My walk home from school that day was more like a run. The mean girl of fourth grade was following close behind to beat me up. Why? For all the reasons that life comes at us hard — some silly lie, some wrong assumption, some snarly enemy. With the mean girl, she’d decided that a boy she’d fallen for had decided to like me instead — or something like that. We were only fourth graders, so whatever boy-girl dynamic was actually under way, it was hardly worth a fist fight.
She was convinced, however, so there she was, saying nasty things to me during one long and excruciating school day — even threatening me with “Just wait ‘til school’s out!”
For a timid, quiet, rule-following kid like me, her threats were terrifying. I’d never been in a knock-down fight with anybody in my life. So, when the school bell rang, I grabbed my coat and took off for home — fast walking and running, slipping on icy snow, hoping to make it safely before my mean-girl enemy could find me.
But I wasn’t fast enough. A few blocks from my house, she caught up with me. Goaded by a friend, the mean girl started pelting me with snowballs — each one a rock covered in snow — aiming at my head. Turning around to yell stop!, I caught a rock hard snowball right above an eye and felt my eyelid quickly swell, surely making me look like I’d been in a brawl.
Looking back on that day, I’m amazed at how it resembled the way life’s worst can feel. You’re a target — never mind that you don’t deserve it — but the rocks keep on coming.
That’s how I felt recently when one disappointment after another came calling. One, a family matter. Another, a work issue. And yet another involving our lawn, of all things.
It wasn’t a serious problem. It’s just a lawn. But combined with other things, a rocky yard filled with weedy grass felt like a hard hit.
That same afternoon, it all came to a strange head. I’d said yes to a nice, dress-up event. Trying to look pulled together, I settled on a last-minute choice from my humble closet. The hem was a hair too long, with no time to sew it up. So, I hitched the skirt up with a belt and tried to make it all work. (Somebody reading this surely has done the same.)
“You look nice,” my husband assured me. But husbands can say such things, so we don’t make them late.
In fact, we arrived at the shindig on time. Happily, I saw several longtime friends. We smiled for photos my husband kept taking, grateful I could use the pics in some business publicity or maybe on my website later.
Looking at the photos the next day, however, my heart sank. In every one, I was wearing my grungy sunglasses.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked Dan.
“I didn’t notice.” He didn’t see the glasses as a problem.
Complaining to a friend, however, she broke through with the perspective I’d needed for every rock flying my way: “The future’s so bright, though.”
It is? Despite grungy sunglasses? Or an onslaught of problems? Psalm 145 provides words for seeing — not life’s rocks but God’s power to overcome them:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty —
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
Psalm 145:3-5 (NIV)
A weedy lawn? Praise Him for the land it’s growing on. A family problem? Praise Him for the family, even with its problems. A work disappointment? Praise Him for the job.
Sure, rocks can fly, but the future’s so bright, though.
Perhaps that’s why, after the mean girl threw the snowballs, my mother walked with me to the girl’s house, took one look at her and said, “What’s wrong, baby?” At those words, the girl melted in tears, crying through her pain. She didn’t want to be a bully. Now, here stood my mother, letting her know this: You’re forgiven, so be kind. And from then on, she was.
Even on a hard day, the future’s so bright. Hit a wall? Look over it or around it. Make a mistake? Forgive yourself. The future is bright, even if we can’t see it yet. But know this: Our God of Light can.
The shadow was only a small and
passing thing: There was light
and high beauty forever
beyond its reach.
J. R.R. Tolkien