Over the dressing table, I look out my round bedroom window and assess the lay of the land down below. Do I wear a coat, jacket, or a sweater on the walk to church this morning? Small questions loom with large consequences if I discern from a pedestrian wrong.
Eye level with a million tiny buds clinging to stark tree branches, I notice several have burst open overnight, forming papery white cups fluttering with exhales of wind. At trunk level, a young woman walks into a fan of sunlight while holding an ironing board through the sling of her arm and next to her hip, as if she is carrying a surf board to a concrete beach. A halo of golden strands sway as she walks down the pavement. She is wearing a light jacket.
A man passes by in a zipped puffy coat. A girl saunters across the street in short sleeves, a plaid shirt tied around her waist. We are welcoming spring but she is fickle, not easily pinned down.
From my phone, I open the weather app, convert 9oC to 48oF. Sunshine with late showers predicted. No wool socks or boots required. Flats, bare ankles, and a trench coat over layers should keep me warm enough, I assess.
In the seaside village where we last lived before London, this temperature would be translated as quite cold. Perspective, I’m finding, is subjective.
I pad downstairs into the kitchen and read digital numbers on the microwave 09:38. Converting begins at 13:00, my mind can rest for a few more hours.
Empty glass bottles on the kitchen counter usually contain filtered water but they’ve remained empty for the entire week. Cold water from the tap is like spring but hot water is instantaneously trustworthy. I flip the tea kettle on and wait until the rev becomes a continuous purr.
I walk to church alone, past rows of white facades, bay windows, and painted doors thinking about my daughter and the ocean that separates us. She will work on Easter instead of sitting beside us in a new dress. My children’s pastel baskets and fake green grass are packed in a box stored in a concrete room lit by a fluorescent light bulb in South Carolina.
“I am fashioning her into a beautiful pearl, but all you can see from your vantage point is the shell of the oyster,” a friend encourages me with inspired words a few days earlier. After we bow our heads, close our eyes, and wait for God to speak on my daughter’s behalf.
Pearls are created by accident; did you know that?
An irritant causing discomfort in the shell of an oyster engages a defense mechanism for protection and comfort in the way of secretions, a smooth hard crystalline substance called nacre. Nacre, I find out from the Google, is layer upon layer of millions of microscopic crystals, each aligned so perfectly that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the other. A tapestry of light and color the mind of man cannot reproduce.
The process of creating a pearl isn’t quick, it takes a few years.
Waiting is often like the process of an oyster creating a pearl. What begins as an irritant becomes a cocoon of Light, so beautiful you cannot begin to assign value to the pain and discomfort you endured when you look back.
By the time I reach the steps of the church, I am perspiring so I peel off my trench coat. Greeted by hugs and kisses on both cheeks, cards placed in my palms, I hold up one finger and rush to the front row. Drape coat and purse over a chair next to the one holding H’s sermon notes when I am taken off guard by what I see.
A vagrant pearl lies on the floor in front of my chair. Possibly a broken necklace? I pick it up, roll it between two fingers and push it gently down to the bottom of my coat pocket.
“As it always is with leaving home, it is the details that displace us,” writes Anthony Doerr in Four Seasons in Rome. The details, when I pay attention to them, remind me of the nearness of God when I feel He is far off.
Small questions loom with large consequences if I discern the mind of God wrong; if I assume waiting requires me to act instead of receiving God’s great love.
Have you ever translated a waiting period as God’s great kindness revealing His deep love?