Oh, Avett Brothers, thank you.

This one always gets me right in the middle of the chest - where the poetic heart is, you know. 

I can't go back.

And I don't want to.

All my mistakes . . . 

They brought me to you.

I feel exactly this way about so many things, and the "you" I'd sing this song for would be God. So many head shakable moments have tried to throw themselves back up in my face months and years after their happening . . . and I suppose their aim is to stop my progress or something like that (think C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters - what would the devils in that correspondence do with my regrets?). But who knows what I'd be or where I'd be if I skipped over any of it? Dwelling on "what if" doesn't serve anyone but the Great Obstacle himself.

Where would you be if you skipped any of it? Who would you be?

I watched my dad hold the hands of my little son a few weeks ago, stepping across the living room carpet.

Watching them there, I had a strong memory of my dad helping me with math homework in middle school. I know that there were moments during my growing up when he probably shook his head and wondered what on earth he and my mother were going to do with me.

I was not a naturally gifted student. Even in graduate school I couldn't have been called an "academic." Work ethic had to carry me, always, and I didn't have much of that when I was young. I had to learn it the hard way. I can remember feeling like I was disappointing to my parents - the grades coming back too low, the teachers explaining again and again that I seemed immature. I remember feeling like my folks wished it was going better for me, but I also remember feeling like they were "with me." 

You know what I mean?

They were with me.

Making those mistakes landed me in summer school the year after 6th grade. I hated the thought of summer school, but I needed the help. My math teacher that summer was particularly good and my parents were with me - it would have been a challenge to fail at that point. I learned how to work at figuring things out even though none of it came quickly to me. I had no choice but to learn it.

They were with me. And I was going through it.

I have this image of God in my head: He's just a big pair of open hands and the hands aren't doing much - they just "are."

There are things I used to see as ugly or shameful that help me now, but the open hands of God have received these experiences and have turned them back around to me, beautifully intact and useful.

Sometimes I think about how long it took me to read. Reading didn't come easily for me. And I remember getting to buy a chapter book from the book fair at school. I remember sitting on the front steps with my book, waiting for my mother to pick me up, and I was feeling proud. Then I remember the boy who said to me, "You can't read that book. It's a chapter book. You're too stupid for chapter books - nobody in your reading group can read them."

I cried, of course.

But now I think about that experience and I have a lot of empathy for my students who struggle with tracking left to right, who are easily distracted, who don't feel confident in that area . . . it's useful to me.

And those open God-hands are still there, holding that memory for me. So when I think about that boy now I mentally give him a hug and I say to him, "I know, boy. You're right about my reading group - no chapter books among us! But I will read this book and become a very good teacher, and the memory of you will help me love my students better. Thank you for being my teacher. Because of this experience I will learn empathy for people who are trying to acquire a skill I acquired too long ago to remember what it was like not to have it."

His hands are the lamp for my feet. The hands that hold me up. Old hands that have been holding me up since before I was a thought in my mother's mind. 

Because God's hands are open hands, I am still able to learn new things about being human. They help me to learn because of their openness - because they are open, I am not afraid to hand over my failings. Now . . . I'm not particularly good at it. I'm still learning. But I wasn't very good at reading once upon a time, and that ended up alright.

I can't go back.

And I don't want to.

All my mistakes . . . 

Have brought me to You.

My prayer is that God's open hands would be apparent to you, friend. My prayer for all of us would be that we keep our spirits teachable and our minds pliable. And a thanksgiving for today? A thanksgiving for today would be this: that God's openness has been ever present and available, and that God's openness helps me to reconcile with myself and others so that I can still learn new things.

Peace&Goodness,

OLL

 

 

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