Sunday, October 31, 2004

Traveler's Tale # 1 

In the face of all the chaos and pain in the world, it’s hard sometimes to believe that God is really in charge of what’s going on. But frequently in insignificant details I see His hand, lovingly taking care of His people, and these remind me that He on top of the big stuff too.

In the air halfway from Miami to Buenos Aires, Margie sat up with a start. “Azure, I totally forgot to pack underwear!” she said the friend next to her.

“Don’t worry about it,” replied Azure, “I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

But you know how it is when you do something like that. You mentally kick yourself, “If only I had taken a bit more time to pack, this wouldn’t have happened”; you think through strategies, “Well I can wash out the pair I have on every night. But what if they don’t dry enough by the next morning? I wonder if the house where we’re staying has a dryer? Do people use dryers in Argentina?”; and just generally stress out about something you know is fairly non-transcendental, “I can’t believe that one of the first things I’m going to talk about with this pastor who is hosting us is that I need to buy some underwear. How embarrassing.”

When the long flight was behind her and Margie was taking a shower at Pastor Muniello’s home trying to scrub off the scummy feeling and exhaustion from the long trip, she decided once and for all that she would just wash her underwear every day and dry it as best she could.

Then while Azure took a shower, Margie unpacked her clothing. She pulled open the top dresser drawer, saw two pairs of underwear and thought, “How nice of Azure to have gone and gotten these for me.” The underwear were not anything Margie would have picked out for herself at home, but in another country facing the prospect of wearing the same pair of underwear for three days, they were more than acceptable.

It wasn’t till later in the day that Margie had a chance to thank Azure for taking care of her problem. “But I didn’t get any underwear for you,” Azure replied, surprised. “Those must have been already in the drawer when we got here.”
The next day after they had gotten to know the Muniello family better, Margie mentioned the underwear to their hostess, Adriana. “I guess Annette (who had stayed in the room two weeks before) must have left them there,” Adriana responded to the query about the origin of the underwear. “Why don’t you take them back with you and you can give them to her when you see her.”

I hadn’t left any underwear in Argentina, but I knew exactly what Margie was talking about because those two pairs of underwear had been in that drawer since the first time I stayed in that room two years ago. I have no idea whose they are or where they came from but I love that God’s economy doesn’t waste anything, not even lost, ugly underwear.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

If you were a tree, what kind would you be? 

I was talking today about natural disasters with a friend, Adriana. Since she is an architect, the conversation naturally turned to the importance of the construction of a building in how well it weathers a storm. Earthquakes are the primary natural disaster in this area so Adriana explained that for a building to survive them it is important that the construction not be either too weak or too rigid. If it is too weak, it falls apart. So it might seem like the best thing to do would be to create a very strong building with lots of reinforcements and the best concrete blocks held together by the strongest cement. But she went on to explain that a rigid construction runs the risk of cracking so the perfect building is an equilibrium between strength and flexibility.

This strikes me as very helpful reminder. Storms will come in life and the key to weathering them well is balancing strength and flexibility in my character, belief systems, etcetera. My tendency is to think that “firming up” my self-discipline, or my knowledge, for example is what will get me though the hard times, but talking with Adriana I was reminded that a resulting rigidity could be counterproductive. Yes I need to develop more strength in character, conviction and completion of tasks but those qualities need to be complemented by flexibility.

I have always loved palm trees. I love their shape. I love them for their association with all things beachy. And now I am reminded that I have admired them for their strength and flexibility, for the way they can survive hurricane winds where a more rigid tree would snap or be pulled out by the roots. Lord, please help me become more like a palm tree, able to stand firm yet adapt to the winds of change that blow through my life.

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