I was a professional shoe tie-er for 20 years. No untied shoe was safe in my kindergarten classroom. For the first few years of my career, I attempted to teach this complex skill to my 5 year olds, but after a couple of years, I abandoned the process.
I’ll admit, it was not my finest hour as an educator. I could have chosen to embrace the cost of lunch line pile-ups when a child excitedly stopped, dropped and demonstrated their new shoe tying prowess. I missed my opportunity to grow in the fruit of patience while loops and crisscrosses were attempted during a fire drill. I could have chosen to ignore the inevitable re-tie that would be required 30 seconds later and celebrated the attempt to acquire a new skill.
But instead, I chose the relentless pursuit of tying all the loose laces. Eventually, it became so automatic that I hardly noticed I was doing it… which is my only defense for why I once tied my husband’s shoe when he crossed his leg as we sat on the couch together. Due to my finely honed, lightning quick shoe tying reflexes, I had already finished before he could utter, “What are you doing?”
As Graham delights in saying, “God surely laughs with us, but more often than not, He’s laughing AT us!” Is that what I’ve been hearing when I sigh at the sight of another untied shoe? Of course, my shoe tying fixation created a perfect opportunity for God to amuse Himself. With a wry smile, He married me off to a wonderful man – who rarely ties his shoes. Loose ends don’t bother Randy at all. He walks happily about with his laces trailing and flopping. And my opinion on the matter? That doesn’t bother him either. He just smiles and walks on.
Truth be told, my commitment to a world where all the shoes were tied was a
manifestation of a not-so-helpful internal perspective. And because God delights in
being my Deliverer, He recently arranged a lot of loose ends in my life. Before this time, I was thoroughly convinced that I was trusting God with unresolved details. I’m pretty patient. I am a lover of freedom. After all, it’s in my Identity Statement. Or …did I mistake who I am for who I am becoming?
As I’ve journeyed through the past few months, I’ve been lovingly confronted with the limits on my freedom-giving. I enjoy walking with others through their process, but I’ve realized I’m thinking in terms of months while God is pursuing a journey that may take a couple of years! All of a sudden, my willingness to live in unresolved situations isn’t quite as magnanimous. It looks like freedom, but it isn’t really because it is on my terms and timetables. And it opens a wide door for pushing when God is resting.
“Follow Me” wasn’t just an instruction for fishermen making a career change. God is the pacesetter on this journey. Sometimes He accelerates us and we run with Him. Often, He offers graciously broad landscapes to explore at our own pace. No matter which it is, my role is only do what He is doing, when He is doing it.
It is not my job to tie up the loose ends of my own life or the lives of my friends. God is quite content to let loose laces fly in the winds of freedom. He’s not concerned about walking forward with unresolved situations – and He’s graciously given me 28 years of daily experience with Randy – who has never tripped once, not once, in his thousands of steps with untied shoes.
I’ve lost count of how many times or the number of ways Graham has expressed, “God isn’t trying to change us half as much as we are trying to change ourselves” (or others). Life has given me several opportunities to discover this truth again – and for Graham to invent a few more gracious ways to remind me of God’s heart on this matter.
But I’ve noticed that his way of reminding always leaves the laces in my hands… to tie or not. He remains at peace while I run about trying to read the end of the story today. His permission to learn how God sees loose ends is building a greater understanding that the Father is the only one that sees the beginning from the end and He can be trusted. He hasn’t tripped up yet – and He won’t.
So be at rest. Leave everyone to tie their own laces and enjoy walking beside each other, even while the loose ends trail along.