Big Picture Moments

I’m fixing my hair because I’m headed to a funeral.

At a funeral, you’re forced (finally) to “trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.”  I’m a girl who loves to know the narrative.  I love to know what’s going on:  the why, the how, the when, the where.  I’m probably too controlling.  What happens when the narrative breaks apart and you have no idea what’s going on

In reading, we love these moments of confusion; we’re delighted to read on to make sense of an unraveling plot.  In life, though, we stagger and despair. 

A friend calls and reminds me that God knows the big picture.  It was a simple phrase–the Big Picture–but I know it’s true.  He sees what I do not see.  

There’s a bigger story, a larger picture, and these moments on the page–death, birth, joy, pain, confusion and every form of suffering and beauty–fold into it.

It’s a marvelous story if I just read on a little further.  

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Journal:  When life unravels, what keeps me pushing ahead? 

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What Has to Die in Me?

This afternoon, I notice my winterberry bush budding in the backyard. 

Those blooms hold particular significance this Easter season because I’ve beheld their cycle this whole year.  I see death and resurrection, and I suddenly remember the importance of death

For months, this bush seemed more acquainted with death than life.    The brittle and barren branches! 

This bush endured the assault of ice storms.  Those branches seemed hopeless, trapped, and unchanging.

Things were being put to death in her.

Now, these new buds burst forth. 

I remember my winterberry bush when I think about God’s work in my life.  I go through seasons when things have to die in me.  The soul in winter feels like death, but with every burial, there’s a resurrection.  What will Jesus bring forth in us?  We await that bloom even when we cannot perceive the secret work happening deep within our souls.  

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Journal:  What has to die in me this Easter?  What will God bring forth? 

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Losing Something You Can’t Recover

My student bursts into the classroom. “I’ve lost my paper!  I didn’t save it properly and the whole thing is gone!”  The exasperation in this student’s face is one I’ve seen many times before. 

My student can’t get that paper back.  He stands in front of me, small and hopeless.  I’ve been there.  I remember the first time it happened to me.  I remember the discouragement, the anger, the desperation, and the embarrassment of it all when I forgot to save a term paper.  

It’s not fair; it’s not right.  But I told myself I had to move beyond what’s fair or right.  I had to move beyond the anger and the shame.

I had to start again.  

Students tell me that what they produce after the loss turns out stronger, more authentic, and more concise than the original paper.  They build on the memory of what they once wrote and make something better.  It’s not easy, and it never seems fair.   Losing stuff is like that.  I’m learning to take a loss and build on it somehow to create a marvelous new thing. 

Otherwise, I get stuck in the anger.  

This won’t be the last time we lose something that can’t be recovered.  But beauty does arise from the ashes.  I see it every semester with every lost paper.  I see it in my own life with every thing I’ve ever lost.  There’s a way to start again on the fresh page, remember what you had, and press your fingers down on the keys.  You start letter by letter, word by word.  Soon, you’re not just back where you started.  You’re beyond in a beautiful far country that you never imagined existed.  And the loss got you there.

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