This Ball of String Called Life

Mar 19, 2020

I am envious of the birds--their cheerful twitterings and joyful exclamations of spring. No knowledge of a global pandemic; an economic collapse; a medium-sized earthquake. Oblivious to the chaos, they have retained their normalcy in a way that I long for.

I listened to them this morning as I sat on the steps on the side of our house. Everything was still and peaceful except for their sweet and repetitive songs--little calls back and forth to one another.

Then two neighbors walked by. I caught only the briefest snatch of their conversation, but it included the words "social distancing." It is what is on everyone's lips right now. And mind. And heart.

I went back to listening to the birds. As with everything else, they missed the memo about social distancing. They were enjoying brunch together, but I was not invited.

My dad used to read a story to my brothers and me about a young man who found a ball of string (or perhaps it was given to him--the details are a bit fuzzy). This ball of string gave him the ability to jump forward in his life. All he had to do was give a little tug on the string--unwind the ball just a bit--and he could easily move past his current situation. The catch was that he couldn't go back. Once the string was pulled, it could not be rewound.

At first he was reluctant to pull the string. He seemed to sense the danger in it. But it was too tempting. If there was something he was looking forward to, he unwound it ever so gently so that he didn't have to wait. When his daughter became ill, he jerked it forward to free her of the pain. Sometimes he pulled the string too hard, and he lost more of his life than he intended to. Bit by bit, his life slipped away until the string was nearly gone.

If I had that ball of string right now, I don't know if I could resist the urge to give it a wee pull. The unknown is what is weighing on me right now. I have no idea how long this could go on for. Will my kids ever go back to school? Or church? Will we ever take another family vacation? What about soccer, gymnastics, chess club, play dates, shopping, the library, book club, concerts, plays, date nights, and the like? Will we ever go back to "normal"? Or is that what this is?

Of course, we were somewhat prepared for this, having said no to many things over the last six months because of Aaron's compromised immune system. But now we've taken it to the next level. Or maybe we're just finally feeling exactly what it's been like for Aaron for these many months.

I went on a short walk this afternoon. Despite it being the first day of spring, the weather was cool and wet. I loved it. As I walked, I meditated. I have been meditating almost every day since I took Brooke Snow's Christian meditation course at the beginning of the year. It has been so grounding for me, and the benefits have continued as I've practiced it during this uncertain time.

While I was walking, I tried to do one of the seeing meditations. I attempted to picture events of the future through a lens of gratitude as if they had already happened. This is a meditation I have quite enjoyed in the past as it is full of the hope that comes with thinking about your dreams.

But today, my mind met a brick wall. I went back to the aspirations of last week, and they seemed insignificant, even ridiculous. I no longer knew if they were possible or even practical in our new reality. Maybe I needed to readjust my thinking to fit into this new framework. But I didn't know what that looked like. I tried to see over the wall, but it was too high. I didn't have a magical ball of string in my pocket that could effortlessly move me forward to the next scene of my life. I yearned for a glimpse of the future, but the present pushed back against it.

My mind wouldn't give up though. I went back to the basics: I imagined myself recognizing God's hand in my life. I felt His love for me, and I opened myself up in gratitude to Him. I pictured a future of happy, healthy children. They were doing the activities they love. A smile crossed my face, and I began to feel light. With each thought, it became easier to think the next one.

Yesterday I read Chapter 21 of Luke. This chapter highlights some of the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and also the Second Coming. It makes mention of wars, commotions, earthquakes, pestilences, famines, and "fearful sights."  It is not exactly a pleasant chapter, and yet I came away from it feeling so much peace. The charge is given to "be not terrified" and "in your patience possess your souls." Both of these felt like timely reminders.

But it was verse 28 that especially caught my attention: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." The imagery was powerful: Look up. Lift up your head. Redemption is coming.

There are many things beyond my control right now. But I can look up and see the good in the world around me. I can lift up my head and get to work. I can acknowledge the redemption that comes.

I want to hold my ball of string carefully--not dwelling on the past or rushing into the future but taking the moments and lessons as they come and letting them shape me. I want to let the string unwind at its own pace without any help from me. I don't want to miss out on the magic of today because I was so concerned about avoiding every ugly, disappointing moment. 

A friend came over on Tuesday evening to help me prune my peach tree. (Don't worry, we were very careful to follow the necessary precautions for no contact.) She guided me through the process of snipping off twigs and cutting down branches. We opened up the middle so light can reach the inside of the tree. As we pruned, I took notice of the new buds decorating each branch.They were full and plump, right on the cusp of blossoming. It will happen any day now.

Spring is my favorite time of year. And this spring, we will miss out on a lot of the things I love about this season. But one thing we will not have to miss is the bringing forth of new life. It will happen whether we notice it or not. Like the birds announcing the arrival of spring, the trees and flowers will follow their predetermined course and make each new day a celebration.

I think I will enjoy it more this year than I ever have before. It is reminiscent of past springs while at the same time paving the way for a brighter future. And I am going to bask in it now.


  1. So uplifting. You have always been wise beyond your years. Thank you for your introspect.

  2. Amy! This is so, so beautiful! I'm trying hard to hold this unexpected string and treat it as a gift. I don't want to miss the magic that is wrapped up in these unique times. That verse 28 totally gave me chills. There is so much good on the horizon and so much good right now.


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