My Aunt Lurline loves to tell stories. It’s absolutely amazing the details she can remember about people and events from fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago. But, bless her heart, she cannot tell a story in a straight line to save her life! She might begin to tell me about the time I visited her at work in downtown Atlanta, then digress to mention her daily commute, or take a detour to remember how my parents were part of a bowling league when we were little. Sometimes her “parentheses” in the middle of a story seem to have little to no relevance to the story she’s telling!
Nonetheless, each parenthetical detail adds richness and depth and meaning to the story…enhancing the background, the characters, the relationships, the history of each memory. I keep telling my kids we need to videotape Aunt Lurline telling her stories so we never lose the rich heritage and treasure trove of family memories she can recount. Unfortunately, she hates to be in front of a camera so we might have to resort to some old “Candid Camera” technique to make it happen!
Thinking of “parenthetical expressions”, I remember a blog post I wrote a year ago about our return to the United States for a season. (You can read it here: http://seedbed.com/feed/how-to-survive-coming-home-from-the-mission-field/). In that post, I described how I often viewed our furloughs in the USA as “parentheses”, in between “real” life during our terms on the mission field. I noted that now we found ourselves in an open-ended parentheses, not knowing when or how this season would end. At the time I wrote that post, I was still grieving leaving the field and viewed the “not knowing” with sadness, anxiety, and even fear.
A year later, the Lord has taught, and is teaching, me that He doesn’t tell a story in a straight line either. Life is filled with parenthetical expressions. We see ourselves going in one direction, only to suddenly encounter a detour that takes us in a decidedly different direction. But so much richness and depth and life and meaning can be found in those parentheses if I will only pay attention. God is in all the details and the detours, whether I see their relevance to the story at the moment or not. Bless my heart, I can be pretty dense sometimes!
My prayer for 2016 is that I can truly believe that, as Paul told the Athenians, “…in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28) I want to pay attention to God’s activity around me at each moment, to become more aware of His presence in each, even seemingly insignificant, parentheses. I want to walk through this year, the story of 2016 He is unveiling in my life, awake to each detail. Then next January, I want to be able to look back and tell the story of another year like my Aunt Lurline, remembering that each parentheses makes the story that much better!