By Sarah Damm
“Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)
The place looks familiar. There is a swing set in the background and a metal merry-go-round in the middle. No one is on the playground, and everything is still and quiet, like that audible quiet one hears when it is snowing.
I look around, and there is Jesus, standing in the middle of the playground. His dancing eyes are on me. His smile is full of delight and joy. His arms are outstretched toward me.
My heart lurches forward in response to His love. Without thinking, my arms reach out to Him. His pull is so magnetic and electrifying.
But my feet. Why can’t I take a step toward Jesus?
I stand on the edge of the playground. The Kingdom of Heaven that “is at hand” is right before my eyes. I want, more than anything, to run to Him. But it is as if my feet are cemented in place. I look down, and the thinnest, but strongest, strings are tied around my ankles. And the strings are attached to several, solid, metal bolts in the ground. These bolts surround me, as if holding me prisoner.
How can I follow the Lord, with the abandon of the disciples, when I can’t move an inch? How can I set out, like Jonah, for my own Nineveh to share the good news with others? How can I give Him my fiat, like Mary, and “let it be to me according to [His] word”?
Fear rushes through my body. With panic in my eyes, I look to Jesus for help. Without a word, but with unconditional love in His eyes, He shows me that the bolts tethered to my ankles represent fear, doubt, perfectionism, and other burdens that hold me back from giving my yes to Him with the abandon of the disciples, the trust of Jonah, and the faith of Mary.
Jesus continues to stretch out His arms to me, and I desperately try to grab hold of His hands. But no matter how far I reach out with my upper body, I can’t get close to Him.
What do I need to do, Lord? How can I untie these knots? Give me the key! Give me the formula! I will do anything, Lord.
No matter what I try, though, the burdens tied around my ankles remain. Sometimes they feel looser, when I am participating in the Sacraments and prioritizing prayer. But they don’t go away completely, and I realize that I cannot pray, read, or serve my way out of this. I am too weak, too little to do this on my own.
“Make known to me your ways, Lord … for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)
As I pray and wait, I wonder how long Jesus will wait for me. Will He move onto someone else, who can respond more quickly than me? Then, I remember Jonah’s initial response to God. It wasn’t so immediate or obedient. But God gave him another chance. Maybe God’s patience is much greater than I realize.
Then, I look up at Jesus again, and I notice that He is walking toward me, with His hand still outstretched. The space between us decreases with each step He takes. Jesus is approaching me! I can finally touch His hand. He moves even closer and draws me into an embrace. I am wrapped in His arms, and feelings of warmth and safety fill my entire being. The fear and panic cease.
Suddenly, Jesus bends down before me. He sees my feet and the burdens that are bound to me. Then, with His healing hand, He touches each of the tethers, and they instantly come undone. What was taking me so much energy, stress, and time to remove, Jesus removes in an instant, with His gentle touch. One by one, He touches them, and all of the ties fall way from my ankles: the anxiety, fear, shame, perfectionism … All of them are gone!
I feel lighter. I look down and wiggle my toes. I lift my feet. Nothing is weighing me down anymore. I begin to cry at what He just did for me. And I smile at the same time. Tears of relief, gratitude, and joy.
Standing in front of me again, Jesus takes hold of my hand. He still has that glimmer of adventure in His eyes that I’ve seen before. He is ready for me to follow Him with abandon into the plans and work He has for me. But He is also gentle and allows me to rest in the reality of my newfound freedom and healing.
He takes a step forward and again invites me to follow. I do! I take one step and then another! Then, side by side, hand in hand, we walk into the Kingdom that is at hand … together.
God has a lot of work for us in His Kingdom, and He calls each of us by name to a specific plan and purpose. What is God calling you to? How can you respond to His call?
Lord, thank you for calling me! Thank you for loving me and being so patient with me. I love you, and I am so glad that I am yours and you are mine!
About the Author:
Sarah Damm is a Catholic wife and mom to six children. She spends her days like many moms—running errands, helping with homework, and cooking meals. She writes at sarahdamm.com, and she is also a contributor with CatholicMom.com and New Evangelizers.