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Eagle’s Wings

Joyce Shutt is Former Pastor at Fairfield Mennonite Church and author of “Steps to Hope.” Her column appears in the Connection every Monday. Find her at StepsToHope.net.

Even with the Hospice nurses and home health aids frequent visits to check on my husband, I’m still denying the reality of his impending death. It’s all I can do to believe that after 62 years of marriage, he is going to be leaving me. My head understands, but my heart refuses to accept his death as a possibility. I want to fix him, to make him better.

I’m clinging to the illusion that I’m in control and we have unlimited time. When I ask what he needs, he sometimes simply says, “Sit with me.” I’m coming to appreciate that the four most profound words in the Lord’s Prayer are “Thy will be done.” When we pray “Thy will be done” we are including everything that follows; being grateful for our daily bread, forgiving those who have offended us, avoiding temptations, deliverance from evil. Even so, when I pray, “thy will be done” I’m usually meaning, “My will be done.” Giving up my illusions of control is difficult. Letting go, I find, is like flying a kite. Having run long distances to get the kite up in the air, I promise myself I’ll let go of the strings, yet just when I release the strings, I grab them back.

The other day our granddaughter asked me if I’ve had any meaningful spiritual experiences in my life. I laughed. My most intimate God experiences have not been lovely ethereal visions of angels or the Virgin Mary or even Jesus, Himself. Instead, the times I can unequivocally say I’ve heard God’s voice, it’s been a stern, “For goodness sake, Joyce, get over yourself.”

I’m trying to get over myself. Really I am. I’m trying to get out of the way, but it’s a struggle. As I watch him sleep in his chair, I reach for something, anything that will keep him close,. I keep begging for more time. Lots more time Then, out of nowhere, I hear that terrible/wonderful message that continues to shape my faith. “For goodness sake, Joyce, get over yourself.”

I have no right to ask for special favors, but I do have a responsibility to be grateful. Grateful for 62 years. Grateful for Hospice. Grateful for caring doctors and nurses. Grateful for friends and caring family. Grateful for our beautiful world. Gratitude, I find, helps me get over myself. Gratitude helps me shift to holding up friends who’ve recently said goodbye to their loved ones.

Gratitude unlocks gifts such as the words to “On Eagle’s Wings.” It reassures me God’s love is always there, not just for us, but everyone, good, bad, or indifferent. As I play the words and tune over and over in my mind, I lean into its beautiful visual image…my husband nestled into God’s gentle nurturing hand. “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings; hold you on the breath of dawn; make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

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  • Joyce Shutt’s words and thoughts are always a blessing. I’ve been reading her for awhile in The Times. I’m glad to find her here, too. She and her family are in my prayers as she faces this very difficult time.

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