Monday, May 30, 2011

I don't know what I'm doing, but...

I’m in the process of going through Dana’s main Bible (as opposed to her Bible study notebooks and her emergency backup Bibles); it’s not a note by note, underline by underline process (that will come some day) but more a sweep-through to make sure I’m not missing a verse she might have noted in the margin “good headstone verse.” Yes, embarrassingly, I’m still working on the headstone project. And it seems like Memorial Day is a good day to confess that.

As I’m leafing through I am noting a few things that stand out here and there; in that vein I ran across a verse she had underlined in 2 Chronicles (20:12, to be exact). It was a prayer from God’s people to God. They had enemies all around them ready to attack and they had few weapons for defense. Things looked bleak and here is what they prayed:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

I was so struck by that prayer from many directions but what caught me the most was the fact that just a couple days earlier I had spoken the following thought out loud to myself (and to Pud…again, I’m turning into the Garfield comic strip):

“I bet I say at least 10 times a day, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’”

And it’s usually around time number seven or eight that I cave. At least half of the 10 instances of not knowing what to do are normal exclamations of frustration: tax questions, yard restoration, computer glitches, golf (I’ve reverted to first-year level of play for some reason). But when I mix in a few that have to do with this journey the best response is a good old fashioned cave in.

I think what has struck me is the fact that I focus, maybe obsess, over the first half of the statement, “We do not know what to do.” Of course, any of us can find ourselves in a predicament of not knowing what to do. It is not unique to loss or grief, and so maybe my observations in this little twist might have some wider application.

Here goes.

There is a strange calm that comes over me when I imagine myself keeping my eyes on God in the middle of action ignorance or paralysis (aka, not knowing what to do). The prayer from 2 Chronicles tells me that it’s actually okay that I don’t know what to do. What’s not okay is when I let that confusion or anxiety define who I am or make me nervous about the future. There can be a certain amount (maybe a huge amount) of confusion and anxiety that churns underneath the line of sight between God and me.

But as long as I have that line of sight clear, the confusion and anxiety will eventually thin out and things will become clear. Admittedly, I’m still in the “research and development” stage of this truth, still trying to figure out what “keeping my eyes on God” looks like on a day-to-day basis. I think I might be stumbling on to something, and it is tied in to Memorial Day (perhaps in a contrived sort of way, but it’s working for me right now).

The image at the top of this post is the grave and monument of a Union soldier from Preble County who was killed at Gettysburg. The grave is in Dana’s cemetery. I didn’t learn of this soldier’s burial until just before Memorial Day last year, nearly five months after laying Dana’s “jar of clay” in that same cemetery. My hope is that she has already found this guy in heaven and they’ve made their cemetery connection (I’m all about connections!). Dana and I were Civil War enthusiasts, even visited Gettysburg at our peak enthusiasm. We of course joked that the Mason-Dixon line actually passed right through the middle of our bedroom; having grown up in the south (and taught about the “war of Northern aggression”), Dana loved her southern boys.

This picture was taken on Memorial Day last year. My whole family made a run to the cemetery to pay a visit to Dana and to locate this Gettysburg soldier. What’s significant about that visit is that it was the first time I visited the cemetery with anyone. When I’m there I simply feel nothing but sad and to ask anyone to join me is just an invitation to come watch me cry. Not fun. And I’m an ugly crier. But as you might expect, it ends up being an invitation for all of us to cry together. And this, I think, is a very roundabout way, or perhaps a very small baby step, to keeping my eyes on God when I don’t know what to do.

God did not wire us to cry alone. I think that when we face unknowns, or are racked with paralysis from not knowing what to do, or are anxious about the future for whatever reason, if we surround ourselves with people who cry with us, love us, pray for us, speak light and life into us, then we are well on our way to keeping our eyes on God. It’s this input and encouragement that helps keep the line of sight clear between God and me.

And then, not knowing what to do isn’t so scary.

More to come on this subject.

I leave you with the image below of my dad, a U.S. Army vet, tending to the Gettysburg soldier’s insignia of Union Civil War vets (G.A.R., Grand Army of the Republic). There is something artful, poetic and patriotic about that image.

Love to all,