My throat constricted as I thought about the children slumbering unknowingly in their beds and wondered how I would tell them the next morning. I envisioned us all at the front of the mega-church auditorium we had would have to rent out a few days from this moment, wondering if I had an appropriate dress on hand and if I would have the wherewithal to deliver a tribute in the tender hours of this great loss. As tears were streaming down my face while mentally rehearsing the rough draft of my heartfelt widow’s speech, the back door opened and just like Lazarus, the man who I had been sure was securely in the clutches of death (or at the very least, the Jaws of Life), walked through the threshold, soaking wet and very much alive.
“YOU’RE ALIVE!!!!!”, I exclaimed in a thick voice full of immense
relief, tinged with a trace of accusation. The man appeared confused... and wet. With every drip of water that fell from his rain slicker onto the floor, I felt my anger building. “Do you not know what hell you have put me through?!?!?! WHY DIDN’T YOU ANSWER YOU PHONE?!?”
He threw me a bewildered look as he reached in his pocket for his phone, that he later showed me was (safely) on silent during the monsoon he was navigating his small truck through.
“48 missed calls. Seriously?" he exclaimed as he examined his phone that had silently imploded with incoming calls from a would-be widow. "48 calls within 15 minutes. Woman. You need help. I was only 20 minutes late!”
From there, it only went downhill. I would like to say this was a stand-alone scenario, stirred-up by an irrational pack of post-childbearing hormones gone wild, but the truth is I emerged from the womb watching and waiting for life’s most tragic events to unfold before my very eyes. In the first grade, I visited the school nurse with shortness of breath every single day for weeks certain that I, at the tender age of six, was living on borrowed time after hearing of an elderly woman who had simply laid back on her chair and stopped breathing. When I was fourteen I had a dream in which I barely survived being hit by a truck. The week after I woke up from it, my church announced the pending installation of a new handicap bathroom. This left no doubt that my years of youthful mobility where nigh to their end and from then on, I lived in expectancy of a truck out of nowhere and a wheelchair to scoop up my mangled frame in it’s wake. After becoming a mother, when reading bleakness between the lines of the news, one of my reactions has been making a mental note to check on Craig's List for any available rental properties in northern New Zealand, preferably one carved (deeply) into a mountain. My dramatic tendencies have aged right along with me.
For those of you who are rolling your eyes, aghast at my ridiculousness and for those (fewer) of you who know exactly of what I write, hold tight: It gets even worse.
I used to think this bent towards the dramatic was simply a negative offshoot from my over-achieving imagination. Coming from a deeply Christian tradition, the reminder to take my thoughts captive, hand them over to God and go on with living the life in front of me has always been the Divine weight I turn to when mental balance is required. I do not disagree with this advice. It’s just that I now see it is not simply a matter of reigning in an imagination gone wild and asking God to tame it, but rather acknowledging that this constant anticipation (and expectation) of scenarios that are not my present reality are ways in which I try to outwit God and maintain control over what could be by being "prepared" for it. To put it plainly:
I perpetually try to jinx Jesus in attempt to freakishly control that which I
cannot, the things that I fear.
According to the dictionary, to "jinx" is to "to destroy the point of". In the days of my youth, to punctuate a sentence with this weirdo four-letter word was to usurp the power and cancel the punch of it's meaning. THIS, my friends, is what my imagination often defaults to when confronted with the fear of the unknown. "If I've already come up with this horrible scenario, and am taking proactive steps with which to deal with it (some might call this "preparedness"), surely God will chose not to use my idea and will have to come up with something else." If that's not enough, I'll call my fellow jinx -happy friend and we'll "cancel" out the impending tragedy by speaking it aloud to the other. How MESSED UP is that? Pretty darn, I'd say.
This is not to say I have never walked through a messy, painful or scary times. I have. I've walked around with a dying life in my womb, I have watched the demise of support systems I once though were secure and have endured high-stake uncertainties, and in every one of those scenarios I have been forced to reckon with my utter lack of control and fall back into the arms that love me with a Love that won't quit. My knuckle-tight grip on life has been loosened significantly at times, during which I can confidently say that while I didn't LIKE the loosening, I experienced His presence more keenly in those suffocating spaces than I ever have on the wide open plains. Even with this personal history that speaks clearly to a God who stands beside me when I stare straight at my fears, I revert way too easily to my natural default: Die-Hard Control Freak.
Is it not preposterous that a little human gal like me would try and manipulate the One who created and loves her more than all the human love the Earth has to offer put together? Does it not reek of short-sighted ignorance that a puny mind would seek to cling to her little thread that is only part of The Grand Weaver's tapestry that delights in using all the shabby strings strung by the lives lived in this messy space, a masterpiece that will be revealed on a day when we have the eyes to see it in it's glorious whole? Of course it does. I am not the first, nor shall I be the last to wave my tiny fists in fear and resistance of that which I cannot control. The Holy Scriptures are chock full of reminders that surely were not written JUST for me:
I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Job, Chapter 42
There are many more such reminders of God's bigness, and our smallness. These speak to the power of God. This is good and should be etched in our minds, but this can not be all. The fear factor (from which my feeble attempts to control stem from) can ambush my walk of faith when information about trumps experience of God. God is big and mighty, yes, but bigger than His bigness is a desire is for relationship with individual humans because He deeply loves and cares about each of His children.
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.…
Ephesians, Chapter Three.
"Love ... which surpasses knowledge". You might remember that I mentioned I come from a deeply Christian tradition. This means my mental files are stuffed full of facts ABOUT Him. Information about something can stay relatively intact, available for retrieval as needed for a long stretch of time. Facts are handy to have when needed, and serve a purpose in getting to know someone, but having a file-based relationship can leave a body cold. And untrusting.
What can easily slip away over a not-so-long stretch of time is the sense of His personal care and love for me. A deficiency in relationship with God is a trigger for trending towards frantically covering all my bases of the "what if's" of life. When my close awareness of the One who Loves me diminishes, it naturally makes room for fear and it's trusty sidekick, doubt, to move in and set up house in my heart. This needs to change for me. Experiencing God is how, little by little, my grip loosens.
The hard stuff will happen again. It might be a police cruiser pulling into my driveway, a cancer diagnosis, a paralytic child or a rare condition that leaves me completely deaf and mute (a nightmare for me, and occasional fantasy of my husband's)...it could be ANYTHING and it will be some thing. The particulars of what will be must not concern me in this moment. The God Who Sees is for me to know now, so that as the future comes (only one moment at a time as it does), I am ever closer to the One who keeps my grip loose, freeing it to be held as He walks with me through it.