Holding on For Dear Life

“She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and those who hold her fast are happy.”

Proverbs 3: 18

Occasionally, in a quiet lull, while I’m washing dishes, or driving… my mind sifts through fading memories of being a little girl. I was my mom’s “velcro kid.” I picture a time when I’m maybe three or four years old, shielding myself behind her knee. It was usually when we went somewhere unfamiliar with a lot of people—a big family party, or when my mom stopped to chat with someone unrecognizable at the grocery store. I’d wriggle myself into the spot I felt safest. From behind her legs, no one else could spy me. Like a vine, my hands, arms, head, and legs happily entwined around that life-giving trunk. I usually went unnoticed if I remained very still and didn’t speak. My skin was firmly pressed against hers creating one fleshy amalgamation. But if the person with whom she was speaking addressed me directly, my mom would swivel her torso and reach around to find me. And sometimes to my great horror, she would grab my arms and carefully peel me away. If this action had been accompanied by a sound effect, I imagine it would mimic a long, thick strip of velcro being ripped apart. 

I was attached to my mother, both physically and emotionally. Even as a gangly teenager, and a young college student I sought physical closeness with her, sometimes laughably to her utter annoyance. Never too big or mature to insist that she “scootch” over on the recliner where she comfortably planted. After seizing enough room for myself, (I was practically on top of her) she would stroke my arm or scratch my back as we took in a tv show or football game on a chair meant for one. I clung to her stability, protection, and warmth until the day she died, a little over a month after my 22nd birthday. When she was ripped away that last time, it wasn’t the sound or feeling of velcro being parted, more like a piece of aged, worn duct tape suddenly and harshly yanked from a smooth painted surface. The damage was unmistakable.

For a time after, I thought maybe I had been too attached to her and resented our closeness. Sometimes, I even targeted my resentment and anger towards the very woman who I thought loved me into the mess. Maybe I should have been more cautious about how dependent I was on her. It was a childish attachment that resulted in grief and I would avoid that mistake in the future. I began to believe the lie that self-reliance was the only answer.

Over the many years (more than two decades!) since my mother’s death, I have had time and perspective to consider that treasured bond we shared. I’ve come to regard it as a good and natural connection, a tremendous blessing from God that many people never experience. Sadly, it took a decade-long-journey into my rabbit-hole spiral of self-reliance to finally figure it out.

Not until I was thoroughly dissatisfied with my life did I reassess. My disordered attachment to myself: my desires, my comforts, my plans resulted in a whole lot of emptiness, coupled with disappointment.

We are made to attach. I’m convinced God has put velcro in the human DNA. It is both natural and Biblical that we bond with others.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”

Genesis 2:24

We are created for relationship. But that good and natural inclination can very easily become disordered, as did my attachment to self. People can readily become attached to bad relationships, addictions, fear, pride, and even good things like life itself–in fact, during this COVD pandemic, I see myself easily drifting to a disordered attachment to life. I love my life. I’m pretty certain God wills that for me, but when the love of my own life starts to supersede the love of God and His children, that’s a problem. So how do we cultivate healthy attachments? Faced with a potentially deadly virus, I wear a mask in public to ensure the safety of the vulnerable, and I gently, but regularly remind myself that my life on Earth is passing, whether now or fifty years from now. God calls us to attach to Him. We are to cling to Him on the cross. In so doing, our tears and suffering meld with His.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;”

Matthew 10:37

God is not telling us to ditch our parents, kids, friends. When we cling to him with abandon, all of the other connections in our life that are good and healthy are strengthened, nurtured, and sustained. Our other attachments become ordered. He is our shield, our protector, the immovable tree trunk which serves as a wise mediator with the world.

God ordained the beautiful mother-daughter relationship I experienced. He has also willed all the subsequent holy bonds in my life: my marriage, my relationship to my children, family, and cherished friendships. But those attachments must always receive their lifeblood from the source—Christ Jesus. That doesn’t mean those relationships will be perfect and without struggles or loss. But when we are with Him and can feel His heartbeat against us, we will come through the trials, stronger, with greater hope, and deeply loved. He never leads us into fires, but through them. And He is attached to us the whole walk.

Today, I am both grateful, and wistful when I recall being my mom’s velcro kid—a treasured memory, but more importantly, a profound preparation for the ultimate attachment in my life–to a God who gave His only son that I might have abundant life now… and beyond this one. So grab hold!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16

Like it or not, Mom, someday, we may share that recliner again.

*1st Photo by Trent Haaland on Unsplash

*2nd Photo by V Lionel on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Holding on For Dear Life”

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