As a child, I loved autumn. Every October, our local elementary school held the Fall Festival. The classrooms where we usually learned spelling words and math problems were transformed into the Haunted House or the Fishing Pond or the Cake Walk. A favorite of my brother’s and mine was always the General Store, where we could buy inexpensive toys, magic tricks, and the means to play practical jokes on one another for weeks to come. My parents would give an exasperated sigh when they saw us come out of the store carrying whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, disappearing ink, and the like. One year, my brother bought a colorful, woven tube just a few inches long.
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“I’ll show you,” he said, smiling mischievously. “Put your fingers in both ends.” I suspiciously, but obligingly, put one of my index fingers in each end of the tube. “Now, pull your fingers out,” he snickered. I pulled, expecting to easily extract my fingers, but to no avail. My brother stood laughing as I tried, frustratingly, to get myself out of what he told me were “Chinese handcuffs.” The harder I pulled, the tighter my fingers were wedged. Fortunately, a friend of mine, who had seen such an object before, came over to rescue me.
“You gotta quit pulling,” she told me. “Just relax, and push your fingers together.” I did so, and felt the circulation begin to return to my fingers. It was easy to get them out then, much to my brother’s disappointment.
I have thought of that toy in recent days, when I find myself battling the stress of finances, work, and family. It feels sometimes as if I am trapped in the middle of it all, and the harder I try to get out, the more tightly I get myself wedged. I know that I need to relax, but it is not easy. I can agree with Arthur Burt, who said, “My greatest struggle is the struggle not to struggle.” Day by day, I ask for God’s help, and I try to “quit pulling” and trust God to help me through that day’s struggles. This prayer by Peter Marshall is one that has resonated with me recently. Perhaps you will find something in it that speaks to your life as well.
Give me a calm and confident trust in Thee. Make me willing to live just one day at a time. May my heart re-echo to Thy promise that only as I rest in Thee can the desires of my heart be given to me. And now help me to do my part in placing a guard around my thoughts, by resolutely refusing to return to my old haunts of distrust. I thank Thee for Thy love for me and for Thy help. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent