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Dove
May 31, 2024

Dove

6 min read

Though tiny, it brought great joy to my heart.

Last winter, the zipper pull tab on my coat broke, so I purchased another from an online artisan. It was fashioned out of beads, with a dove at its tip—Noah’s dove, to be exact, because she carried an olive branch in her beak. According to the story told in Genesis 8, this dove returned to Noah on the ark, carrying evidence that the flood waters had receded enough for him to begin thinking about exiting the vessel. Hope was on the horizon. New life would soon begin after being cooped up with all those animals in survival mode, waiting out the consequences of God’s judgment against evil.

Why was I so happy to receive back my dove? Because I had scarcely attached the new zipper pull tab to my coat when it had somehow fallen off and gotten lost. What remained of the pull tab looked depressing, because it now lacked the beautiful object that had graced it before. Whenever I looked at it, I did not see the pretty beads that remained, only the vital piece that was missing.

“Where did you find it?” I asked my husband, who had delivered it to me as we pulled out of the garage to go on a date night. Right there on the floor. This was his answer, an incredible phenomenon when you think about the detritus that collects in a garage. The dove is about the size of my thumbnail and could have easily been mistaken for trash. But my loved one had spied it and saved it, guessing that it was something of mine that I valued. By doing so he had shown yet again that I was someone he valued, someone he wanted to bless in the small things as well as the large.

My missing piece. This phrase has been reverberating in my head for the last several days so that I am beginning to hear a homonym arise out of it: my missing peace. Have I been living my life in such a way that cuts joy off at the knees, yanks it from its setting, steals it from my soul? Is Someone trying to tell me something as I stare out at the open window of my ark, searching the horizon for signs of better days to come?

I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be so. Why? Because I find I’ve been caught up in the little things of late, things that shouldn’t matter so much but do, because something in me wants life on this earth to be perfect though Jesus plainly said it never would be (John 16:33). Even longer than the missing piece/peace echo in my head, I’ve been hearing another: be content. As in, be content with what you have and how things are, instead of wasting your energy on things that ultimately don’t matter.

I’ll give you an example. While doing the laundry the other day, I accidentally spilled bleach on my brand-new jeans, creating a white patch at the knee. To anybody else it would hardly be noticeable, but every time I looked down at my leg it irked me more and more. Finally I couldn’t stand it an ordered a new pair of jeans, asking my mother (an expert seamstress) to make shorts out of the old pair (which, incidentally, she thought looked fine). When the new jeans come, am I really going to be happier? Or have I missed out on a chance to grow in my spirit by choosing not only the good way, but the excellent way (Phil. 1:10), the way that leads to increasing freedom instead of consternation?

Another example: I bought a pair of rubber-soled sandals that I didn’t really need, only to return them almost immediately because they didn’t feel right when I walked in them. I’m too embarrassed to tell you how many of these I already own. I just didn’t have that particular color in my repertoire. I think back to the days when I only owned two pairs—how simple my choices were every morning: this one or that. Now I am assigning categories to my collection, the ones that I wear outside the house and the ones I wear only inside. Those that go with this outfit, those that go with that. Although I am no Imelda Marcos, I have even realized that I must cut down on my footwear. How would I have fared as one of Jesus’ disciples, when he sent them out with orders not to carry a second cloak (Luke 9:3)?

Then there are the more serious scenarios, where I am challenged to make my peace with difficulties that don’t let up and that cast ominous shadows. My son turns twelve this summer, and is shooting up like a cornstalk on steroids. He’s also becoming more insistent on his own way, less willing to compromise or be redirected away from what he really wants. Puberty looms, and his language deficits clearly put him at a disadvantage in terms of expressing what he needs from others, what he wants to understand better in his environment.

My husband and I have been lamenting his inability to ask questions of us, so that we might explain, comfort, satisfy, guide—helping him along his way as parents of typical children do. What is most frustrating is that we do not know what he knows or doesn’t know about the larger world around him. Kids with autism are characterized as being inwardly focused. Thankfully, our child possesses a strong sense of curiosity that draws him out, but can we really be content with the critically limited, often one-way inroads he makes going forward? Will we ever truly accept—and be okay with—the huge gap that looms between him and his peers, the developmental delays that make us have to work so much harder to connect?

Then there’s the battle to belong ever more deeply to God, coming to terms with His choices for you as far as where life has actually landed you versus what you expected. On my worst days I agree with the voice that says I don’t have a “real” job involving matters of consequence. That my efforts to parent my son, take care of my whole family (including myself), and put out some relevant and inspiring content about Scripture and my personal journey don’t amount to much. On those days I tell myself that if only I had been positioned better, if I were mentally and emotionally stronger, that I could be someone that I can respect and rejoice in—not just someone that I have to live with because I have no other choice.

As I type these words, I am roasting off some vegetables to put into my son’s pasta marinara sauce. It is the one thing that he eats consistently, so I make my best effort to load it up with nutritious ingredients. I batch cook, so this ongoing saga of sauce-making repeats every six weeks or so. Yes, this labor of love matters inasmuch as it nourishes my son in the best way possible. But it feels inconsequential to me. I don’t even see that my predilection for variety in my shoes can be put to good use in the motley selection of ingredients that go into my son’s food. And that’s probably because I haven’t quite made my peace with my son’s narrow diet. How I envy the moms who can get their omnivorous kids to eat different things. I forget about the ones who struggle to feed their children healthfully or even feed them enough.

Is discontentment our natural state if certain circumstances define our lives? Having a special needs child, a disability, a consistent lack of resources, a deluge of troubles that has us cooped up and immobilized, charged with taking care of countless others. Surely it is not good to stay in such a state. Surely those made in God’s image must have some say in exploring whether it’s time to make a change—to exit their current habitat or at least transform how they think about it.

When the people in Nehemiah’s time completed the wall they were building to defend their city, he ordered them to celebrate, even if the reading of the Scriptures that followed thereafter made them lament how far they had strayed from God’s ways:

“Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

(Neh. 8:10)

I wonder if the wall-builders felt like they faced an impossible task during their initial labors. I wonder if the reading of the Scriptures made them want to throw up their hands in weariness and despair—shut the ark window, so to speak, and forget about the dove ever coming back. Nehemiah had to order—order—them to rejoice and not miss out on the good thing going on in their lives. Using them as His instruments, God had brought a formidable task to completion and life would never be the same. They mattered. Even if they had “just” been hauling stone and cement around for what must have seemed like an endless tour of duty, they had mattered.

Joy is the key to finding strength, finding the missing peace which you may be lacking. I don’t know how better to handle this truth than to ask for it from God, earnestly, consistently. And as we do this, to remain on the lookout for the shadow of wings above us that may signal the dawning of a new hope on our horizon. One we can’t imagine right now.

Go gently with yourself. Let yourself notice the small but significant things that return to you when you least expect it. More than likely, God may use a person to spy that little blessing on the garage floor. Take note of that too and give thanks for those whom He puts around you to help you and bless you when and where you most need it. We tend to take these others for granted when we get tired and discouraged.

 

O Lord

Throw open the window

That overlooks the endless sea

Give us the courage

To let loose the bird

Who may return to us

With missing peace

Help us bear up

Under heavy loads

That life has dealt us

Not taking for granted

Those that stick close

No matter what

For they reflect

What You are like

In every season

Amen