The Most Honest Thing

The magical, white fairy lights look almost friendly on this forest-dark night. There they are, wrapped around the cables swooping from one side of the rushing river to the other. And from those steel ropes hangs a suspension bridge—the bridge that stands between my little family and our cozy cabin on the far side of the water. 

Tiny, chubby fingers grab my hand, pulling me forward. “Come on, Mama! We go!” urges my two-year-old daughter as her sturdy legs climb the two wooden steps, ready to land on the first plank. Then she stops. She looks at the bridge, swaying ever-so-slightly, then up at me. Something doesn’t look right. This is not what she expected. What she sees in front of her isn’t the typical solid structure her little mind has filed under “bridge.” 

“Wow, honey,” I say, stalling her while I muster my courage. “This is so . . . cool! It’s a wobble bridge!” I show her how to hold onto the scratchy rope netting that serves as a railing while I grip the other side, pray a quick prayer, and feign all the carpe diem spirit I can muster. Plank by plank, we make it across to the welcome, solid ground on the other side and our tiny, rustic red cabin just beyond.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to my plans, projects, and dreams for tomorrow.

We traversed that bridge every day of our summer vacation. And each time we did, it got a little easier. Then at night, when it came time to leave the square dancing or talent shows and return to our cabin in the woods, all of the sweet, simple memories we had tucked away that day made those fairy lights look, well . . . magical. I came to love that wobble bridge.

It’s twenty years later, and I’m not feeling so confident in bridges (or myself) anymore. Instead, as we mark the tail end of this pandemical year, I’m feeling chastened, humbled. Up until this point, I hadn’t been aware of the bridge of fragile assumptions I was so used to traversing. I had daily default expectations about the predictable rhythms of work, family life, ministry, and health. I had such confidence in this structure. Of course it would be there, guaranteeing safe, predictable passage into the future, moving me—moving us—closer and closer to our goals. 

But as the events of this year have shown me, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to my plans, projects, and dreams for tomorrow. All I have is today. This moment. This breath. I have so much less influence over the future than I thought.

Maybe the sense of empowerment, of self-determination I enjoyed was just that. A sense. An illusion. And perhaps this life I’m living now is the real thing. Could it be this is how it has actually always been? Maybe underneath all the shiny mechanics of pre-pandemic life, flush with all that energy and bustling industry, lay the truest thing. The most honest thing. I am powerless.

Behind the scenes, something exquisite has been happening.

Yes. I feel this truth in a way I have never felt before. Powerless to wrangle my old life back into place. Powerless to protect my loved ones and me from this ravenous virus. Powerless to know when it will be safe to finally stop covering my eyes and let myself exhale.

But there is another truth running parallel to this one. Because, while I’ve been composing this rant—all angry toddler stomping around the room—my eyes have been so trained on my frustrated wants and goals, I’ve been absolutely unaware that behind the scenes, something exquisite has been happening. It’s a quiet miracle. 

A finely-tuned network of complex systems has been carrying on its work silently, consistently. Cells have been regenerating, synapses firing, heartbeat after heartbeat drumming out the steady rhythm that powers my brain, my nerves, and the muscles I use to set pen to this paper. And I have absolutely nothing to do with it. The most important thing—life—is entirely outside of my control. It’s a gift. Pulsing, powerful life. 

So while I still have it, while I have this day to breathe in and out, I want to open my hands and let all of my tightly gripped plans and protestations drop to the floor. And then, finally, at rest, I can open my palms and wait. Wait for whatever the giver of this perfectly imperfect, unfolding life has for me.

Carrie Morris How
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