“So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another: ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow him to live.’ But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”
How quickly I assume I can attach meaning to the events that unfold around me. How easily I decide ‘I know what this means.’ How strongly I believe I can piece together their purpose, their significance, if I only think about it long enough and hard enough. How important it seems to make sense of things.
But the natives of Malta were wrong.
Being bit by a snake apparently does not always mean you are a murderer. And often, as satisfied as I feel when I think I have nailed down the meaning of things…I am wrong, too.
It makes me wonder as I think back through the years to all the meaning and significance I found learning to be independent and single. I grew deeper in my relationship with you, Lord, and that was good! But what other conclusions did I come away with?
When we are dumped or bitten by a snake, we feel we have to know why. But many of the why’s I came up with were wrong.
I don’t need anyone.
I’m better off undistracted.
I’m not marriage material.
Anyone else I get close to will just decide they don’t want me either.
Men can’t be trusted.
Better to invest in “safe” relationships.
I have a purpose I must fulfill alone.
One after the other, they roll off my pen: assumptions. Some I’ve never even thought to challenge. Until I teasingly (but semi-seriously) asked another pilot wife the other day how she felt about her “role or lack thereof.”
She glowed. She told me how important she thought her husband’s training was; how proud she was of him; how proud she was to be able to help. She said her struggle was finding too much of her identity in her husband and his calling, not feeling like she didn’t fit into it.
And so I started trying to understand why this has been harder for me. I, too, once felt that desire to be part of man’s life, wherever he went, whatever he did; just desperate to be with him.
But the snakebite stung and I tried to figure out why, and slowly, I decided it had been stupid to feel that way.
I reasoned that it had been short-sighted to limit my goals and my purpose to joining a man and having a family. I sorted out that my pain must have been my own fault, because I had let myself need him so badly; and I determined that I would never put myself in that position again. I would forge my own calling. I could not have a husband and a family, so I would just have to figure something else out that was equally as meaningful; something that being dumped couldn’t take away.
Damage was done when my heart was dangled and dropped off a cliff that day. But more damage was done when I obsessed with understanding why.
Paul could have heard the native’s concerns and become paranoid that he was going to die and gone into all sorts of ruin, just when he had become such a voice of hope to the crew. But he shook the snake off into the fire and no harm came to him. He did not worry, and he did not need to.
Sometimes, you get bit just because there’s a snake there, not because the universe is dealing out justice. But you do harm when you interpret things that way, especially to your own heart.
I am a native of Malta, and I have tried to make sense of things when it would have been better to just trust you; to decide I didn’t have to establish a reason, I could just ask for help getting through it.
“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”
“How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
So here I am, seven years later, recognizing that part of my ongoing struggle is that, in learning to be part of someone else’s calling, I was feeling that I had lost mine. But if I could go back seven years, to the girl that was desperate to fall in love, to marry, to belong to someone, to follow him anywhere, to be loved and cherished and wanted, and begged for someone who would see her that way…I might realize I have not lost my calling.
I do not have to scrape out my own niche or defend that I have some separate, equally important purpose. Together, you have led us. Together we are here, and this calling belongs to us both.
An old calling I stuffed away has resurfaced and it can hold all the passion and purpose I thought I had finally reclaimed in singlehood, if I let it.
If I will decide it is not bad to need. It is not bad to trust. It is not bad to risk.
It is not even bad to hurt. It is evidence of life, of growth, of stepping out.
Hurt is part of passion; but so is thrill, so is hope. I can’t have the high points without risking pain. But you have made it so that pain does not end us. It only shapes us; and it can shape us for the better if we put it in your hands and find meaning in you-instead of trying to translate all the details of an impossibly complicated universe, and chasing a desperation that says I must understand them all to be okay.
I don’t understand all the “why’s.” But I can trust you. I can trust that in your hands, what I have gone through is not for nothing.
I can shake off the snake, blink through the smart of the snake bite, refuse to worry about why, and walk forward. Following, watching you, deciding I don’t have to conduct a side investigation where I figure out everything on my own; that it is okay not to have the answers sometimes.
Content with some mystery, because whatever you’re doing,