Etchings

Yesterday I went for a run. I don't often plan routes—I usually just go by feel. I approached an intersection at the same time a black minivan did. I didn't want to break stride, so I jogged down a side street for a few seconds so that I could let the vehicle pass. As I cut back to the main street, I caught a small marking on the sidewalk. Two initials—HP.

The first association that cropped up was “Higher Power.” A part of my mind tried to downplay it all by saying it was just a bored and subversive kid who, raging against the machine, carved his initials into the concrete. Maybe it was an exuberant Harry Potter fan. But I don't believe in coincidences. I feel that my diversion was a small reminder to keep The Creator at top of mind. He does this because He knows that I am very adept at forcing the squeeze play on Him when my brain is in Tilt-A-Whirl mode. And my mind has been less than amusing as of late, parking many unhealthy thoughts on mental Post-It notes.

It's a cinch to preach serenity when the sea is calm and the sun is out and the dove returns with an olive branch. It's easy to play spiritual giant when things are lined up well, when there are no pops, hisses or dust in the grooves of the album. But when the needle starts to skip and the tune gets warbled, discordant and choppy, it's difficult to keep to the beat of the hit song “All Is Impermanent.” Learning to want to stay on the beam when I am far from it is one of the greatest challenges I face. My default mode of isolating and trying to manage things on my own kicks in as easily as a car alarm during an earthquake. It is precisely when the ship is lurching and heaving that I need to keep close to The Creator—not move away from Him. My ego won't have any of that, though.

The HP marking on the pavement is one of many engraved images that are often tossed my way—the Creator passing notes to me like I did with my friends in class. My conscious contact is often like an Etch-A-Sketch—sometimes the etchings are rough and difficult to discern. Sometimes they are hazy and half-finished with soft lines. Other times, they are clear as a stone in shallow river waters. There are also times when my mind and spirit are in turmoil, the whole thing is shook up, and all I see is an empty gray slate staring back at me. But I need to remember that it's in clearing the canvas that something new is ready to be revealed. The knobs twist like the gears of a grimy steampunk contraption and when I least expect it, I am staring at a new revelation. The timing is exactly beyond my comprehension, but I understand it completely. That train always gets into the station.

No matter how many times the etchings come to me, I always surprised at how they arrive. Sometimes it comes in the form of a line I read in a book, or something says to me in passing, or a seemingly random event. A few years ago, I was having a rough day, and I struggled as to whether I should go to a meeting or not. I really resisted it. Eventually, the pull to go overrode my ego. As I navigated my bike down to the church, I still continued to argue in my mind whether I was making the right decision. I asked to no one in particular if I was doing the right thing. Ten seconds later, I passed by a homeless man on a bench, and as I sped past him, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Just like that. Boom. Mic drop.

How distinctly I can capture these celestial etchings is proportionate to how open I am to be willing to seek them. Even when my spiritual britches are in a twisty knot, I know that if I turn the dial just a shade closer to “open-minded”, I have a greater chance of finding my directions from the sort of God Google maps. Holy hints and divine directions flow forth when I keep my heart open. It feel counter-intuitive considering what I really want to do is to flee and feast on my self-pity like a stolen treat. But when I give myself to faith and allow myself to accept what it given to me, through His Grace, then the etchings are clearer and closer to the ground.

A great vantage point, whether I'm running or just sitting down and taking in the sunlight of the spirit.