Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Letting go

Max has twice now disappeared from the deck for an hour or so at a time. How he gets off, I don't know. How he gets back on, I don't know. But twice now I have had to shut the door to the deck not knowing where he is, just hoping he will return and knowing that I have no way of protecting him, short of curtailing everybody's freedom in this house.

Which I am not willing to do, to myself or to the other cats who show no interest in leaving the safety of the deck.

The mystery is not why Max might want to leave the deck, which is a good ten feet off the ground in most places and made more difficult by the arrangement of planter boxes, wire fencing, and the like all around the perimeter. There are bunnies all over the yard, tantalizingly close, and I suspect he has gone to chase them.

The other reality is that there are also coyotes, eagles, owls, and other predators around and the odds are that he will one day not be able to get back on the deck before they see him.

This is a really tough and scary decision to have to make, but I have to let go of his safety, to some extent. If he is going to get off the deck somehow without my knowing how it's happening, he is going to have to take his chances with the dangers. And that means that I am also taking chances. I have done about all I can to close up the places where he can wiggle through. Short of keeping him inside and off the deck, which I am not willing to do, there is no way of assuring his complete safety.

So---it's like a kid who needs to be able to strike out on his own, drive the car to school or wherever, learn to do something that scares his mother, take a risk, and learn the lessons of that risk.

The parent who allows this lives with the anxiety that "he's too young" or "he'll be killed" or variations on that panicky theme when we wake up at 4 a.m. and he's not home yet. I know I stand the chance of losing Max, just as I stood the chance of losing the Favorite Son in one of his escapades.

This also applies to ministry. Sometimes issues come up in a congregation and a minister has to say to herself, this is going to have to be their issue, not mine. I am going to have to let go of the outcome of their decision. And I remind myself of the adage I've learned from my colleagues, "this is not the hill I'm willing to die on."

It's hard to know when to let go and when to hang on and fight it out. Do we see this happening anywhere else in the world?


Masasa said...

Brilliant, really, your analogy.

And at the same time, thinking outside the metaphor for a moment, I am so glad your kitty is home safely.

Our younger dog's harness unclipped from his leash on Valentine's Day (we think in the cold it hadn't quite snapped closed all the way-- and of course feel terribly about that), he went running, and being the wild guy he was, wouldn't return to all the treat bribes and concerned calls in the world. We finally surrendered, knowing that going after him in all likelihood meant chasing him further away (experience talks). We went home and prayed for his safety and the usual return-home routine.

About forty-five minutes later, he was hit by a car out on the main road, and died within about fifteen minutes of that.

He died doing what he loved best. I comfort myself by thinking of what he must have looked like a second or two before he was hit, running free with a big doggy smile on his face. He was six years old or so, and lucky this hadn't happened earlier. He was the kind of dog who could escape from a sealed and locked home. Seriously.

So bless Max for coming home safely. That's very good news.

And I agree, that sometimes letting go is the best option, even when it involves some risk. Our responsibilities involve weighing things out.

Can this apply outside our congregations? And outside of our relationships with our children? Yes, I think so.

I've just spent some time here, typing and erasing and typing and erasing trying to articulate a good example, but I am finding it more difficult than I originally thought. Thanks for some food for thought.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Masasa.