Trust


As we were walking to school today, my youngest son Ezra closed his eyes and asked me to hold his hand while we made our way down the sidewalk. “Don’t let me run into anything,” he said. “And don’t let me fall.”

 

I promised him I’d do my best. We crossed streets and I navigated his steps over puddles. We didn’t walk side-by-side, like we usually do. Instead, I was a few steps in front, pulling him a bit as he lingered behind me. He was willing to keep going but there was some hesitancy to his strides, like his foot was testing what was in front of him before fully planting it on the hard concrete.

 

When we were more than halfway there, Ezra suggested that we switch. “Now, you close your eyes and I’ll hold your hand,” he proposed. I looked at what was ahead—crossing a busy street where a crossing guard controlled the intersection—and I said it wasn’t a very good idea. Ezra asked why.

 

“Because I’m the grown up and I’m supposed to lead you,” I told him. (Not to mention the fact that the crossing guard would think I was crazy!)

 

“You don’t trust me?” he asked, a tiny bit of hurt in his voice.

 

“It’s not that,” I assured him. “It’s my job to get you to school safely, and it’s your job to follow me.”

 

I think that he does trust me and my husband in most situations, and we’ve worked hard to gain that trust, but allowing yourself to be led isn’t always easy.

 

A search of the word “trust” in the Scriptures uncovers a slew of times when God instructs His people to trust Him. He tells them what will happen if they do trust Him and what will happen if they don’t trust Him. He reminds them of his history of coming through for them in the past. He proves Himself over and over to his people, in spite of their inconsistent allegiance. But, like a good parent, He is often compelled to fulfill his word and punish them. (We can trust Him for that, too.)

 

When I think of leading Ezra down the road, eyes closed and hand firmly grasping mine, I think of Proverbs 3:5,6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

 

I’m a far cry from being the Perfect Parent my God is, but if I can show Ezra that he can trust an imperfect parent like me, I pray he will be able to put his trust in the One who will never fail him.

Multifocal

Somewhere around age 40 I started to read the texts on my cell phone or the small print in my Bible like a trombone player. I would slide it close to my face then back away again, attempting to find the perfect spot where I could read it.

 

I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts since early high school, so blurry vision wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but my issues with close-up reading was a new experience, though I seem to be right on schedule (41 years old and still hitting my milestones!).

 

In May I went in for my yearly appointment with the optometrist, and he suggested I try multifocal contact lenses. Now I was already familiar with the idea of bifocals. I mean, Benjamin Franklin supposedly invented them, so they’ve been around for a while. But these types of contact lenses are a more recent invention.

 

Each lens is designed like a bullseye with several prescriptions: one for far away, one for in the middle, one for close up and gradually varying degrees between these three. I’ve been wearing this prescription for five months, and my brain has figured out which lens to use in each situation. It can switch and tell my eyes how to see the pine needles on the trees several yards outside my window or the computer screen just inches from my face. It’s these varying layers of strengths that have improved my vision.

 

This same theory can be applied to other kinds of vision, too. In order to truly see a person—an explanation for his behavior, his relationships, his choices—you need the benefit of layers. Close up you get a different story than what is seen in the wider world. When someone takes a stand that you don’t understand, you can listen to his reasons. When someone reacts with an intensity you didn’t expect, you can hear what he says about his background. There’s almost always more to be seen than what first meets the eye.

 

When we jump to unfair conclusions without listening to the other side, we are looking at the world through a blurry lens, the only clear objects are those as familiar to us as our own hands. Anything else is unknown and therefore seemingly unknowable, unless we make an effort—out of love and empathy and basic human kindness—to try to know it.

 

Before you share an inflammatory article or post a pot-stirring tweet, consider what you know about those you intend to disparage. Take a breath and listen to the other side. Practice Habit #5 from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD.”

 

Just as the layers in my fancy contact lenses have improved my vision, there is a strength in diversity, and this applies to humbly listening to diverse opinions and ideas.

Sad

There are times when this thought runs through my mind: “I am killing it at this Mom Thing.” I make healthy meals. I sign up for PTO requests. I remember to move wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. I give wise, poignant, balanced lectures to my children about exhibiting sibling love and showing respectfulness to their parents, and my children respond by saying, “You’re right, mom. I’m sorry.” (Okay, just kidding about that last one.)

 

Then there are times when this thought runs through my mind: “This Mom Thing is killing me.” No one likes what I make for supper. I forget to send in money or snacks or permission slips for school. I sit on the laundry room floor against the closed door and play Candy Crush on my phone, hoping the whirring and thudding of the washer/dryer will drown out the sound of my crying. (I wish I was kidding about that last one.)

 

At those moments, I can’t necessarily point to one particular thing that pushes me over the edge and directly into the Pit of Despair. It’s usually a final sass at the end of a string of smart mouth remarks.

 

Maybe I’m especially tired or maybe I’m ridiculously hormonal or maybe there’s been some fresh, new atrocity against human nature about which the world is talking. Maybe this is the collateral damage for someone who feels all the feels. Maybe I’m overwhelmed that on the same day that I start teaching my daughter to drive I buy my first adult incontinence product and it’s just too much. Or maybe it’s just Tuesday, and I can’t explain why, but I’m sad.

 

I tell myself that I have no right—NO RIGHT!—to be this down. Look at all the things you’ve got, you big baby! What’s the matter with you? But that kind of guilt trip self-talk doesn’t help. At least for me, it actually makes it worse.

 

There should be a Bat Signal for this kind of feeling. Some kind of call-to-action that tells people to come around but be careful and don’t really ask what’s going on unless you want to get your head bit off. Just keep moving and act normal and not like your mom has suddenly turned into a werewolf.

