Lines in the Sand

photo credit: Lars Plougmann via photopin cc

photo credit: Lars Plougmann via photopin cc

There are two meanings for drawing a line in the sand. One is that you make a decision not to cross a certain point. No more movement forward, not one more step past it.

The other meaning is that a firm decision has been made and you cross that line and never go back.

Isn’t that interesting?

One line. You either stop right before it or go full-force through it.

We’re staring at that line right now. Actually, we’re staring at a lot of lines.

Lines in the sand, drawn by God. Our toes are inching their way forward–not out of stubbornness or fear–but just out of the sheer fact that some things take time. Some lines are closer than others. Some are on the horizon. But they’re there.

This weekend we are training to become foster parents. Come Sunday afternoon, a line will have been crossed.

Then we will do paperwork. And have background checks. And a home study. Physicals. These are other lines to cross in a few weeks. And we’ll cross them.

At some point in the near future, there will be another one. A bigger one. A major event like getting married or having a child or becoming a believer. The kind that divides the “before” and the “after”. This line is the one that holds the heart of a little one, who is hurting and scared and needing us.

I’m not sure how we will cross that line but we’ll do it. We may be on our knees crawling over it. And clasping hands with others who will help us through it. And raising palms to the only One who will be before it, in it, and after it.

What it looks like on the other side, only God knows. That’s an interesting phenomenon that comes when you decide to step over these types of lines. You can’t totally see over it and past it or through it. But I’m guessing that it’s beautiful. And hard. And messy. And undoubtedly worth crossing over.

We all have our own lines that we draw in the sand. Are you about to cross over one? 

Uneven Fields

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

The middle one told me about recess one day, how they play soccer between a few trees and on uneven ground. Kids are good like that, making fields in the midst of a mess. A stadium from a few sticks and woodchips.

They run their little hearts out from start to finish, sucking the marrow out of each precious second of a too-short recess in a too-long day.

He also told me about the teams. They’re unfair. You see, kids–even young ones–have leaders and followers. And this particular group of leaders (like playgrounds the world over, I’m sure) divide the teams. Into unfair ones, mostly. The talented kids band together. The lesser ones form a team by default.

We’ve dealt with this issue all year with the older boy and football at recess. They do the same thing even as they get older, wiser. They do not divide into what is reasonable or fair. The strong clasp hands with the strong. The weaker ones feel happy just to be included. Our older boy deals with this from the perspective of the disadvantaged team. They always lose. Always. There’s no chance for a different outcome.

With the middle boy, it’s a different story. He’s on the stacked team. The leaders put him there. When I talked to him about it, how it wasn’t a fairly matched game, he agreed. “But they don’t listen to me, Mom.”

I shook my head and struggled. There are some playground lessons you have to let them figure out on their own. But there are others, othersthat seem to scream with a lesson. Grab this moment, it yells, and teach.

Just because they won’t listen, I said, does not mean that it’s right. He nodded.

And then I lowered my voice to a whisper and he leaned in close. I told him about teams and imbalance and how the brother he looks up to in so many ways, faces that stacked team EVERY DAY. From the wrong side. And it feels terrible.

His eyes, wide. They were already open to something not feeling right. But they were opened to the humanity of it in the form of his brother. At that moment, I think he realized recess was filled not just with random kids but with brothers and sisters as well.

He looked at me. I looked at him. But I was stumped. I honestly don’t know how you can fix this, I said. This teacher–his mama–was out of answers.

With confidence, he looked at me. The boy, the student said, “Well, I can always just play for the other team.”

It was at that moment in my kitchen, amidst crumbs on the table and laundry piled high, that I felt pure awe. The boy. In front of me. Acting like Jesus.

Sacrifice. Service. In the form of a simple soccer game on an uneven field.

I hadn’t even thought about that, I exclaimed. That’s brilliant! You could play for the other team–give them a chance. Be a champion. Make waves!

He shrugged his shoulders as if it were no big thing, sacrificing a sure win for the sake of these kids. I grinned at him and told him it was a darn big thing.

A darn big thing.

So he came home the next day–lots to say about plenty. He finally got around to talking about the game and I waited, anxious, to hear about whether he had made waves.

He had.

They were incredulous that he would want to switch teams. We’ll win so easily if you stay, they had cried. He shrugged his shoulders–it’s not fair, he had said. And that’s that.

He played goalie for the other team and he blocked that goal with his whole heart.

What happened, what happened? I begged. Oh, please, God, let this story end well.

“We tied.”

You tied! You helped them tie the game?!

“We didn’t win but at least we tied.” Something that has never happened. Ever.

We shared high fives and I told him I was proud. The boy did something great, in a long lifetime of choices between doing the right thing and doing the easy, feel-good thing.

It was only a simple game of soccer, yes. But it was a sacrifice left on an uneven altar that God honors.

