You take my eyes off of the future, You lead my heart out of the past – Matt Maher
Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it – Paul, to the church at Rome
Here I raise my Eben-Ezer – Robert Robinson
Growing up, I was not a girly-girl.
I was the one playing hockey with the boys at recess.
And, when I say playing, I mean begging to the point of tears, at which point one of them eventually took pity on me
and let me be the goalie.
Didn’t matter to me, as long as
I could steer clear
of the little girl drama
on the other side of the playground.
You know the kind, right?
Stifled snickers and whispers interspersed with incredulous glares at whomever they were currently discussing,
or who was currently friends with whom
and who used to be friends but now won’t talk to each other
because can you believe what so-and-so did?
When boys argue,
they hit each other
and then its over.
They’re friends again,
or at least they go on to function together in a measure of harmony.
Girls, we’re different.
Necessary, good-different, even;
but to someone who hates speaking in code,
at times we can be altogether frustrating.
Not to mention that sports have always made more sense to me than, well, hair.
Which is why, in my mid-30s, I’ve had to seek out help with…. yep.
I could tell you all sorts of excuses:
1) I’m on medication that makes my hair weak and brittle (true).
2) I don’t have enough time to care about it (also true, in a certain context).
3) I don’t know how (true, but fixable).
So, a few summers ago,
I took a friend’s advice
and sought out a hair style class.
I brought my girls with me.
Some of you will remember these little girls as the same ones whose blonde-brown hair could be seen bopping along the gym at lunchtime,
playing hockey with the boys
in pink sequin skirts and sparkling headbands.
Yes. I know.
I’ve always found it… strange… that I’ve been given girls to raise.
I mean, seriously.
I have next to no idea on how to do this.
I know what women have been
and what some say they should be
and all the ways that the shoulds have been twisted
to keep both genders in air-tight boxes
that are so far away from what both were meant to be.
But I’ve found it difficult to locate a consistent, true example of exactly what we should – or could – look like.
And that’s a hard space to raise young women from,
especially in a culture where
there are literally thousands of competing ideas on it.
So it shouldn’t be surprising
that most of the conversations I’ve had with my girlfriends in the last month
have been all around the idea of not feeling
that we didn’t really fit anywhere.
There was always something
too much or
not enough in us,
something we couldn’t put our finger on,
something that means
we don’t quite get
what everyone else is talking about
that we don’t think its really a big deal.
Take one day this May.
I was running out the door to a meeting.
The things they taught us in hair class that long ago summer have become almost autopilot.
So my prep for that meeting was all progressing as it should,
until I looked in the drawer underneath my sink
and saw that I was out of hairspray.
I’d just gotten my hair to where I wanted it to be.
No doubt the British-Columbian-Unpredictably-Wet-Yet-Also-Inexplicably-Too-Dry-In-The-Summers-Coast would mess with it at some point,
and now I had nothing that would protect it
from the uncertainty of the elements
that would certainly come.
I was already three minutes late to leave,
so I had no choice.
I could only leave my hair as it was
and trust that it would be what it should –
In the same way,
2018 came in with a bang.
And no, not the good kind of surprise.
And no, not just one at a time.
Week after week went by with new little bumps and twists,
until we realized –
a few months in –
that they weren’t going to stop anytime soon.
We did what any rational family would do,
began a major home renovation.
Some would say they’ve never not known us to be renovating,
(you know who you are 😉
and in some senses that’s true.
We’ve never been those people who had the option of gutting and doing all we wanted to do at once. We’ve always had to live in the things we were reconstructing,
we’ve had to live
in the middle of a mess.
So, we’ve picked at things over the years –
whatever seemed manageable,
and whatever our finances allowed.
And somewhere along the way, I found out I liked making old things,
things that might be on their last legs,
But it usually took letting something I loved – die.
Take my dining room hutch, for example.
Inherited from my fastidious paternal grandmother,
the woman who never left the house without making sure each glass figurine or crystal vase was in its exact place,
the woman whose multiple Royal Conservatory of Music accomplishments sit next to my baby grand piano,
the woman who insisted I learn to play said piano –
and paid for every single lesson –
all because she was one of those gifted and talented enough to play for the silent movies back in the 1930s,
this beautiful antique sat in our main room for ten years
and looked stunning
but … dark.
Truthfully, I’d wanted it to change for a long time.
But I didn’t know how,
and I was scared to damage something valuable
that I wouldn’t know how to get back
if I messed it up beyond repair.
And then I discovered chalk paint.
That one summer five years ago, we gutted our living and dining room, and in the process completely overhauled this antique that was no longer working for us but we still had no desire to give away.
And it became amazing.
So, I tackled something else.
Each time, I got a little bit more brave.
And I realized that those of you who do this on a regular basis, or even professionally, must be very courageous indeed,
because creating something new
letting go of the fear
that you’ll lose what you had to begin with.
So it’s no surprise, really, that we saved the thing we wanted to do the most for last.
There was so much at stake, after all.
We weren’t sure we could do it –
so we tested ourselves
by starting small.
First, the half-bathroom on the main floor.
Next, the extra bathroom we’d always needed downstairs.
All in a lead up to chipping out the 1992 pink and blue tile of our main bathroom upstairs.
And oh, what a feeling.
We were so motivated, the room was gutted to its bones in 24 hours.
But a funny thing happened.
As we chipped
out the old
and planned the new,
we talked about our long,
off-and-on renovation journey.