 

Once the sad feeling has passed, there’s a residual “blah” that remains. And I notice that my family is tiptoeing around and suddenly concerned about my feelings, so I’m not in a big hurry to start a dance party in the living room. The sulking feels good, in a weird way, until it doesn’t. I try to move on, eventually sleeping it off like a grouchy hangover. In the morning I’m usually back to normal.

 

I say this as a sort of confession and an attempt at transparency. I think we’re all capable of getting to that yucky, dismal place and not just moms. If you have relationships with other humans, you are susceptible to feeling sad. If you want more relationships with other humans, you are susceptible to feeling sad. I think that covers everyone.

 

There are people who need medical care to overcome these moments, and there are people who need time and a few people who care to overcome these moments. Either way, going it all alone shouldn’t be an option.

 

In lieu of sending out a Bat Signal, find a way to let someone know if you’re in a place where you need attention. And while we’re at it, find a way to be someone who can give others attention when they need it. Let’s help each other.

Firm foundation

Going on a cruise for Spring Break sounded like such a good idea. Just think of all the places you can go and all the things you can see! Everyone tells you about the all-day access to food and the fun excursions and the swimming pool on the ship but no one tells you about the post-cruise misery.

 

I’m not talking about the piles of laundry or the unavoidability of going back-to-work/school. Nor am I discussing the fact that now that we’re home, no one is coming in my room while I’m at supper to turn down my bed and leave cute animals made from hand towels and washcloths. No, my problem is something else. Days after the cruise has ended, my brain still thinks I’m on a boat.

 

Though on dry land, the floor still slopes and slants. I have to reach out and lean against the wall to steady myself when I walk down the hallway at home. My head feels heavy and my feet shuffle slowly. My own mixed-up body betrays me.

 

I’ve been told that I’m waiting for the motion sickness medicine I used throughout the trip to wear off. Ironically, the medicine that kept me from feeling nauseated on the boat is now making me feel nauseated on land. Go figure.

 

This seasickness has got me thinking about what’s underneath me, where I find my footing, and what gives me the most stability. I think of Jesus’ parable about the wise man who built his house upon a firm foundation.

 

Jesus tells this story at the end of his famous 3-chapter long sermon in Matthew. He tells the people how to be blessed in Matthew 5. Then He continues with practical rules about how to treat others and how to live a holy, fulfilling life in Matthew 6. By the end of Matthew 7, I wonder if the minds of the people were swimming in all these instructions. It’s hard to remember that this may have been brand new, unprecedented information for Jesus’ audience.

 

So in His wisdom, Jesus gives the people an object lesson. He tells them that all of these practices He has given them can be like the foundation of a house. When (not if) the bad times come, the house will stand because the foundation is solid. On the contrary, hearing what Jesus teaches but not authentically living them out loud leaves them with shifting sand beneath them.

 

Somewhere in our mixed-up brains, we say that freedom in Christ is the permission to live any old way we want. The teachings that made our salvation possible look irrelevant or old-fashioned. But Jesus offers a practical guide to home-building. He says, “Give to the needy. Don’t worry. Love your enemies. Store up your treasures in heaven.” Make these the bedrock for your life so that the storms won’t topple you.

Movement

When I was a little girl, my family would make the trip from our home in Nashville to our grandparents’ house in Danville, Illinois, several times a year. My grandmother was older when she had my mom (nearly 40…so old!) so by the time she became our grandmother she was practically ancient. It was a mercy she didn’t use “thee” and “thou” in her regular, everyday speaking. There were times when we just didn’t understand each other.

For instance, every time I left the bathroom, my grandmother would be waiting for me just outside the bathroom door to ask me the same question: “Did your bowels move, honey?” This was not a phrase we used in our house. I had no idea what my bowels were and why they might be moving, but seeing as I was a middle child with a pathological need to please people, I interpreted from her tone that bowel movement was a good thing so I always said yes. I can’t imagine what she thought about my obviously overworking digestive system.

If we had found a word we both understood for the process in question, I could’ve given her the real answer and her data (I can only assume she was creating a Granddaughter B.M. chart) would’ve been more accurate.

In most situations where there is conflict, the majority of the issues could be resolved if only those in conflict could find common ground and understanding from the perspective of others. There are few things in the world that can impart peace to a troubled heart better than someone who can empathize with your sorrow.

Recently we were blessed by the presence of three families in our home. These families had one very important thing in common with us. Each of us had waited years to bring home an adopted son from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We connected mostly through Facebook and found that we all lived within 1.5 hours of each other.

The boys and their siblings played at our house that evening while the parents compared notes. “How often did your son wake up during the night when he first came home? What foods does your son like the best? What non-English words does your son still use on a daily basis?” and on and on. We laughed and hugged. My husband said a prayer of thanksgiving for what had at times seemed impossible. The level of loving, non-judgmental understanding was remarkable.

These families just happen to be made up of people who most anyone could get along with. These aren’t difficult people who cultivate conflict, so our evening would’ve been fine even if we had been introduced in another way—through church or school. We could’ve become friends even if we didn’t have Congolese sons.

But there are times when it’s challenging to find harmony with those around us. We vote differently, worship differently, parent differently, literally speak different languages. Despite these differences, and with hard work and a little imagination, I believe we can find a place where we can work towards peace and understanding with most people. We can find a common interest, passion, or experience. Because sometimes that’s where everything can change.

If you can meet someone—toe to toe—where they are, and you can see the world from where they stand, you can begin to say, “Now I see why you feel this way!” You don’t have to agree with them, but it’s harder to hate someone close up and personal, and if there was ever a time to stop hating people, it’s now. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”