When the kids were young – 8 and 10 years old, or something like that – we went to the beach, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, as we often did.
There is a very high sand dune on this barrier island that is ideal for hang gliding and kite flying. Amazing breezes that lift and move, and breathtaking, unobstructed views of the ocean and bay.
In my mind I had anticipated, expected, an amazing day of kite flying for the four of us, creating this perfect memory that we could look back on and sigh with familial delight. A memory that the kids would want to create with their own families some day.
But that was not to be.
The perfect memory got all tangled. The kids didn’t pay attention to the kite strings. My husband bolloxed up the tail of one kite. The resulting spider web of strings and tails flew about 10 feet high before it crashed down in a tangled heap halfway down the steamy hot dune.
As I glared down at the hairball of kite string, a hundred colorful kites flew above me, mocking me with their long, wagging tails, anchored by their perfect little families holding their perfect untangled strings, taut and straight in the wind.
Dang it! We will make that perfect memory.
So, I stomped – as much as you can stomp in a foot of loose sand on a steep incline, more like I slid down the dune – determined to untangle them and get them flying again. I did not accomplish anything more than getting sweatier than I already was.
I replicate that afternoon in so many ways in my life, pulling and tugging at tangles that will never de-tangle, that will always twine around me. I want that perfect memory of untangling the mess, smoothing it all out.
But God doesn’t really care one way or the other sometimes – whether we tangle, or de-tangle, whether we smooth it out or ruffle it all up even more. He just wants us to look at him. He wants us to have joy in him no matter what. Not to live wrapped in the windblown strings but sitting on the dune, tangles at our feet, looking at one of the most magnificent views that he created. For us.
Joy. It has nothing to do with soaring above it all. It has to do with sitting with the tangles, and thanking him in spite of them. Just sitting, joyfully. In the mess.
My kids, now adults, do indeed remember that day. Fondly. Laughing about their crazy mom. And, for them, it is a joy-filled, perfect memory.