Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wheel alignments and tire rotations

Last Saturday, I took the minivan over to Good Year to have the wheels aligned and rotated. I felt the van pulling over to the right when I drove, so I knew it was time to have some work done. Just after 8 am, Steve and I drove the couple of miles to the repair shop and he took the keys inside and made all the arrangements. (Why did Steve take my keys inside? I was still in my pajama pants.) Less than two minutes later, out he came and off we went, back home. I was to return and pick up the newly aligned Sienna at 11:30 the same morning.

Back home, I did a workout, showered, had breakfast, read, wrote, cleaned the house, did the laundry, the usual Saturday morning activities. At 11 am, Kristiana and I set out for the car repair place on foot. On their return trip from Daniel's morning baseball practice, Steve and Daniel were supposed to meet us somewhere along the way, pick us up, and drive us the rest of the way. It was a glorious morning, so we walked along with both smiles and sunglasses on our faces.

Sure enough, about one-third of the way there, we caught sight of my husband's Toyota Camry. They dropped us off at Good Year on their way to Daniel's basketball game. (Have I ever mentioned Daniel's obsession with sports?) Not only did the kind gentlemen align and rotate the wheels, but they also replaced two of the tires. Apparently, I had waited too long to get the work done and the two front tires had suffered irreparable damage. $290 later and we were on our way. No more pulling off to the right or to the left. No more worry about whether or not I might lose control of the wheels altogether. The new tires gripped the road with new determination. All was well. All was back as it ought to be.

I remember going with a friend to the chiropractor many years ago. After considerable pressure from my friend, I went into the room with him as the "alignment" was being done. Snap, crack, pop, pull, turn, twist - horrible sounds. Horrible angles. Within a few minutes - which felt more like an hour to me - my friend sat up on the table and declared himself realigned; the pain was gone, and all was well.

I've gotta admit that I like the Good Year way of aligning things a lot better than the chiropractor way. Drop off the unaligned parts. Come back in a few hours. Pay the bill. Drive away. No odd sounds, no frightful twists and turns. Just leave the hard work, the heavy lifting to the folks who know what they are doing. Why should I have to hang around?

In my life, however, the most important, to most valuable realignments require my presence. When I cracked my tail bone as a senior in college and suffered with subsequent back spasms, I had to rest. I couldn't leave my back in the bed in my dorm room or on the couch in the TV room and go about my regular business with hopes of returning later to a healed and restored lower spine. When I pulled my hamstrings (repeatedly) as a track athlete in high school and college, I had to stop running for a while. I had to go to the trainer for heat treatments, stretching, weight lifting, and a gradual recovery. I couldn't leave my hind parts in the training room and return hours later to strap them back on and head out to the track. I had to involve the whole package, my whole body in the healing process.

The same is true for my mind and spirit. When I feel my thoughts pulling to one side, to one emotion, to one person, it's time for a realignment. When I feel my mind slipping from trust to fear, from calm to anxiety, from love to indifference, it's time for a rotation and realignment.

In order to do that, I take my mind on a journey back to the place where all was well and try to determine where I began to go off track. For example, late the past Sunday night, I found myself snapping at the children for minor infractions (who but a horribly unaligned person refers to her children's actions as "infractions"?). My husband could do nothing right (this same husband who encourages me to travel alone, to go out in the evenings and do a little shopping for and by myself. Again, how bad can such a husband be?). Suddenly, I wanted to get in the car and go for a long drive towards the beach. In Spain. So I sat at my desk, journal before me, pen in hand, and began to go back in time. How was it possible that such a wonderful day had suddenly turned so awful? Where and when had the tide began to turn in and rush over my head? It was Maya. The dog. She had peed in the house. She had been doing so well, no accidents in weeks. And every time she has one, I feel like it's my fault somehow, like I had done something wrong. Irrational, I know. But there it was. There it is: a six pound dog had turned me against my family. It was definitely time for a realignment. Maya's tiny bladder is not my fault. The fact that we neglected to take her outside is not my fault.

Readjust. Realign. Relief.

This morning, I felt a cloud of fear settle in about six inches away from the roof of my heart. Fear of job loss and another move. Fear of gaining a tremendous amount of weight and not being able to lose it. Fear of losing friends to illness or death but having no way of knowing what was going on with them. Fear of violence against my children. Fear of war, hunger, famine, drought, tornado. I found myself in a fog of fear, unable to find a way out. I had turned on all the fog lights I had at my disposal, but the way was still impassable.

It took a while, but I figured out when these Carolina blue skies turned to slate gray. I've been hearing many stories of illness and death lately. A friend who lost her father to death a year or so ago, lost her mother earlier this week. My Spanish nephew, Alvaro, goes in tomorrow for his first cleft palate correction surgery. I still have heard no news about the family waiting months for a new job. A church friend who was deported from the US called me yesterday to fill me in on their new life in a country that has taken them in as refugees. I watched the Oprah Winfrey show on the leadership academy for girls that she opened in South Africa; the life stories of her newly adopted daughters are heart-breaking. More painful than all this was the realization, the remembering that lives are being claimed hourly by violence, war, death, disease, starvation, and natural disasters all around the world. There are many reasons to be captivated and paralyzed by fear.

About an hour after the fear fog settled over my spirit, my son, in his Bible memorization practice, spoke exactly the right verse into my life.

Romans 8:38-39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can and eventually will be separated from my husband and kids, by school, by college, by work, even by death. I can and probably will suffer from some natural disaster at some point; we are already being affected by an ongoing, albeit relatively mild drought here in the South. So much can go wrong. So much does go wrong in life.

But nothing can separate me from the love of the God who promises to be with me until the end of everything. The God of all comfort. The God of peace. The God of grace and mercy and compassion.

No horrible cracking sounds or unnatural twists of the spine or the spirit.
No credit card charges or checks to be written from my account.
This is a realignment and rotation of soul, of mind, and of thought
that cost me nothing. Nothing but trust. Nothing but faith.
But Christ's love for me cost Him everything.

Thanks be to God.

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