God’s reset button

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Spring is a busy time.

There’s the yard to get back into shape, there’s spring cleaning to do, there’s that desire to get outside after the long, long, long winter and get back into summer shape.

On top of that, there’s work and family and friends and work. Did I mention work?

The end of April is particularly busy for my family. There’s Easter of course, which many folks find stressful and distracting. For me, it just seems to always be a big hurdle, attitude-wise.

For us, before anything really even starts, it means nearly three hours of travel down to Shan’s folk’s place in central Arkansas for the holiday.

It’s our tradition to go to the Easter service at my wife’s maternal grandmother’s church. It’s always wonderful and afterward we go to her grandmother’s old home for Sunday lunch.

It’s a great way to spend Easter, but it’s equally hard to sacrifice the entire weekend. When we travel down, we pretty much lose both days. We drive Friday night after I get out of work and don’t get back till late Sunday. Zero gets done on the thousand little tasks we all have going in our lives, no progress – zip, nada, nothing. It’s easy to begin to stress about it beforehand, and the result is I get there and my mind isn’t close to right with God.

Usually, I’m strung out from doing our taxes and I’m behind on my yard work and any other chores that need to be done are stacked up too. I’m way too self-focused and distracted right on the cusp of arguably the most important day on the Christian calendar.

So, when I pull into the familiar long driveway that leads to my in-laws’ place, my teeth are usually on edge. My thoughts are far from God and they’re far from kind. I’m often resentful that my weekend is going to be shot. It’s pure selfishness.

But then, after rolling past the pony’s corral and little barn he lives in and my wife and daughter have  yelled their greetings to him out the car’s windows and into the night, we pull over the little bridge Shan’s father made, and park the car, and I hear them.

The frogs are singing, singing, singing. They fill the night with their song made up of squeaky chirps and bass croaks. The night is alive. The world is alive and it makes my petty mood seem, well, petty.

It’s a mental reset button that God pushes in me every spring. You can hear Him in the frogs’ opera. His message is clear: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and listen.

And for the rest of the weekend, I try to be still. I try to listen.

If you’ve ever visited my wife’s family, you know that’s not an easy task. My in-laws home is both the most relaxing place I’ve ever been and the most energetic. Not to mix philosophies here, but it has a real yin and yang thing working.

My in-laws are wonderful people, friendly, kind, open, warm and on Easter weekend there are kids everywhere. They’re all my daughter’s cousins from the college-age ones, to high school, to junior high, middle school, elementary school, to that weird age where kids are like between three and four and they move around the house like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Warner Brothers cartoons.

And it’s loud. It’s joyful loud, and it’s excited loud, and it’s celebratory loud. But it’s still loud. It’s not always the perfect environment for stillness.

But if I play my cards right, I can slip off with my book on late Saturday morning after a wonderful breakfast, usually waffles. I don’t get much reading done but I can spend a long, long time just watching birds, or the trees or the water of the pond.

And eventually, usually after a massive lunch, the pond calls me. And I go and get my fly rod and I start to fish.

That attracts the younger cousins and my daughter, like nobody’s business. Soon, I’m fixing reels that have been gummed up for months, rigging poles, tying on lures or hooks for those who, alas, still fish with bait. Once everyone is fishing, I might get a cast or two in before someone needs something or someone wants a fly casting lesson, or somebody catches a fish that needs to be removed from the hook, or someone nearly sinks a hook into a cousin standing nearby.

In the end, after a few fish have been caught, and the glamour of the pond fades, the cousins wander away to enjoy any number of wonders that can be found on this particular spot of ground. They’re off  driving the Ranger, or a four-wheeler, or playing with a cat or carrying around a chicken or surreptitiously back on a cell phone that’s been banned by mothers.

Then, it’s quiet for a bit and I’ll fish. I’ll watch the fly line settle on the water. It’ll try to smother my innate jerkiness and try to be still.

Some of my favorite moments are when my daughter and I work the water together, in companionable silence.

If she catches a fish, I’ll take it from the hook, show it to her and let it glide back into the water of the pond. She’s a wonderful fisherman, but doesn’t like to touch them. Who am I to judge? She’s otherwise good company.

Eventually though, she’ll leave me.

Off she’ll go to be with the cousin who is just a few weeks her senior, both girls will likely end up playing Minecraft together, sitting amiably side-by-side with their laptops open in one of the big bedrooms upstairs. If they’re lucky, no mom will notice.

I will keep fishing. My wife will bring me a glass of the iced tea that only my mother-in-law can make. She’ll fuss, tell me to put on sunscreen and make sure I’m wearing a hat. We’ll stand there and be still together for a bit.

When the tea glass is empty and I’ve stolen a kiss, I go back to the pond. Back to the rhythm of fly casting and listening for God.

I’ll hear Him in the birds, see Him in the color of a bluegill the size of my hand, feel His love pulse from the buzzing house at my back, sense Him in the air as the sun starts to creep from the sky.

My father-in-law comes out on the porch and sits in one of the comfortable chairs. It’s so dusky-dark I can barely make him out, but I continue to cast.

We share the stillness like I never shared it with my father.  I am ready for Easter.

And the frogs begin to sing.

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