In Loops and Curls
I realized the other day that I walk through my house straightening things.
Brewing my coffee is job #1 in the mornings. A few days ago, as that beautiful brewing sound was bringing life to my kitchen, I walked down the hall to my quiet time spot straightening the runner on the hardwood floor as I walked. I did this with my toe until it aligned with the baseboard. I looked out my window to see the colors of the sunrise. Then, I cornered the stack of magazines in the half bath and folded the hand towel in thirds and arranged it in the center of the bar.
Back in my kitchen, I poured dark roast coffee, swirled it with cream and cupped my palms around the mug to feel its warmth. On my way out, I scooted the chairs in at the island parallel to the counter.
After some time in my bible, I reached out and straightened a picture gone askew on the wall.
Now do not think everything is in its place in my home. Let me tell you, I have stacks of papers, books here and there and on this sleepy morning, dirty dishes on the counter waiting to go into the dishwasher. But this straightening I do all day long as I move through the house; folding the throw on the sofa, tidying the pillows on the window seat, aligning a stack of books on the table.
On this particular day, I noticed my straightening habit in a fresh ray of light and something occurred to me. While I like the feeling that someone cared about a space and left it sweeter for the next, I also just like things aligned, straightened and to my eye. Following the thought, I realized how much I like to get where I am going directly. My mama would say, "as the crow flies". By that she meant in the straightest line and shortest distance, but also with a bird's eye view. Now doesn't that sound good?
Of course, there's not a thing wrong with arranging things on the surface, but taken deeper into life and love, I can run into trouble. Just ask Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Jonah or Paul. Or David, Naomi, Ruth or Lazarus, to name but a few. Who among these got to get where they were going quickly or as the crow flies? Did anyone in the bible? Did Jesus?
If it is distance we are hoping will be straight and direct, think about the circuitous path Moses took to reach the promised land. Or Naomi's leaving and coming back home to finally see she is filled by God. Or Lazarus' journey to death and back again. It seems to me that God covers miles just a little bit differently than I tend to. While I love traveling as the crow flies, straight and clean, it seems God does not. He flies more like a butterfly or a bee in a garden, in a dotted line of loops and curls.
If it is time we are hoping will be tidy, consider the 70 years Abraham and Sarah waited for a child, the two (count 'em!) 40 year periods Moses spent in the desert, the 17 years of youth and vibrancy that Joseph sat in prison or the three days Jonah sloshed around in the belly of a whale. Remember alot can happen in just three days. I can see that our God uses time in His own way. He values the unfolding process that brings us alongside Him.
I keep learning to appreciate all the beauty that happens during a process like a butterfly strengthening her wings on the way out of the cocoon; things like patience, perseverance, wisdom, strength, courage and of course, beautiful messes. I love these messes in the creative process, but I can resist them in real life. One place I bump up against my desire for straight lines is through the season of launching our little birdies from the nest. When the kids were little, I could fix all kinds of things straight away: wipe snotty noses, kiss boo-boos, limit screen time, avoid sugary foods and sour friends, read great books together, take them to church and set boundaries and curfews to keep them healthy and safe.
But the time comes when they need to make these decisions for themselves, find their own voice and take hold of their own faith. Of course, this is what we've wanted all along. But I am here to tell you, it takes a shift in both thinking and strategy. It takes surrender without giving up. It takes waiting, plain and simple. It takes me being a bit more quiet, asking a lot more questions and waiting much longer for wings strong enough to fly.
I am learning beauty, restoration and authenticity do not happen as the crow flies.
I continue to discover this truth in parenting, in friendship, in myself and in serving others, especially the girls at Door to Grace. I have to admit my natural tendency is to set a path in wisdom and prayer and then watch for the steps to unfold logically, steadily and directly. (straight!) Then I am surprised or discouraged when I reach twists & turns, delays or dead ends. I am afraid I would have been one of those whiners in the desert, sick of manna, impatient for the land of milk and honey and missing what God had for me.
Let's remind each other to take the long view, to stick with love and faith no matter how slow the struggle or tiny the steps. Let's hold each other up when we get tired. Let's practice trusting our good God and loving His wise ways. Let's see possibilities when we fly in dotted lines of loops and curls. Let's see what God has for us, not just at the end, but along the way.
Let's do it together.