When we started walking, the sun was out, the day was blue and gold and green, hopeful. By the time we started back, the sky was dark, heavy with rain, which fell at an astonishing rate — 2 billion drops per second square, or thereabouts — and soaked us through. That was not the plan!
Or the time I set out to go to the swimming pool. Suntan lotion? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Seatbelt, airbags, car insurance — hold up. Didn’t plan on totaling the car that afternoon.
It strikes me that life is a series of “I didn’t sign up for this” moments from the moment our little lungs come out hollering. Didn’t pick my parents, didn’t choose my socio-economic status, didn’t get to select my inclinations and abilities. Never got to sit down and decide whether I would enjoy mushrooms or avocados or meringue — nobody asked, and I didn’t have a say. And it just compounds, doesn’t it, in incredible ways, every moment, every choice, setting off an avalanche of consequences, utterly unpredictable. So you don’t like math, and you got a C in that stupid trig class in high school, which means you couldn’t get in to Duke so you went to Carolina… How does the poem go?
“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”
Little things — the flap of a moth’s wing — setting off tidal waves.
At the moment when you hang the head and sigh, saying “I didn’t sign up for this,” there is a choice: receive it as curse or receive it as gift. Sadly, there is no refund policy in place, or wouldn’t we all be lined up around the block? But how many of those moments we would gladly trade turn out in the end to be a blessing incognito?
Because the door to go to Detroit slammed shut, my husband came to Denver. Because he came to Denver instead of Detroit, we met. Because we met, a church exists now where there wasn’t one, and a few hundred people have been part of that — for an hour or a year — have met people they wouldn’t have met, given service they wouldn’t have given, encountered Christ in a sermon they’d never have heard. Because we met, three children exist who wouldn’t, and out there somewhere in the wide world are people who will fall in love with them, follow them to places unknown, set off new dominoes.
Because your alarm didn’t go off this morning, you were running late. Because you were late, you missed the pile-up on the interstate. Who knew?
John Lennon long ago sang, “Before you cross the street take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Consider today that none of your plans matter much, but what you do with the moments you’re given will determine whether you live a life of joy or misery. Look for the gift — somewhere under the ugly wrapping paper, it’s hiding there.