I don’t have any good images for this post, so I’m pulling random-pictures-I’ve-taken-of-cool-bugs out of my archives. If you are squeamish about such things, I am sorry. I am not sharing the ick-est ones.
In the Book of Our Lord 2022, in the chapter entitled March, it suddenly occurred to Shari Zook that she had once again been living her life by the power of all the wrong things. That is, by sheer elbow grease.
(Surely if she just tried harder…)
This revelation occurred to her, arriving intact and fully crystalized in the brain, at a time when she had two dead bugs between those elbows, a Musca domestica and an Asian lady beetle—who names these things?—while those same elbows were propped on the windowsill in a private back room of her church house. Another live but slightly sluggish Musca, also known as the common housefly, nosed about nearby. And the sun was glorious on her face.
(Are you still with me? Good.)
She had retired to the room for a short time-in with her son-though-foster-care, after he had squirmed during services and disregarded admonition and whispered in foghorn tones for long enough. The breaking point came when finally, he chose the grown-up church sister beside him (much beloved by his foster mother, but nearly unknown to him) as a new mom, and snuggled lovingly up to her, when he was displeased with the current one.
Mrs. Zook had retired to this small room for a talk, and for clarifications on which adult was parenting him, and for clarifications on the fact that he was stuck with her no matter how uncooperative she was with his Schemes, and lastly for a friendly reminder of social boundaries. Including, You may not drape yourself over others, sir, And also Mom is tired of your hands in her armpits and knees and necklines. Please sir.
(I might be exaggerating this story just a little. Writer’s privilege. The meat of it is documented fact though, especially the part that goes, Mom is tired.)
Shari Zook was up that day against many things that were causing distress. Things that she cared greatly about and had invested in significantly, that were not turning out as hoped. Things she had no power over, in the end, and could do nothing further about. She listed them in her mind. They looked like a row of Goliaths.
First, she was working with a partner on a children’s picture book…
(I know. Surprise! Planning on telling you about that soon!)
…and running up against difficult questions of racial respect and integration. She had strong feelings and preferences about this, but the final decision was not hers, so the conversations and arguments started in her head in the wee hours and continued unabated times infinity, with a ghost audience.
Two. She had no power over her teenagers’ attitudes and choices. Kind of a shocker, but still. True. The only attitudes and choices she could manage were her own, and that was job enough.
Three. In an upcoming assignment, in which she was hoping to speak intimately and connectedly to fifty people, she found she was facing several hundred, and all of her plans for visuals and personal engagement needed to be rearranged and amplified on short notice. A good thing, but also carrying significant stress.
Four. The results of her dog breeding efforts were still pending, to the tune of mucho dinero hanging uncertain.
Five. Relationships cannot be fixed by wishing. That was the nutshell version.
Six. And here was another private thing.
Seven. And here, prayers of peace for a world in turmoil. What business had she to be crying over her children? When they were warm and fed and above all, with her? Yet cry she did; and her heartache for the shivering mothers crossing foreign borders with their babies wove themselves together with the prayers and the crying, as all mothers’ prayers are one. Different strands of yarn, one knitting needle.
It occurred to her in that crystalline moment, with the nearby bugs buzzing and not-buzzing-anymore, that she was not meant to manage these things. Other people’s choices? The world? The magical conception of canines? Racial healing? Others’ hearts and lives? Assignments too big for her? Even her own wellbeing?
Those were handled by Another.
Fully, completely, capably handled. His plan for them all was right on track.
She’d been telling herself this for days and weeks by now, ever since it came to her during a lecture in Oregon and she went off-script to cover it… Although a full year or two before that, the same truth had been granted her by Divine Revelation on a lake shore… Even though several years prior, that same truth, one and the same, had been written to her explicitly by a friend… So that it was hard to believe she could have forgotten again, with all that reminding, but she had.
God’s plans do not get derailed.
And they are his plans, not ours.
Troubling at times.
Good in the best sense of the word, and in all senses of the word.
His plans were moving forward. She knew it again to be true, in the back room with her son thumping his feet on the floor. No matter what it felt like. No matter how badly she or other people messed up—whether intentionally or inadvertently. No matter how the world spun and what came down the pike.
Why was she not saying this every moment of her life, to herself and to others, instead of wringing her hands? If she believed in a Sovereign God, then she had to face this truth: His plans do not get derailed. His universe of pain and glory was “no doubt… unfolding as it should,”* and he was and is completely capable. Completely serene, with his business well in hand.
(* from Desiderata)
Shari Zook laid down a few things on the windowsill that day. Among them, her self-appointed job description to manage and to order and to ordain, although she knew she would again take up that job by accident, and lay it down again on purpose… again, and again. Her job, she saw once more, was to team up with him, to give it her best shot, and then to let go. To abdicate—a very sticky and uncomfortable word he had already chosen for her as the front bookend of this 2022 story. To abdicate—that is, to release the governance to someone more qualified.
She took a deep breath, ready in her small way to do her work—(which, as far as she could see, was entirely about living out “Help me, Jesus”)—not his work (which was to handle everything else)—
And no, this story is not as fixed as I am making it sound. Nothing had changed, and yet it had—
And she pulled her elbows off the windowsill.
She left the bugs there.