These Boots Were Made for Teaching

IMG_2650I wish this story ended better. I want to say I wish it ended more gracefully but that’s not right. There was plenty of grace. I just wish ended better.

So. I have these boots.

They are cute. Brown with pink polka dots. Fit for the rain, functional. But sassy. I get compliments on them whenever I wear them.

I put them on yesterday morning because it was rainy and I just didn’t feel like having my jeans drag along in puddles, wetness creeping up my legs. That would be uncomfortable. Boy, if I only knew . . .

Despite the weather, my mom, who is in town for a few days, and I decided to hit a couple of stores. My pick–Goodwill. For some reason it’s one of my favorite places. I love how you never know what you’re going to find. So we went, in the rain. Me, in the boots.

We split off, each of us having our own mission in mind, and I found myself lingering around the shoes. Nothing for me but something kept me there.

That’s when they walked in. A mother and teenage daughter. Nothing was super unusual about this pair other than the girl was dressed kind of eccentrically. Something, something, started humming inside me about these two. They were talking about boots and I got the impression that regardless of fit, they were leaving with something. The girl tried some on. Too small. She tried another pair. Maybe. There weren’t many choices and from what I gathered, something was going to have to work. I couldn’t tell if they were homeless–I thought perhaps. Or not. But a desperation–not from them, but from me–pulsed in the air.

The humming wouldn’t stop. Oh, I know that feeling. That’s when God wants me to do something. And do it now. I sensed God saying to me clearly, “Give her your boots.”

“That’s ridiculous. My boots?” I stopped in my tracks. “I don’t think so,” I argued in my head.

Now just so you know, I cannot recall a time ever in my life when I have felt prompted by God to give someone an article of clothing off my back. This is not a regular occurrence.  And for the record, I also do not feel so much love for my boots that I could not bear to part with them. This was just an all-around strange request that threw me for a loop. The truth was I did not want to look stupid.

“Give her your boots.”

“Oh, no. No, no, no. That is so weird! They’ll think I’m crazy! Why would you ask me to do something so weird? And crazy?”

“Your obedience will be a blessing to them. And to you.”

I paced the aisles, keeping my eyes discreetly on them. I thought of a devotion I had read recently. And by recently, I mean I read it THAT morning.

“As soon as the priests . . . set foot in the Jordan, its waters . . . will be cut off.” The Israelites were called to step IN before the waters would part. They couldn’t walk up to the water and then watch the water part before they stepped in. It took a major step of faith. That’s some serious business. It takes guts.

We must learn to take God at His word and walk straight ahead in obedience, even when we can see no way to go forward. The reason we are so often sidetracked by difficulties is that we expect to see barriers removed before we even try to pass through them. If we would only move straight ahead in faith, the path would be opened for us. But we stand still, waiting for the obstacle to be removed, when we ought to go forward as if there were no obstacles at all. (Streams in the Desert)

So there I was, in Goodwill, wearing my boots. Arguing with God about giving them away.

I lingered. I listened. I continued to argue. I said “no” over and over in my head. I really am so stubborn.

Finally, I watched them leave. They had purchased a pair of light blue boots–whether they fit, I don’t know. All I know is that the girl didn’t leave in mine.

We left not long after. I started the car, windshield wipers furiously working at clearing my field of vision. I felt weary from energy wasted from wrestling in the clothing aisles. It reminded me of a story I heard from Beth Moore and the time God asked her to do something crazy. God asked her to brush a man’s hair at the airport and it’s probably one of the most awe-inspiring stories of stepping out in faith I’ve ever heard. God allowed her moment to become an incredible witness. She obeyed. Oh, how I wish I had too.

It took about 30 seconds before I spewed the whole story out to my mom–probably one of the few people who could understand my grief for something so bizarre. She listened and didn’t stop me or try to convince me I shouldn’t be upset. She simply told me it probably was not even about the boots. It was probably a lesson to teach me that I’m not quite there yet in obedience–the same place all of us are dwelling, in fact. She reminded me that God forgives us of those moments. Forgiveness is immediate with repentance. And you better believe I was repenting even as I watched those two women in front of me. Especially as I watched them walk out the door.

My sweet little polka dot boots. I have no idea if the girl would’ve taken them. Or if they would’ve looked at me like I was insane. I don’t think it matters. But I will look at those boots in a new way. They are now a reminder for next time. A lesson. A rebuke. A promise. A hope. I’m on a journey in those boots. I may be asked to do something strange for God. Actually, I will be asked to do something strange or crazy or out of the ordinary for God. I’ve been asked before and I’ve obeyed. I’ve been asked before and I’ve failed. It will happen again.

Off we went into our day. Onto another store, other moments. I walked the aisles, feeling lighter because of grace, but heavier because of experience. A woman walked past me and called back, “hey, I love your boots!”

I thanked her and thought, “oh, you don’t even know how much I love them now too.”