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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Eating of the Crow

I recently found myself in the unenviable position of having to chow down on crow.

No one likes eating crow, but it’s particularly unpalatable when one has had previous encounters with that tough old bird that didn’t end well. This was my problem. My mind kept returning to past confrontations that I didn’t see coming and handled poorly, and how upset they left me for days. Often, I had to do damage control after the fact, trying to clean up what I could discern as being my fault, while still holding others accountable for theirs. It’s a delicate art that I’m uncomfortable with, and quite frankly try to avoid.

But I had exploded about a triviality, which was actually masking a bigger issue, and both called for reparative conversation. Still, I couldn’t help imagining dire scenarios in which family relations would be irreparably severed, and silence would take the place of communication that was hard won and fragile.

I didn’t relish digging into this dish.

Even so, the deed had to be done, for, as is often the case in such matters, others’ fates depended on the restoration of harmony.

First, I solicited prayer. I have a number of faithful prayer partners in my life, who can be counted on when I hit the rapids. This being one of those times, I pleaded with those fellow journeyers to join me on the raft, and bring lifelines.

Next, I prepared what I wanted to say. This is a basic planning tool, but one that helps me feel more in control of an out of control situation. The simple act of putting pen to paper (yup, I do it the old-fashioned way) somehow calms me and allows me to corral the fearful thoughts that scatter my peace.

Yet, even after seeking the Lord’s wisdom and organizing my mind, I felt immobilized. How would the other parties react? I felt helpless, knowing I had to make some kind of move, but afraid to proceed.

Admitting defeat, I hung my head. The only way through this mess was, well, through, and through was exactly where I didn’t want to go.

Here is where it’s helpful to have Scripture memorized, as sometimes it jumps into your mind just when you need it. In this case, verse 11 of Psalm 77 came to my rescue. I know nothing of Asaph, except that he must have felt cornered at some point, too, and took the time to write about it: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.”

Boom!

I work as a paraeducator, which is a fancy name for a teacher’s aide, and one of the skills we teach our students is how to summarize a reading in 20 words or less. Asaph must have taken our course, because he boiled down the whole theme of his poem in those 17 words. The opening of the piece explains his distress leading up to that resolute statement of faith, and the subsequent verses give illustrations proving the point.

I now knew what I had to do. I sat down again and got busy writing. This time I wasn’t mapping out a strategy or making crib sheets. Instead, I filled two pieces of paper with example upon example of God’s faithfulness to me during past battles. Meetings where school administrators bullied me, ticking off grievances against my kids, and I struggled vainly to explain that I was doing my best as a single parent, but God made it a job sharing position for a reason, and I was literally down one man. Unpleasant encounters with bosses and coworkers. Difficult neighbors. We all have such experiences, try though we might to avoid them. Trouble finds even non-confrontational people like myself, but when met with faith and fortitude, can produce greater amounts of both.

I also included nail-biting experiences that weren’t self-defense opportunities, but, rather, growing up challenges. Times when I had to speak in front of a group or meet with people of authority who held sway over my future. That is, at the time it felt like they controlled my future. Looking back, I realize almighty hands held and still do hold all the cards, and no tailor-suited individuals or gaffes on my part can change that celestial mind.

Tucking the list into my pocket, I pulled up a number on my phone.

“Can we sit down and talk?” came out of my mouth.

And so began the eating of the crow.