Grounds for Humility

Surplus Vases. 

Contingency Planning: The Coward’s “Virtue”
“We need another vase,” I said to my sister-in-law. “I’ll poke around and see what I can find.” I scanned the cabinets in her mother-in-law’s kitchen, looking for a vessel that we could commandeer to hold flowers.  

There. That glass pitcher will do. 

Hmmm. We can use that terra-cotta wine chiller.

My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law, Nina, had died. We gathered at the dead woman’s parents’ home for a memorial, and people kept bringing flowers.

I suppose the flowers were lovely, and fragrant, and soothing to the hearts of bereaved parents, but at that moment, the roses and lilies and daisies and freesia challenged me:

Need. More. Vases.

“If I’d thought ahead,” I said, “I would have brought vases from home.”

In the living room, friends gathered, watching old home movies and sharing memories of Nina. But I was busy on the patio, looking for vases. 

Returning from the patio, I passed Nina’s mother. Her eyes held that vacancy I’ve see before, as if a secret dimmer switch had been tripped. She lived on, but her daughter did not. 

I nodded to her and hurried through the kitchen.

Must. Find. Vases.

I passed through the living room, passed the memories, passed the tears, passed Nina’s father, sitting apart on the sofa, hollow-like, watching.

I’m a planner. I should have thought to bring extra vases. 

It’s true, you know. I have a reputation in the family for delivering superior logistics, for always having a backup plan, for being able to switch gears on the fly when the situation takes a turn.

I’m always thinking ahead. 

Which would be awesome, except I can’t be thinking in the future and fully engaging in the present all at the same time.

Two days after Nina’s memorial, we picnicked at the park with two of our grandsons. Sitting at a concrete table, eating pizza with three of the people I love best in all the world, I caught my mind skipping ahead.

Once we get home, they can open that new box of Legos we bought. I can let them have 30 minutes with the Legos, then it’ll be bath time. Must remember to offer drinks before the bath. Can they have ice cream too? Or will that be too much sugar? Have to check the snack drawer and see what they ate during the afternoon. If they need a snack, we’ll allow 15 minutes of play in the tub. If they don’t need a snack, then they can play for 25 minutes. We’ll need  another 10 to get them cleaned up, dried off and into jammies. That’s over an hour–no long bedtime story tonight. 

I snapped out of my fast-forward preview of the evening as my husband and both boys burst into laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You missed it,” Rich answered.  “That little dog over there–well, you just had to see it.” 

I’d missed it all right. But I didn’t miss the ton of bricks that came crashing down around me as the wrecking ball of one blinding insight toppled my carefully-constructed wall of virtuous logistical mastery:

When I focus on planning what’s next, I miss what’s happening now. When I might have honored Nina’s memory by sitting with her father, listening to her friends share their memories, I scurried around looking for a vase. When I might have laughed at a terrier’s antics in the park, sharing a funny moment with my husband and our grandsons, I was busy thinking about what we’d do next, and when, and for how long.

And only God knows how many nexts await me. 

I’m working to shed the future-focus, to be present here and now, engaging in this moment instead of mentally racing ahead, trying to orchestrate life so carefully. As if  I were in control.

It’s in the Hands of One truly capable. I don’t need to fret over it. 

Pray for me, would you please? Letting go of a persistent habit, especially one that others find praiseworthy, is hard–too hard for me to manage on my own.

25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink ; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing ? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life ? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing ? Observe how the lilies of the field grow ; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith ! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things ; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow ; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB)