It’s been quite different having only one small child tagging along with me this past schoolyear. Young Sir K has been my shadow, my sidekick, and my adventure buddy. We've spent countless hours running errands, reading aloud, chatting about Legos and Paw Patrol and bugs. Simply enjoying each another's presence has been so refreshing as I work on embracing a more measured pace of life.
I've found that, during this time of less doing and more being, God speaks to my heart in ways I couldn't hear amidst the cacophany of constant noise and motion.
For example, something interesting happened during a routine trek to the grocery store the other day that compelled me to ponder perception, reality, and waiting on the LORD.
Small red basket overflowing, Sir K and I headed toward the check-out lanes. Since the self-serve stations were occupied, we high-tailed to the nearest open lane. What a blessing! I thought. There's no one else in line! I figured we'd be out of there in no time flat.
Perhaps the lack of cashier stationed at the register should have been my first clue. But the check-out lane light appeared illuminated, so I began unloading our groceries. Sir K, ever the helpful assistant, pitched in as only sweet 4-year-olds can: sloooowly. Once everything was on the conveyor belt, I wondered why no cashier was there to assist us yet.
After several moments, I signaled an employee and asked if someone could please help us on lane 14. It was as the employee said, "Ma'am, lane 14 isn't open," that I realized: the iridescent sign above me wasn't, in actuality, on.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, embarrassed by my oversight. "I thought the light was on!" The employee nodded. "Sure; that happens a lot," he said. "People see the reflection from the light of the self-serve stations and think Number 14 is open, but it isn't."
I could have sworn I heard the intercom blaze to life at that moment: "Can we get a wake-up call for the doofus, er, customer on Lane 14? Wake-up call on Lane 14."
I laughed awkwardly as I rushed to re-pack our items into the basket and ushered Sir K away from treacherous Lane 14. Here again, I thought, is an example of why I should never pray for humility, thank you very much; I am perfectly capable of humiliating myself all on my own!
Yeesh, I thought. No one was in line. There was no cashier. The light wasn't even on. What was I thinking??
In total, my misperception cost us a scant seven or eight minutes. I found a check-out lane that was open with a real, live cashier assisting real, live customers under the glow of an honest-to-goodness illuminated lane light.
Thankfully, we weren't in a rush that morning, having nowhere to be but home to unpack groceries, eat a snack, color a picture, and throw another load of laundry in the wash. But the incident made me think: how often do I head in what I think is the right direction, only to discover down the road that my perception was completely and utterly wrong?
During my years away from the Church, I was so totally off course that I could no longer locate my map, let alone follow it. In excruciating pain, I finally recognized my error, admitted my mistake, and was slowly, by the grace of God and the Sacramental life, able to change course.
Since then, I've found it can be most painful to change my plans when I'm convinced a fragrant paradise awaits if I can just keep rowing the way I'm going. And yet: Persistently rowing in the wrong direction is just being persistently wrong.
More often, I fall prey to smaller navigational errors. I adopt behaviors and take on tasks without a second thought, determining they're harmless. I forge ahead along a path of my own design, adding items to my basket, taking them out, feeling accomplished, and asking God to check me out.
During these detours, I wonder if God smiles at me the same way I smile at Sir K when puts his socks on inside out: I love the effort, Sweetheart. You're not quite there yet, but you're sure trying, aren't you?
After the grocery store incident, I'm wondering what life would look like if, instead of barreling ahead with tunnel vision, I stopped for a moment. What if, instead of rushing toward the light I think I can see, I asked God to help me see things with His eyes? What would happen if I slowed my roll long enough to confirm that where I'm headed is where He's leading? What if I conferred with the Master Mapmaker instead of piecing together my own route, blinded and broken as I am? What if, indeed.
The writer is a wife and mother in the wilds of suburban Portland.