And what came to the surface were two almost competing realities:
1) whatever we carefully completed to the end looked amazing, and
2) the dimness of whatever we’d left as it always was became oh-so-obvious,
to the point that it stood out.
And not in a good way.
They say its one of the big downsides to updating any portion of your home –
whatever you leave the same starts to look old and drabby
and the thing you used to be happy with
becomes the thing you need to change.
Like, right now.
This can be addictive, of course.
Not to mention dangerous.
Too much at change once breaks homes and structures and bank accounts and marriages and all the people who have to live through the middle of the renovation process.
But it can also be good.
Last summer I gathered with a group of ladies to discuss the building of Solomon’s temple. The detail given in those few chapters of Kings and Chronicles is staggering. The sheer cost of everything is overwhelming.
Solomon wasn’t working with much of a budget – cedar wood, bronze altars, gold-overlays, and intricately-carved pomegranates.
And yet what surprised me
was that the greatest detail –
and most expensive materials –
were given to the section of the temple that only one person would see, and only one day a year.
One day out of every three-hundred-and-sixty-five.
And it struck me how opposite it was
of how you and I usually make renovation decisions.
Don’t we tend to put the most detail –
and effort –
on the parts we know everyone will see,
and tend to cut corners
on the parts only we will see?
There’s a practicality to this in home-building.
But I wonder if Solomon was on to something –
at least when it comes to who we are.
So it caused me to wonder, off and on for the rest of the year,
how many of my decisions were based on
what I wanted everyone else to see of me,
and how much of my time and effort
making the spaces and places
only ever seen in secret,
in the inner room,
and particularly the One
who knows me best,
look like the gold that Solomon used for the same space?
Turns out, that’s kind of a scary question to ask.
Here’s what I discovered:
I’m not so good at change.
My mom tells me that when I was two days old, on the ride home from the hospital, I crossed my arms over my body and frowned at every bump we went over.
Change, after all, can be scary.
Which is probably why I’m not an early adapter to things.
I take forever to update my phone to the newest iOS.
Who knows if they’ve got that thing figured out yet?
(They usually haven’t).
Which is why, Apple, your latest phone and operating system will have to prove itself to me. And also why, Kombucha, its taken years for me to like you.
Juice cleanses, I’m still skeptical about you.
have never sat well with me.
I like slow, steady, predictable progress.
And I’m sure there’s something in that cautious nature that’s rooted in wisdom.
Things that we jump into quickly don’t tend to work out in the healthiest of ways.
But I’ve also learned that if don’t reign it in,
caution can become rigidity
and hesitance can become full-blown fear.
The last five years have proved that.
You’d think that after a daily wrestle with cancer drugs and all the mental games that come with knowing there’s something that lives inside you – in even a small way – that could and is trying to kill you –
would put to death
of expecting my life to be predictable.
I should – in theory – be more flexible about life change,
knowing in and out that
there are really no guarantees.
But while that has happened to a certain extent,
something else has grown alongside it,
and it was this desire
to have something in the middle of this unpredictability
to reach out
and grab onto
when everything else won’t settle into place.
And so I looked for those things.
I thought I’d found some. I thought I’d made good choices.
Turns out, not so much.
So, as each of these good things gave way to
the scariest feeling of free-falling into the unknown,
I had these repeated, mini-crises-of-faith.
And I really should have,
because somewhere along the way
I’d put my faith in things that had no business being believed in.
I’d mistaken props for fixtures.
So if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last five years,
The Real Thing won’t let us settle for props.
In fact, He will steadily, persistently remove them
if we mistake them for the One True Fixture.
And that’s a good thing.
We don’t need props, after all.
They’re nice, and they make the stage a little more believable, but they’re not meant to stay.
Kind of like hairspray.
That day in May that I ran out of it, I panicked, because
it was something I thought I needed.
And yet, as I did my business that day,
almost every. single. person. I. saw. said,
Hey, your hair looks great.
it’s different – what did you change?
And at first I was shocked.
You shouldn’t, I thought. I didn’t do it right.
By the third time someone mentioned it, I started to laugh.
I could almost hear Him say,
It’s like you weren’t meant to fix everything in place.
So, while I still have a bottle of hairspray in the bottom drawer of my bathroom,
I’m reaching for it far less.
Holding it farther out from my head.
Sliding my fingers through the pieces of hair
so they have room to breathe,
a Bigger Finger doesn’t have to pry them apart.
The good news?
The Same Finger who pries our frozen hands open
is also the One that men of old knew as
an Eben-Ezer – The Rock of help.
So don’t despair, friends.
If the Rock of Help has gotten between you
and a prop that you wanted to stay,
that very act
shows that He cares enough
to give you something far better –
The One to Whom we can hold fast and never be disappointed.
Can you imagine?
If you can’t, remember this girl, who by nature digs in her heels at any foreseeable change,
and think on how she can get to a place of knowing
That it’s allllll going to change
and we’re all going to be okay.
Change, after all, is essential to hope.
Because who hopes for what he already has?
So if you find yourself in a season
where all your begging and pleading and wishing and hoping
that your circumstances will change
don’t pan out the way you want it to,
know that maybe its an invitation to let the circumstances change you.
To put down the hairspray
and let your hair move a bit.
You might find –
like I did –
that that‘s the beginning of all good things.
It’s not in Hairspray we trust, after all.
And I promise,
He’s not going anywhere.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast – To the Hebrews, 6:19