I drove slowly, silently, looking for red tail lights and road signs while keeping an eye on the edge of the road. I focussed my attention on what might come into view, so I had time to respond safely.
Eventually, the fog dissipated and we resumed our speed and conversation.
“I can’t figure it out,” I said, referring to a recent experience I had while offering spiritual direction. As I listened to my directee that day, I suddenly found myself in a patch of fog. I couldn’t see the road ahead and didn’t know what to do. I had no choice but to slow down, let things unfold before me and inch forward until the way became clear.
“I don’t like that feeling and I wish I knew what caused it, so it doesn’t happen again,” I lamented. Fred was sympathetic, but God wasn’t helping me one little bit.
What God did do, over the next few days, was listen. God listened with me as I heard why I needed to figure out what caused the fog: I wanted that confident feeling of knowing what to do in any situation and assumed this confidence would better enable me to help others. As I continued to listen, I remembered a humbling experience I had had which showed me that the opposite can also be true.
A thought entered my mind: What if that foggy moment of uncertainty was a gift? Perhaps God simply wanted me to focus my attention on what was coming into view.
Then I had another thought: Much of the time, my mind is preoccupied with learning from the past or planning for the future so that I can know what to do in any eventuality. But what if I don’t always need to know what to do? And what if thinking I know what to do keeps me from responding to what God is actually doing?
Then a third thought emerged: What if being present is more important to God than knowing what to do? What if being present is even more important than doing things well?
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
–from the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner
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The person in charge of maintenance at John Knox Christian School (aka my husband, Fred) was asked to repair a rocking chair in one of the classrooms. When Fred had a look at the glider-rocker, he discovered the bearings were gummed up and worn out from the countless number of hours teachers and educational assistants had spent rocking children and reading to them. Now that’s some great love mischief.