a-bye, baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all
Nursery rhyme, circa 1765
‘In that day the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down.’ Isaiah 22v25
On Sunday morning it was pouring with rain. As my hanging basket grew steadily heavier with water the branch holding its weight cracked. After several years sterling service as a garden ornament the old dead tree had become too dry to take the strain. Suddenly the wood snapped right through and my flower-filled cone was lying in a mess of leaves and chain links on the ground. I quickly had to find a safer place to hang it up – a sturdy hook in the living tree…
It’s strange how this was a metaphor for what was happening that day! On Saturday we had signed for a studio apartment in the centre of town for Sam and Jessa and the keys to their own place were handed over. As I mentioned in Wait Watching the date of this adult exchange – 11.6.11 – made me smile. Ever since I wrote about this year of transition, based on the symbolism of number 11 – see 2011: a watershed year – each month has produced appropriate surprises on and around the 11th day. The biggest one was 11.2.11 when Mubarak finally fell from power in Egypt – see disturbance in the force. That was a massive international watershed if ever we witnessed one (2 is the no of agreement and witness). 11.3.11 produced as significant a sign with the terrible Japanese tsunami – I wrote ebb and flow that day as a response to personal events, completely oblivious to world news and was subsequently embarrassed by the picture of a breaking wave I’d used
When April and May came round the signs were on a more personal scale as 11.4.11 heralded the week of Jessa’s arrival – a marked watershed in our story! – and 11.5.11 was the day before Sam’s birthday, a time when we were feeling the enormous relief and shift in responsibility of having her around: 4 is a number symbolic of creation and 5 of grace. So when I say 11.6.11 was a watershed in the life of a man – 6 the no of man – you will recognise my wry smile! And 11.7.11 will be Jessa’s 21st birthday – a true fulfilment and coming of age, as it means they can then officially get married.
OK, as some of my friends say, the Lord seems to organise it just for me! It could just be His little private joke – can you see the Smile? God likes me you know! – or maybe it is because when you see things in this way the interpretation becomes easier: as I have said before -see 20:20 vision – numbers is one of the languages I speak so I have faith to see the hidden meanings 😉
But whatever you think about all that, you can’t deny I couldn’t have organised the timing of those events myself. In the same way that I could not have organised the heavy showers and broken branch on Sunday morning… Nor would I have wished for so much rain even after such a long, warm, dry spell, with 3 carloads to pack and unpack as I gradually got soaked through! But the metaphor remains true: if I am the bough, yes I have broken and the baby’s cradle has definitely hit the ground!
3 years ago today – sorry, here we go again but it was 16th June 08! – I drove to London to collect Sam from Thames Valley University at the end of his 1st year. It was a very difficult day and before long I realised something was wrong: he was both relieved and very unhappy – before we even got the confirmation through the post he knew he had failed the year. There was no question of going back: Sam dropped out and for the 3 years since then he’s been living with us at home. All that has happened since has been coloured by the traumas of that disastrous time – in fact there were events that happened in London that he blames for what has happened to him. Be that as it may, he was obviously ill a long time before we knew it. Those months of 2008-9, as we adjusted to each other emotionally, were almost as demanding as dealing with what came later! Background Noise was an early blog post that summarises that time.
‘The first year you will eat what grows by itself and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit’ Isaiah 37v30
It’s been a long time coming this 3rd year, where there can be some sowing and reaping again. The bough holding ‘the wait, the weight’ has grown dry and weak – no wonder it broke. And the Lord knew I was breaking… this whole process of finding a place and moving them in has only taken 2 weeks – when it happened it happened really quickly! Time moves at a different pace in different situations, doesn’t it? But if there is ‘a ‘kairos’ time for everything‘ it must mean that over these years we have been through a necessary process, a journey toward the goal – both internally and externally. It’s like the 3 days in the stories of Jonah and Jesus – the belly of the whale and the spitting up on a new shore, the death, burial and resurrection – a process through death to life. These things do take time! I suppose that’s why patiently waiting is so character forming, like the growth of a baby in utero, like an athlete’s muscles growing through practise. Funnily enough it’s taken me 3 days to realise he has actually gone and gather my thoughts again!
Many parts of me have died in the past 3 years – my rights, my irritations, my expectations: I know many parts of Sam have died too. We both need some new hope and space and fruitfulness – some new life. At 24 he is too heavy for a cradle! I’m really glad he now has a secure place of his own, to develop as an independent man in an adult relationship. God knew this couldn’t have happened without Jessa too! Although he has walked away without looking back – and although that hurts and feels like rejection – I know it’s right. No more nursery rhymes! It’s a watershed for a man and for his mother too: the rain can now flow into a different valley.
As we took the final load to the car I knocked a flower pot down the front steps and it broke. The little flower was left exposed to the elements among the debris of soil and shards. I had to find it a home in a larger pot – a place to grow and flourish. That’s another picture of what was happening as Sam himself was ‘transplanted into a bigger pot’! Perhaps the biggest test of a mother is to let her children go, but even if he has life-threatening obstacles to overcome he is still ready to be a man and after 3 years, it’s time.