My friend Tim Hansel wrote a book on parenting. He asked his young sons, “Boys, how do you know Dad loves you?”
He figured that they would say, “Daaaad, remember when you took us to Disney world, like for 10 days!” They didn’t say that, so he knew he wasted all that money.
He figured they’d say, “Daaad, remember Christmas and you bought us all that great stuff!”
They didn’t say that.
They said, “Dad, we know you love us, when you wrestle with us.”
He remembered two times. He had come home, hungry, tired, late, and he didn’t care. But these urchins were yanking on his pant leg. “So, I rolled with them on the floor. Toward the kitchen.” He said, “Just to get them out of my way.”
And then it hit him. In the middle of that very ordinary, boring, mundane experience, real life was happening. Unfeigned joy, love, intimacy, connection, grace, whole-heartedness—the really good stuff—all woven into the untidy and the commonplace.
“But,” Tim laments, “I missed it. Because I was only tuned in to Disney world and Christmas.”
There is nothing wrong with Disney world or Christmas. But they have meaning, only because we find the sacred in the wrestling times.
My confession is this… One of these days I need to give up my expectations for control (you know, hoping to orchestrate a tidier life). Let’s just say it’s on my list.
Or maybe, along with Tim, it’s time for a paradigm shift.
Reading the Bible, God is real in small gifts and simple pleasures. God is present in the commonplace, the weak, the flawed, the compromised. The profane is not the antithesis of the sacred, but the bearer of it.
We are so bent on removing ourselves from the mundane (and certainly anything messy), that we miss miracles.
Not surprisingly, once we see it, we do our best to turn it into a project: five steps to creating wrestling times. We do not rest in the solace that God is present, having nothing to do with our faith, or our effort to invest the moment with meaning.
So. We have a choice. We can live life as a gift to be embraced and explored and savored. Or, we can take the typical western worldview—treat everything like a test to be completed (and hopefully aced).
Here’s the deal; there is freedom in the gift of wrestling times.
I don’t need to craft the moment, I can live it.
I don’t need to read-into the moment, I can receive it.
I don’t need to find control over the moment, I can let it be.
I don’t need to orchestrate closure in the moment, I can pay it forward.
Joseph Campbell’s reminder, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
In other words, it’s easy to look for love in all the wrong places.
From his sons, Tim learned that grace plays by different rules.
Grace, it turns out, cannot be managed.
Grace takes us by surprise, when—for whatever reason—our defenses are relaxed. And there it takes root. Because when we see differently, we value differently. In wrestling time is born connection and kindness and compassion and inclusion. And, we find miracles where we didn’t know they existed. And the miracle always spills into the world around us.
Henri Nouwen talks about time spent at l’Arche, a home for mentally handicapped adults. “While the needs of the world clamor for our attention, hundreds of capable, intelligent men and women spend their time, often all of their time, feeding broken people, helping them walk, just being with them, and giving them the small comfort of a loving word, a gentle touch, or an encouraging smile. To anyone trying to succeed in our society, which is oriented toward efficiency and control, these people are wasting their time. What they do is highly inefficient, unsuccessful, and even useless.”
Wrestling times indeed.
I can tell you that my need for control is born from self-protection, doing my damnedest to appear stronger (more buoyant, clever, nonplussed) than I am, keeping the crucible of self-doubt at bay.
But no matter how hard you try, the storms of life will knock it out of you.
Speaking of storms. I wasn’t expecting what hit us… snowed in for 8 days.
Well, storms build character. An inspirational ditty recited by Northerners and Mid-Westerners, justly proud of their hardiness. Fair enough. But I can assure you that in this neck of the woods, storms spawn panic-stricken gloom. (Maybe I’ve lost my Michigan childhood savvy.)
In the lessons learned department, it always helps to have the right tools. Doesn’t matter about strategy, or desire, or willpower. Snow tires or chains outperform luck every time. And this is true about storms; there is a significant spike in random acts of kindness, because differences don’t matter anymore. It is enough that people need help.
Most of the damage is in my garden. Still over a foot of snow cover here, frozen now, so don’t know yet what I will find. Most every shrub is bent to the ground. Arbors and trees bent and broken. It’s a visible lesson; gardening is not for the faint at heart, and may be hazardous to your emotional wellbeing.
So. Let’s get back to wrestling time, and miracles of grace. Where do we find the miracles in the storms?
The first Noble Truth of Buddhism tells us that life is filled with suffering. So much for tidy. Or for my wish to eliminate disappointment. The (very old) Sanskrit word for suffering is Dukkha. (It can mean stress, anxiety or dissatisfaction.)
The contrast is Sukha, which can translate happiness (which throws me because I’m not real certain what happiness looks like, except that it seems to describe someone other than me). So, let’s just call it notice the miracles time.
What is helpful to know is that these words date to a time when humans traveled by horse or ox drawn carts, and the words were literally used to mean, “having a bad or good axle.”
Okay, I love this. (Plus, I’m good at mixing metaphors.)
Yes, there will be ruts—life storms can be precarious and unsafe—but the axle (not the ruts) determines the ride. Yes.
And the good axle? God is present in the commonplace, in the wrestling times, in the weak, the flawed, the untidy.
Here on Vashon, we’re still at least week away from snow melt, which is very rare for this time of year. (In my 30 years living here, this is a first.) I can’t wait to begin the work of restoration and nurturing in the garden. It helps that I believe wholeheartedness is available only to those who have known broken-heartedness. (Ah yes, the lunacy and loveliness of love, tenderness and compassion. What if it doesn’t work out? But what if it does?)
In the meantime, there’s plenty of wood for the fireplace. A bottle of Rioja at the ready. And I’m finishing a new eCourse; Sacred Necessities; gifts for living with passion, purpose, heart and grace. I’d love it if you join me. If the timing doesn’t fit for you, no worries, it’s not a race, and you’ll have the year to complete it.
Quotes for your week…
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. Ernest Hemingway
POEMS AND PRAYERS
To Come Home To Yourself
May all that is unforgiven in you
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.
when the struggles of life hem me in on every side,
open me to the freedom of your presence
that can help me see beyond every restriction, every limit that binds me.
O God, give me the wisdom to see the subtle ways people can be enslaved and the courage to speak for those who have no voice.
I ask this for the sake of your love.
O God, when we wake to yet another day of wonder and joy in the beauty of your creation,
give us the heart to keep our needs simple, our desires soft, our wills pliable,
so that we never participate in the exploitation of the earth, which is the work of your hands.