So, yesterday... yeah. My troubles didn't seem far away. The day felt off-kilter somehow, and I didn't know why. I wasn't feeling or being the 'me' I know, and I didn't make sense to myself. Alone time may be the dream for all introverts and parents, but extroverted introverts (I call myself an 'ambivert') can actually get too much alone time. Feeling frustrated with my kids is normal; pulling away from my husband in conversation is not.
Something was off.
We got home from church, and I packed a small bag right away and told my family I was going out to a local wilderness-type park. It's become a favorite retreat for me, no matter what time of year it is. I drove out, parked, then trudged through sunlit snow to my favorite spot on a bridge over a small creek. For more than an hour, I sat in close-to-freezing temps as I talked, listened, and cried with God. He's my favorite listener.
I'm learning that talking with him, praying, isn't for him. It's for me. You can't imagine the hairballs of thought and emotion I dredge up when I'm with him. He either helps me untangle my inner knots, or he helps me realize the hairball is one he's supposed to handle.
Sitting on the bridge, I suddenly heard birds pecking in a nearby tree. As I started getting annoyed by the sound, I had the following inner exchange with God:
My child, what are the birds are doing?
They're pecking at the branches for bugs, I think.
Are they trying to annoy you?
No. I don't think they even know I'm here as they flit from branch to branch.
Are they using a 'perfect' system for looking for bugs?
No, it looks like they're just jumping from branch to branch randomly, sometimes going back to a branch where they just were.
Are they spending any time beating themselves up because they didn't thoroughly check the branch the first time? Are they scolding themselves because they didn't "get it right" the first time?
No... I don't think they waste any time analyzing their motives or choices, comparing who they are with their idea of who they could be or should be.
Why do you?
How are they looking for bugs?
Pecking the wood and listening for the change in sound, I think.
Why do they use those methods?
Because it's instinctive to how they're made.
So what are they doing?
...Looking for food, for sustenance, by using abilities they have automatically.
What do you think I expect, then, of you?
Later on, my gaze moved to watching the creek. I love running water so much. The play of light reflection fascinates me. It's been a source of so many, many insights for me. Yesterday brought more thoughts to resonate in my heart.
My child, what do you see?
I see light, sparkling on the water as it moves.
Is the water trying to reflect light?
No. The water is just being water, and one of its properties is reflecting light.
How do you think it happens that you reflect my light and my character: by trying, or by being true to how I made you?
-That's great and everything, God, but what happens when the water forgets how to be water? How is the water drop supposed to know when it's stopped acting like water and is trying to be alcohol by mistake?!
[Yes, I argue with God. No, he never strikes me down with lightning or yells at me. He's silenced me so very many times by how he listens to me in these moments and waits for my heart to hear him.]
Is the water trying to be water? Does it measure how 'good' a water drop it is compared to other water drops?
No. I think it just is water and surrenders to what it is and how it behaves.
Does it make itself be water or discipline itself into behaving like water?
No... It behaves as water without any thought of how to be water.
Does the water always reflect the sunlight?
No... The water's actually sparkling because it catches the sun, then stops reflecting it, then catches it again, and so on.
Is the reflection less important when it isn't constant?
No... I think it actually catches my eye more because it isn't constant. The sparkling flashes of light make me stare longer.
Is the water aware when it's reflecting light and when it isn't?
No. I don't think the water feels any difference between the two.
Is the light reflection consistent no matter where you're standing?
No. Different angles of the water would reflect sunlight to my eye depending on where I'm standing or sitting.
Why do you think reflecting Me is in your control?
Why do you expect yourself to reflect Me every moment of every day?
Why do you think your assessment of how you're doing is true and accurate?
Why do you think trying to reflect My character is the way to grow closer to Me?
My beloved child... I have not asked you to be or do anything more than to recognize how much of a spiritual beggar you are, to keep your eyes open for spiritual food, and to be ready to point other beggars you meet to the bread you find.
Chilled, but calmed and content, I walked through snow back to my car (talking with God the whole way) and came home. I'm constantly amazed at how I bring problems to God, talk with him, get no clear answers or solutions to those problems, but end up content and trusting anyhow.
Yesterday my troubles felt very present and complicated; it felt like I was muddying everything. Now... now I don't think the answer to my problems is finding answers. When my problems look like they're here to stay, I think the answer (however unreasonable it sounds) is to be reminded who my God, my Abba, is. He reminds me who I am and what he expects of me. He reminds me I belong to him, and my value has nothing to do with how good my answers are. He reminded me yesterday on the bridge that he wants me to share my bread.
I feel a little shy about sharing this bread, because maybe other beggars won't see it as bread. Maybe my bread is only a crumb for someone who really needs several loaves. Maybe my bread isn't enough for you. But... God didn't ask me to evaluate my bread. He didn't ask me if I thought it was good enough or could be better. He told me to offer it to other beggars, people using the gifts he gave them to hunt for food. I pray these words on water and birds help you as you search. I pray we both keep looking until we find today's bread.