Best Laid Plans
When I first talked with the editors here @Patheos about what I hoped to say from this little cubby hole, I imagined a place where, despite the anxious climate of Earth, we would, to cite the Deep Magic, focus on “what-so-ever things are lovely, good and true, whatever is noble and of a good report…” while connecting friends who find themselves navigating similar waters.
I imagined bringing hope to someone knee-deep in divorce proceedings, or comforting the anxious mind of a parent, mid-custody battle. I wanted to cheer on the homeschooling mom or the back-to-work mom, or the mom whose nest is suddenly too empty. All waters I’ve baled from my own canoe.
I wanted to use things I had been through to remind others they aren’t alone.
I still want to.
I’ve just been working on my tightrope skills.
How do I say “I left a bad situation ” without implying the other party was a bad person (or people) ?
How do I say “This behavior was unacceptable.” without condemning the one(s) who misbehaved?
And how do I share victories without sounding like a braggart to those in a bind ?
That’s where I’ve been trying to find my footing lately: finding balance between what has been true and what is kind.
It has caused me lockjaw
It’s Okay To Say IDK
I tend towards the fallacy that if I don’t have a thing completely figured out, I have nothing of value to offer. That is to say, I think I need to be a quantum mechanics professor before I’m qualified to explain basic math. Which is to further say, I tend to equate value with the ability to explain. I forget that sometimes all we really need is good company.
Thus, my recent weeks wrestling with writer’s block, attempting to put “sermonizing’ into a headlock. I don’t want to be preachy. I don’t want to be finger-pointy.
Filling in blanks with explanations or excuses where none exist is a disservice, whether those explanations are for someone else’s motivations, my own lack of thoughtfulness or my best guess at what God and Providence are up to.
Good guesses are still just guesses.
“I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I don’t know why they seem to be getting away with it.”
“I don’t know why God allows such things.”
Perhaps I never will. A harder truth is this: sometimes I won’t like the answers I find.
In those moments, it’s not the answers I need, but a friend.
How much better to say “I don’t know” than to ad lib. It is more true. It is more kind.
Searching for answers rather than defending hypotheses creates space to work on these puzzles together. It frees my arms to embrace whatever the truth turns out to be, or to accept there will be things I won’t understand this side of Eternity.
To Each His Own
As I resist the urge to fill in blanks with my best guesses, it is clear that my story is the only one that belongs to me. I can mention people who’ve crossed my path and the effect their choices had on me, but I can only speak for my own responses. Look how the rocks they threw made an altar or a much needed wall. Let me tell you how those darkest nights helped me see the Light. Listen to how I learned what love is by experiencing what it isn’t.
I am the only one who can tell my story, so I am the best person to ask about my motivation in telling it. If my aim is encouragement, must a map of my enemy’s warts be unfolded ? If encouragement is scarce, perhaps I am processing something yet unhealed. There are healthy (but different) venues for that.
This simplifies things a little, but can also leave me with little to say.
Counterbalance between true and kind involves taking ownership of my own role in a situation, to the full extent I am aware of the parts I played.
“I left a bad situation… that I knew better than getting into in the first place.”
“This behavior was unacceptable… I could have addressed it sooner – or more directly.”
“I should have said no.”
I must clean up behind the pets that are mine.
When I remember my need for gentleness and grace, I am more apt to offer it to others.
Extending compassion when someone was less than their best self comes more abundantly if I offer grace as I’d like to receive it.
I want to be known by more than my worst days. I must acknowledge Imago Dei in others.
My inclination to avoid retractions and apologies comes from eating shoe leather and giant slices of crow too many times in the past.
Whether strong opinions upended, wrong understandings made clear or the simple act of growing up, I’m a walking biome of change.
We’re vastly different planets, shaped like you and me. Our climates are different, our seasons are not always aligned.
The laws of gravity in my curious world keep everything revolving around me. You are the center of gravity in the universe of you.
I keep my balance by remembering I’m not the same as I was even one rotation ago, nothing is.
Rooms I have wept in have been torn down. I am learning and learning (and learning) to forgive.
We keep moving forward and, hopefully, on.
Boundaries Are Kind
Not long ago, I got up early on a perfectly-good-for-sleeping-in Saturday-morning and took my daughter to learn about snakes at a local nature park. She loves snakes!
A disturbing trend emerged: many non-venomous snakes look so similar to venomous snakes, one has to get within strike-zone to tell the difference. Non-venomous snakes adapt their natural patterns to look like venomous snakes to keep predators away.
Venomous or not, snakes prefer to be admired from afar.
Many people have distinctive patterns, too. Whether born that way or adapted to survive, it is okay – and even wise – to keep a healthy distance from toxic patterns.
No Fault Nature
A python meets a mouse, gives him a hug then has him in for dinner.
We may feel for the mouse, but we don’t fault a snake for doing what snakes do. See also: lions and tigers and bears (Oh, my!)
It is the nature of some things to be unpleasant, like conflicts and jellyfish stings.
It is in the nature of mankind to be selfish, especially in the midst of unpleasant things.
Balancing what is kind with what has been true, telling only my story without adding guesses and taking the nature of venomous humans in stride, I bear this profundity in mind: “It is what it is. “
And it will be whatever I make of it. So, let me be kind.
* Even So, Joy is the title of a book by my friend about the loss of her infant daughter