Category Archives: The Journey

Sudden Changes and Slow Work

Everything can change so suddenly.

About 11 p.m. on December 22, after a day of holiday visits with family, my kind and generous stepfather fell asleep behind the wheel, veered off the road and hit a tree head on. It was a powerful impact. He broke both arms, shattered a portion of his left leg. There was internal bleeding and blood on his brain.

For our family, this has been a Christmas of shock and awe. Days and nights circling around the ICU waiting room, learning the medical language, feeling helpless while someone we love is in pain beyond our power to soothe or reach.

That’s the shock part. The awe part has been about seeing each other as the remarkable, beautiful, gifts that we are to each other. The steadiness and wisdom in my brothers. The way my sister can make us laugh at ourselves and be taken seriously at the same time. My mother’s strong advocacy, quick mind and committed, tender heart. I look around the halls of the hospital, and I feel the glory in everyone I meet. What a wonder it is to be alive.

Tonight, Ed will have an extensive surgery to try to reconstruct his leg and elbow. Before they took him to the OR, he was more responsive than he’s been since the accident. He clearly recognized his son and daughter, and my mother, too. Mouthing words of love to them. And then I stepped into his view. His eyebrows popped up in recognition. He looked straight at me. And then he winked.

These are days of signs and wonders.

Everyday is a day of signs and wonders.

We realize there is a long road of recovery and rehabilitation ahead. It’s not just Ed’s road, but one that will be walked by everyone who loves him. We’re a ragtag, glorious bunch. And we’ll stumble along, trusting that God has been, is, and will be somehow right in the midst of the way we go.

Everything can change so quickly, but we will live into that change slowly. Maybe, just maybe, becoming signs and wonders ourselves.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time….. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming in you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

~ Teilhard de Chardin

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Walk on

Oswald Chambers had a good word based on Isaiah 40:31: ” There is no thrill in walking; it is the test of all the stable qualities…. God does not say–Be Spiritual, but–‘Walk before Me.'” In other words, we aren’t made to live in the stratosphere of spiritual or emotional or physical experience. Most of life is a steady, rhythmic walk. An enjoyable ramble at best; a plodding march at worst. But either way, a walk, and one where, each step, Jesus extends an invitation to follow Him.

I took a walk over lunch time one day, plodding over a long list of things I had to do. As I hurried back to go to a meeting, I managed to smile at a woman passing by. She was carrying two plastic shopping bags, and she returned my smile with a half toothless grin. “Can I ask you a question?” she said.

Really, she said, she needed a favor. Her car wasn’t running. Her back was bad. The bags she carried were heavy with food and clothes from the social service mission up the street. She wondered if I could give her a ride the five or six blocks to where she lived.

My mind flipped through options: I’ll be late for my meeting. I should beg off. What can I give her? How can I help? How can I serve this woman?

In the end, it just came out of my mouth. “Let me walk with you. I’ll carry your bags.”

“Really?” she said. “Really? That would sure help my back.” She let me take her load, and she wasn’t kidding. My goodness, those bags were heavy! Then together we walked down the street.

After the first block, she told me how her husband had kept her from making friends or getting a job, then left and took everything with him. In the second block, I told her I knew what it felt like to start over, that my divorce had only been final 10 days. She looked at me and said, “It’s been two months for me. Don’t you worry. It does get better, easier.” By the third block, I’d told her my name and she told me hers. In the fourth block, she talked about her daughter, her sick father, her 71-year-old friend who had two Yorkie puppies.

We were two blocks shy of where she said she lived, when we stopped for a red light at the corner. “I’ll carry it from here,” she said, “you gave me a rest. Now you need to get on back to your meeting.” I couldn’t just let her go like that. I stalled by digging through my purse for a few dollars toward bus fare for the next errand she might have to run. Then I looked her in the eyes and smiled. I wrapped my arms around her neck. I told her it was so nice to meet her.

Her load was so heavy, she couldn’t hug me back, but she leaned into me and said, “It was nice to meet you, too.”

Then she crossed the street and went on her way. I turned back the four blocks we’d just crossed together, but crying now, for beauty and glory. Two broken women, strangers on the street. No transcendent conversion, no big deal, really. But for a few steps, I carried her burden and she eased mine. Just walking together. That’s all.

Just walking together. That’s everything.

Bargain Shopping

“We’re not getting something for nothing. We’re getting nothing for everything.” ~Lionel Basney

The last couple of years I’ve been struggling with the growing feeling that I’m frittering away everything in exchange for nothing.

Most of the time, I get to the end of the week and I’m ready to shatter. How do people with kids and pets and social obligations do it? Am I so weak that I can’t bear up under the wimpy weight of a grey cubicle and a job writing procedures for other people who are, at best, complacent about what they do? Is that so hard? And shouldn’t the fact that I work for a “Christian ministry” add some sort of meaning to the situation?

It’s all the more annoying because it’s a cliché. I’ve caught the common cough of contemporary soul-lessness. I had dreams a decade ago. I was determined not to be a drone, and now I work for the man.

The thing is, I know there’s a better bargain. And it has relatively little to do with the work on my desk each day. It’s not a new career or life-enrichment program. I can’t get it with a coupon or a Bible study. It might actually cost more than I’m already paying, more than I’ll ever earn. It’ll take more time than I have, but it won’t guarantee that every day will get better than the last one. The better bargain will not promise to make me who I always thought I’d be.

But it will make me more who I am.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be getting together with a few other folks who are also looking for a better bargain. If you want to see how that unfolds, take a look at http://www.transformationtango.blogspot.com/.

Next time…the turning aspens.