Thursday, January 19, 2017

The game of Scrabble and other hard places in life

An open evening stretched before us and instead of reading, finishing up laundry, and catching up on accumulated unread emails, my husband suggested a quick game of Scrabble. 

We dug out our box of National Park Scrabble, set up the board, and grabbed a handful of tiles, not knowing what random letters we would have to work with.  I placed my tiles upright on the tiny wooden stand.  I stared at the tiles.  I stared at the board.  How can these unrelated letters possibly make sense at all?

My brain froze in place.   My vocabulary was reduced to that of a toddler.

My initial few words were slow and monosyllabic.  On his third turn, when Bill chuckled, I knew I was in trouble.  He carefully set down on the board the word “sequoia.”  Where I saw separate little squares of wood,  Bill saw monumental words. Those seven letters of his were so strategically placed that he gained a whopping 48 points from that one word.  I was doomed.  He was on a roll.

As the game progressed, I realized that I was not playing Scrabble, but a despairing game of “If only…”  I didn’t play with what I had.  I was waiting for new letters to magically appear and come to me.  “If I only had an “N,” if only I had two “A’s,” if only I hadn’t used up my “B” on my last turn.  But in reality, with the tiles in front of me, I had many other words I COULD have composed.  

What can I do with what I have?  If anything I learned from my grandmother, that was it.  She modeled that for me in so many dimensions of her life. 

Throughout that same day, I had been praying about a difficult situation much deeper than a not-so-quick game of Scrabble.  As we retired to bed, I thought about that simple game, learning how to look for new patterns in the letters I had.   I prayed about my hard situation, “O LORD, show me Your way.   Help me to seek YOU in this.”

 I just lay there in the darkness, sleep playing yet another game of hide and seek.  I needed a nice long run to sort it out, to pray it through, to follow God into it, and as Scrabble reinforced—to look at my dilemma differently.

How am I approaching this tangle of letters in my life? This hard place? 

Fear says you have no other options.  There is no way out.  You are stuck.  You are already defeated.

But trusting God opens up a universe of possibilities.  How else can I see this?  God always has something far deeper going on.  

Look at what God has placed in front of you.  Seek Him through it. Sometimes the answer is not so obvious.  Follow Him into it, even by the thinnest scarlet thread, through impenetrable scrabbled letters where there appear to be no solutions at all, through the miry bog, one bend in the road after another, step by step, tile by tile.

And there is God, right before me after all.

When I arose this morning, I had a completely different mindset.  God did not lead me to a particular answer.  He is leading me to Himself.

And that changes everything.

And I will lead the blind
   in a way that they know not,
in paths that they have not known
            I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them
                            into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do,
     and I will not forsake them.
                   Isaiah 42. 16

A couple of days ago, I found this piece hidden on my computer, written ten months ago, unfiled and unposted, waiting as it were for the end of the story.  I struggled with that particular dilemma for about a year.  I had no idea at the time of that writing how it would be resolved, what would happen, how in the world I could make it through.  And indeed, God led me on paths I had not known, in ways I knew not, places I didn’t want to be, with a strength that was definitely not mine to claim.

And at the end of it, it was not that an answer appeared.  It was not that I was the hero with “sequoia” to my credit.  But God led me to a deeper place where “the answer” was irrelevant.  What mattered, as it always does, was my relationship with Him.

1 comment:

elizabeth heller said...

As usual… so timely and so comforting! Thank you for the wisdom!