Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Single Dark Braid

She had a single, dark braid running down the back of her head. It seemed so dark, so historically correct to her home country. When the social worker first handed her to my wife on that rainy day in Guangzhou, her hair was short and thin. Her forehead seemed to be the biggest part of her, only overshadowed by her smiling eyes and perfect mouth.

The braid was thick now and covering her neck. She was aware of its weight as she turned her small neck to smile at me. The kids had been set loose and had the run of the house. This meant that random piles of pillows, dirty dishes, and pajama clad children littered the floors.

I really like this part of my life. I like it all really... when it comes down to it. It's just that this part seems so natural, so lived in like a good pair of jeans. I just hitch them up and settle in. This is my life. This is my life and it is good.

Lately I've been learning how to really be a leader. Grant it, I've been in leadership positions most of my life. I must say... that has always surprised me. I remember my senior year of high school being selected by my class to be a peer counselor. It shocked me. The guidance counselor of the school told me that she was sure that I had "natural leadership abilities." I scoffed. I was an only child. I'd rather be just left alone.

To my surprise and not my ability, life seemed to immediately through leadership roles my way. Song-leader, Resident Assistant, Group Home Manager, State Hospital Liaison... and I'd meet each title with stupefaction. I'd just sort of lean back and smile. Surely some big joke was being played on us all. I am no leader. And yet... people seem willing to follow.

Life was generally unhappy for me for a good many years. I mean, we looked good... right? We moved from a small house to a medium house to a big house. It was like we were intent on playing the roles of each character in the Three Bears storyline. But nothing was "just right" (popular culture reference).

These past few days I've realized that we're at a new place in life. The leadership roles have gotten quite serious. My mind flashes to when I would assemble Lego blocks as a child. Sometimes I'd struggle to make two pieces fit... and without warning they'd "snap" into place. Yes, that's it. Things have snapped lately. 

Caleb and I watched The Matrix last night and my mind has been replaying a scene ever since. The Oracle told Neo that he wasn't ready yet... because he didn't believe. It was such a sad scene. I was left wondering, so... if he believed... would that simple belief had changed things in that moment? 

How many of us lose out on our destiny because we lack belief? I don't want to lack belief any longer. I want the solid assurance of those two Lego blocks clicking together. "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day" (Whittle, 1883; 2 Tim 1:12).

There was a moment in The Matix when Neo believed... and it was after he had sustained fatal wounds from the agents. His own strength and ability had failed... and yet faith and love and belief were what was needed to give him the strength to realize his identity. We really are not so different. 

Like any good story, the truth is the same. It takes faith, love, and belief for us to find who we are created to become. Yes. This feels good to me. It's like soft denim over sneakers on a Saturday morning. It is right and it fits like a favorite t-shirt. 

I picked Sterling up and I asked her if she missed me today. She looked at me sideways and grinned as she glanced away. I asked her again... and she smiled while pretending to ignore me. Silence hung in the balance.

I spoke her name, "Sterling."

She turned with a twinkle and said, "yes Poppi."

My soul was complete. 

And so in this time where I wrestle with what it means to be a leader... when to offer grace, when to turn the other cheek, when to hold a firm line, when to accept criticism, when to apply discipline, when to collaborate, when to yield, and when to charge... I find my gravity in the warmth of this thick, dark, pony-tailed embrace. 

She had a single, dark braid running down the back of her head, and it felt like home.

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