I never even saw it coming.
You know those times where you're so caught up in the demands of your day-to-day that you miss the fact you're no longer seeing clearly? That what seems like reality actually isn't, but you've been in the same mental loop for a little while now...nose to the grindstone...and without ever coming up for air you've managed to convince yourself that it's true?
This past Wednesday morning was absolutely beautiful. Everything's green and in bloom around our house, there's a herd of deer running through the lower field, a hint of a breeze makes all the leaves in the trees dance, and a blue sky with puffy clouds hints at a near-perfect day to come.
And I'm annoyed.
I'm practically stomping through the yard to get to my shed to warm up my motorcycle so that I can begin the trek to work.
I'm in the same mental loop that I've been running in for the last couple days. I'm annoyed that I have to ride the motorcycle because I'd much rather be in my truck, listening to some music and not having to pay such close attention to every rut and pothole in the road that threatens life and limb when you're on a bike. But the truck broke down and it's not fixed yet, so here I am.
I'm annoyed that I have to continually leave this beautiful country oasis and fight traffic for the privilege of battling the dragon of teenage end-of-year apathy for another day. But that's the gig I signed up for, so might as well soldier on.
And I'm being set up...and I don't even see it.
Halfway to the shed, the frustration at not being able to just stay home and enjoy this new house is already bubbling over to the point that the unedited (and admittedly adolescent) thought passes my lips without ever making a pit-stop in my brain...
"What's the point in having something nice if I never use it?!"
And in the time it takes me to take one more step through the grass, I hear God's loving punchline in my mind...
And I have to stop and laugh at myself in the middle of my yard.
You know those moments where a single word can convey mountains of meaning? In that "Exactly!" was the invitation to look at any number of other nice things in my life that I often happily leave...or don't truly take advantage of...or don't truly appreciate...and see them more clearly than I have been.
My motorcycle is running for the first time in 2 years and I get 30 minutes of bliss-filled back-country winding roads on my drive to work. It's glorious! And I'm complaining about it?
I've invested a year with my students and I'm now about to see all of their hard work pay off, see them at their best and most accomplished moments before sending them off to continue to become even better versions of themselves. And I'll miss them when they're gone. And I'm complaining about it?
After largely ignoring God for the majority of my life, I now get to have this wonderful, conversational, intimate relationship with him that has radically altered and powerfully reshaped me and invited me into a way of living that I could have never before imagined.
And now I'm just laughing at the brilliance of a one-word punchline that is re-framing my entire outlook on my day.
There's a scene in the Hobbit (both the book and the movie) that really captures this well. Bilbo and the dwarves have been traveling for months and the goal of reaching the Lonely Mountain seems to be continually out of reach. At this particular moment, they're traveling through the forest of Mirkwood, and the fog or miasma that permeates the area has clouded their minds and gotten them hopelessly disoriented.
But in a moment of clarity, little Bilbo recognizes that if he can just get a different perspective he may be able to discover where they actually are and where they need to go.
And so he climbs a tree.
He climbs an incredibly tall tree whose uppermost branches allow him to escape the canopy of the forest and look out over the tops of the trees of Mirkwood.
And the very first thing he does upon breaking the canopy is stop and take a breath...and the spell is broken. The fog in his mind lifts, the confusion is blown away on the breeze, and he can see clearly...both where he is and where he's going.
It's a scene I'm reminded of often when I can tell I'm in a rut. It's a scene that God seems to very kindly drop in my mind when the confusion...the miasma...of my day-to-day threatens to overwhelm my ability to see clearly.
"Climb a tree."