Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Little Big Deal

The breathing fence stands basic and simple across our path. So we must jump it to walk on. No big deal. Except that in sailing over, signals fire confused, the mind unsure how to navigate, and I land tumbled. No big deal. Except that a horrible crunching pop murmurs from ankle which bore full impact of my falling body.

Immediate stiffness, numbing pain, and the mortifying embarrassment of the reality I now limp in: I just sprained my ankle. But it’s no big deal. I can still walk . . . hobble. I lean on his arm, and we shift home. My mind starts spinning . . . all the clients scheduled for the next days, and how I’ve nowhere to rebook them, and how I can’t run in the mornings now, and how awkward this oozing bulge feels.

And a new lens slides into place ahead of my eyes, and all the world looks different through this awkward healing. I awake to thoughts yet un-contemplated, and gifts yet unrealized . . . . the little big deals. 

I watch graceful pedestrians stride across intersection! I didn’t think there was glory in walking un-gimped, until I lilted. How amazing the coordination of a skateboarder, swinging leg wild as he propels headlong down the sidewalk. Does he know the glory he’s breathing?  

How fabulous the body’s capacity to heal! And what wonder to think I will be made well again. I drive past old men hobbling behind walkers. What humiliation to age and sink decrepit from prowess and physical usefulness. And I think . . . we must be so much more than just a body, because giving does not stop when the body stops, and living does not cease when a part loses function. 

And how do we grapple with life when we fall, and bodies fall apart, and our world crumbles into helpless bits before our eyes?  What of these little deals that loom impossibly large? And the big deals we lose in periphery when we focus on stuff that doesn’t really matter?

I see the middle-aged homeless man taking swinging, syncopated steps. How long has he limped so severe? What does he hope for life now?  What will he make with what he has been given?

And me? What have I been given? Grace. The hand to hold me, the shoulder to cry safe on, the shared tools for healing, the extra assistance and labours of love . . .  for me! And who am I to receive this? I could not earn these mercies, could not deserve this tenderness in light of my foolishness. 

Grace cannot be earned. The greatest gift, and deepest mystery. That I, who don’t deserve, HAVE been graced with this life, this pain, this poignancy to feel and see and love and live deeper. And it is a gift.

And I open hand and say Thank You. And I too, even I, can give this grace gift back to the Giver, and spill it out on an aching world, even in the simple gift of laughing at myself.

Because Grace brings it all into perspective. And grace IS the big deal.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Beta Redemption

It began with routine, the normal cleaning of his tank. And all miracles and tragedies begin this way—in the ordinary grime and rhythm of pedantic life. 

But today, the status quo shifted. The smallest nudge rivets vase and sends it shattered across counter and floor.  His little world crashes, but he is safe, roaming the neighbourhood of a kitchen bowl. Does he know that all has fallen to pieces, that shards of his small realm slit Owner’s hand and draw liquid pain—a clean laceration leaking life? Does he care that his realm cannot be restored, that a new world must be purchased for him to keep living? No, he floats oblivious to the reality outside his three-cups-of-water existence. 

And don’t we insulate ourselves, so we are not touched by the crashes, the cuttings, the cataclysmic upsets of our world? Don’t we cushion and distance and Styrofoam-peanut ourselves into a protected living coffin . . . . safe from the dangers of life? All the while, we ignore the pathetic un-life of our existence.

Sometimes, whether on purpose or “accident”, our perfectly sufficient, boringly normal lives require deep shaking, so we realize that it is not circumstances that define our reality, but Redemption.  

And so it happens, that in the transfer to the newly purchased world, he falls. Falls utterly. Out of water and hand and bowl and all that’s remotely familiar. Falls through suffocating air into a mausoleum—sink drain encloses him on every side, Owner unable to grasp his wriggling mass, he flails onto sieve, suspended, trapped, sentenced to die in the void. 

Owner scrambles for tools, to wrest free the drain nuts. He runs water, washing the victim with life. Finally loosened, the opened drain reveals a terrible problem: two sieves separated by an impenetrable distance, and the dying pet stranded on the further rack.

And what else can be done for the helpless one? Water now spills into bucket under the sink, defacing the immaculate scene. The carnage waits hopeless and still. He will die. He will rot. His corpse eased through the sieve holes by eventual decomposition. And all seems lost. Owner says goodbye and walks away.

But in the minutes where life ebbs out, LIFE reawakens. And he stirs, perhaps shuddering at inevitable fate looming. But it is enough. Owner sees the struggle, and ignites into furious rescue. Running upstairs to find different tools, rushing back, heedless of the mess and danger; bending low to bring freedom.

And he is found! Owner reaches him, grabs him, and it hurts utterly, but brush with LIFE can hurt more than brush with DEATH.

And he is SAFE . . . though he cannot know it yet. Owner places him in new tank, and he lays dazed and weak in the sweet embrace of water. Paralyzed by terror, ache, and hope realized, he remains immobile. But his gills begin fluttering, and vitality courses miniature in his frame.

Owner puts the world back together, and waits. And Owner sleeps sound, and rescued one rests to life again. And in the morning, he devours offered food, and flourishes his plume in this new world.

And all returns to normal . . . but all has completely changed. And life cannot look the same, because the vase is different, because blood was lost, because tragedy struck and redemption rescued, and life was meant to be lived in this wonder. 

Thomas is a Beta fish, but his life teaches. And him simply living and eating and swimming happy shows off his owner’s goodness. The difference between us and him isn’t so much circumstance or genus . . . it’s choice.

We have CHOICE to sing for our Maker. And Redemption ignites our forever song. 

Photos courtesy of Owner
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