Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sorry, Tom Cochran, Life is Not a Highway . . . (part 2)

If life’s a highway, there’s no chance to catch your breath.  To stop and evaluate without the risk of falling behind.

The college I attended had a trail that ran through the woods.  Along that trail there were other paths that branched off to a creek and an old farm field.  I used to go lay in that field on a blanket in the sun and breeze.  There was a tree in the middle of the field, as there often are, where farmers used to tie their horses to stop and rest at mid-day or enjoy a picnic lunch. 

When you lay down in the middle of a field time and space open up around you.  There’s no highway.  There’s only the present.  Weeds and flowers.  Bugs and air and sun and sky.  And you are small and in the middle of it all.  And it’s not a bad feeling. 

There’s no one path through the middle of a field that’s lain fallow for a long time.  There are many paths.  Some made by deer or mice.  Places where the grass is pressed down for resting or the earth is dug up for a home or hideout.  There’s no end and beginning; there are many sides.  There’s no from and toward, only here and not here. 

This isn’t to say there’s nowhere to go.  Only that the pressure to go or stay disappears and exploring the field becomes a joy rather than a chore to be checked off of the eternal to-do list. 

And let me tell you something else.  God is in the field. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  He’s in the highways too, traveling with you in your car or van.  But God’s most definitely in the fields.  He likes to hang out there on off days.  I’ve seen him there sprawled out on a blanket with a book in hand or just staring at the sky (God’s especially fond of looking for pictures in the clouds).  Or sometimes flying a kite, enjoying the tug and pull of the string as the kite swoops and glides. 

Man, I keep thinking about that field more and more these days. 

I don’t live by the highway anymore.  Just on a small side street in a semi-quiet town.  I’m trying to let myself believe my life isn’t a highway.  Maybe it’s a field.  Maybe all the blessings that keep cropping up in my life, the ones that don’t fit into the plan and seem like distractions, are like wild flowers popping up scattered in a field.  I’m starting to believe it. Maybe there’s nowhere else I have to be. 

If you feel the need to keep on trucking, Godspeed and traveling mercies to you.  But if you get tired and need a break, don’t forget about the field.  I’ll be here.  There’s plenty of room.  Feel free to pull over and rest for awhile.

Where do you most often find God these days?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sorry, Tom Cochran, Life is Not a Highway . . . (part 1)

If life’s a highway, I’m in trouble.  Since having twins, my internal GPS is endlessly recalculating.  Too often you’ll find me broken down on the side of the road, wishing I’d coughed up the money for triple A or paid more attention to the little light flashing on the dash.  I’m surely late for one thing or another.  I have friends who’ve made it much further than me.  Friends with higher degrees, more developed careers, they’re due to arrive any time now. 

I felt good when I turned 30, knowing I had checked off enough boxes on my to-do list.  I was trucking right along. 

But then something happened, life started taking strange turns.  I forgot where I was headed and why.  I started to notice little things on the side of the road.  Signs pointing in different directions.  I had children.  And more children.  We filled a sedan and then moved on to a van (it’s full now too).  Our starter home is bursting at the seams and all signs are pointing toward a necessary upgrade in size, if not stature. 

When I was in graduate school, I had the definitive sensation that life was a race (an academic one for sure, no sweating involved, unless it was due to intensity of thought).  To succeed at the race you had to be like one of those inconceivably tall, thin runners who win medals at the Olympics.  Stripped down to a tiny pair of running shorts, the lightest of shoes.  Pressing on toward the prize.  Forsaking all else. 

I was good at running that race, it came naturally to me and the rush of running, of living like that, was amazing.  It was like a drug. 

We lived just outside of Princeton, within a block of Rt. 1, a major four-lane highway with cars rushing endlessly in both directions. 

When you head west on Route 1 away from Princeton and get onto the PA turnpike, traffic slowly beings to lighten.  The view along the side of the road changes from gas stations and box stores to woods and open fields.  Sometimes there are deer grazing and if you look closely you might notice a cat hunting along the edge of a field or a hawk resting in a tree. 

Driving along a change comes over me as the space around me opens up.  I can see the horizon in the distance.  And, seeing it, knowing it’s there, I find myself less compelled to rush endlessly after it.

How would you describe your life?  Is it a highway?  A race? Or something else altogether?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

For Joy

Three out of four of the walking members of our household now own rain gear – specifically, rain boots. 
So now, when it rains or a storm blows through, we three gear up and head out, not in.  We put on our coats and boots and zip-up, not minding that by the end of our walk we’re likely to be wet through regardless.  We stomp with exaggerated steps and point exuberantly at the river running in our street.  We spy a drowned bee and mourn his demise (while also feeling relief that there’s one less stinger to fear). 
The street and sidewalks are quiet, save for the rain and the sound of cars splashing by.  My husband sits on the porch with the twins.  Poor bootless man, we pity him.   
Now, pretty much every time it rains my son asks with exuberance, “Mom, can I go out?”  And I see no reason to say no.
The rains came again during my parent’s recent visit.  The kids pulled on their boots and were out in a flash, marveling at the puddles, shouting and exclaiming at the wonder of it all in voices drowned out by the downpour.  They stomped and splashed with great intensity and focus.  Walking in water, making mighty splashes, is serious business. 
My dad said, watching from the porch, “I remember doing that as a kid, but I don’t know why.” 
“What do you mean?” I asked.  He said, “I remember splashing in puddles, but I don’t know why I did it.” 
“Because it’s fun,” is my reply. 
And in my mind I think, for joy.   
How many things do we do for joy any more?  We do things for productivity and hope for joy as a bi-product, a happy bonus.  But what if we, on occasion at least, switched our priorities? 
Movies often mark a plot’s turn toward redemption with a rain storm or some other form of literal or figurative baptism.  It’s common enough that I now know to look for it, the moment of grace that makes way for joy breaking through, like sun rays bursting through the clouds. 
My kids and I are afraid sometimes on our rain walks, with thunder and lightening doing their bone-jarring call and response.  I know it’s a little foolish to be out.  But if there’s a rainbow or a waterlogged bee floating by, we’ll be the first to see it.  And when we come back dripping with joy I know it’s been a moment of transformation for each of us.