By J. A. Jance
After years of tolerating marriage to an alcoholic husband, I finally reached the painful decision that the only way for my two young children and me to survive was to get a divorce. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it had to be done.
However, even after the divorce, problems with my ex-husband continued, and I realized I had no choice but to leave town. Once again, I didn’t really want to, because I liked my house and the neighborhood, but I had to do what was necessary.
I found a real estate agent, listed my house for sale and made arrangements to transfer my insurance sales job to Seattle, fourteen hundred miles away. Then I sat back and waited for something to happen. And waited. And waited. Nothing happened for months on end. I changed real estate agents twice, but still there were no serious buyers in sight. And I couldn’t afford to leave town until I sold my house.
The stress of the divorce and the subsequent living in limbo was almost too much for me. I had difficulty sleeping. In fact, the only place I could sleep turned out to be church. I’d go there every week and sink wearily into the third or fourth pew. I was all right through the early part of the service when we sang hymns, passed the collection plate and listened to the sermon for the children. But by the time the main sermon started, I would nod off and not wake up until it was over.
I guessed that Reverend McKinley, the minister, had noticed my somnolence because one day he announced that the title of his sermon was “On Sleeping in Church.”
I don’t have any idea what was actually in that sermon because, as usual, I slept soundly through the whole thing. I apologized to the minister that day after church. He took my hand and shook it warmly. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Obviously this is where you’re supposed to be.”
Spring came. More than six months had passed and still my house was not sold. If my prayer to be shown whether I was right to move to Seattle was being answered, the answer was obviously a resounding no.
One Sunday, Reverend McKinley called the children to come up for their sermon. Once they were seated in front of him, he told them all to hold out a single hand. Reaching into the pocket of his robe, he pulled out a roll of one-dollar bills and placed one in each outstretched hand. Then he reached into another pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar bill.
“You can have this,” he told the children, who were sitting attentively, clutching their one-dollar bills. “But in order to take this, you have to let go of what you already have.” He held the ten-dollar bill out at arm’s length.
It was an amusing sight. Not one of those little children was willing to let go of his one-dollar bill. Yet they were all old enough to know that ten dollars is better than one. Eventually, Reverend McKinley put his ten dollars back into his pocket.
At least that little demonstration kept me awake for a while, before I resumed my customary slumbers. I didn’t even hear what the minister said to the children after that.But that night in bed, as I tried to go to sleep, suddenly, the penny dropped. My eyes opened, and as I stared up in the darkness, I knew exactly what I had been doing wrong – I was clinging on with my little fist to a puny, tattered one-dollar bill!
Of course my house hadn’t sold. I was still so attached to it. I was so accustomed to moving in the same groove, day in, day out, through each room, attached to the placement of everything like a prisoner who has come to love the familiarity of his own jail cell. In short, I had loved my house too much. And I also realized in the same moment that I wasn’t confident enough that a “ten-dollar bill” was out there for me in Seattle. I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t taste it, I couldn’t touch it. As far as I was concerned, moving out there was a leap in the dark, and I was scared of it.
As the lesson of the sermon continued to percolate into my suddenly alert midnight brain, I knew I just had to let go. Strip off the habits of many years. Make the big leap. Know that I had a parachute and that I would land safely.
And that was exactly what I did. My attitude underwent a 180-degree turn. I was ready to cast off the old, and I was eager for the new challenge. I wanted that ten-dollar bill, and I released my one dollar to the four winds.
Soon after this my house sold, and the children and I moved to our new lives in Seattle.
Letting go of my “one” set me on a path that allowed me to follow a long-postponed dream of becoming a writer. It also led to a new husband, three more children and eventually three grandchildren. My “ten” includes countless blessings that I never could have imagined in my old life, but before I could have any of them, I had to open my hand and release everything I was holding on to.
And yes, my “ten” also includes staying awake during sermons.
(Thank you all for the words of encouragement for my brother while he is holding his own… I am going up to see him today, then work the next three days. I apologize for falling behind on my blog reading and commenting, but I will catch up next week when I am off. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts and prayers. (he is still heavily sedated and has stabilized enough to do the hip surgery tomorrow (thursday) My mother and I head that way… have a quality day and remember to cherish each moment.)
have a prosperous day