The deadline for the Lenten Devotional looms. The editors are EXPECTing my submission. But inspiration just won’t come. That’s the thing about inspiration…you just can’t force it. In fact, the harder I try, the less of it I seem to have.
Still, it doesn’t seem right to just sit here. Waiting. As if a lightning bolt is going to descend and write itself upon my paper in perfect insights, with perfect grammar and legible penmanship. There are plenty of sitters out there. Waiting. I am not good at either.
I need to DO something to hurry the inspiration along! I cut and paste a few verses of my chosen scripture (Song of Songs 2:8-13) onto the computer screen. A few different translations. Why not? I pour over them. Read and re-read. I take notes, look for connections, let my wander to visual imagery. I respond to the verses – in writing! – but to no avail. Everything lies flat upon the page. A day passes. Another. The deadline is mere days away.
And then suddenly a phrase enters my mind: No really, I love you. And I begin…”A man I love side-stepped death.” The scripture sends an image of lattice-work and the loved one calling. An image of the mullions on my very own windows. The lover looks in. I look out. What do I see? What would another see who stood here? Do they hear Him saying, “No really, I love you”?
The experience is powerfully crafting the writing as I wait on the images. Sitting and waiting, here I am after all. But the waiting is expectant. I am the fielder and it is the fly ball. I have heard the crack of the bat. I’ve got a line on it as it soars high in the sky. I try to gauge its descent, tending first right and then a bit left. I see it beginning to drop. I reach out my hand and open my glove wide. It is coming; I am ready to catch it.
Fielding inspiration when it falls is not easy. It takes practice and preparation. One must be ready. But sometimes the ball seems forever in the coming down. Those editors, after all, are waiting.
I type the last and hit submit. Then my friend emails to share that her dearest childhood friend had just succumbed to cancer. It was a long battle, but she still is not sure whether the departed came to know how much God loved her during her lifetime. Surely a God of mercy understands.
This is when I realize that the piece I had written was intended for a different deadline. It was meant to comfort a grieving friend and landed right on time.
My job is simply to settle under the fly ball of grace and catch inspiration as it comes down. Then, to prepare for the next. Kind of ridiculous to think I could force the ball to fall faster into my glove.
How hard could it to be get 21 straight batters? I’ve already got twelve outs. Four scoreless innings. Not only scoreless, but hitless. Not only hitless, but walkless and errorless, too. Wow, I have a perfect game going through 4 innings. Bear down. Work hard. Make every pitch count.
Then, I hang that curve ball right over the middle of the plate. I knew it the second it left my hand. Not the zip. Not the rotation. Not the spot that I intended. And there goes my perfect game, sailing right over the center field fence.
I’ve never pitched in the big leagues, but that’s how I imagine it when a pitcher has a perfect game going. Nothing remarkable in the first couple innings, but when the outs are recorded and as the scoreboard signifies the 3 ups, 3 downs, the pressure must build. Don’t blow it!
That’s what this purple band felt like last weekend. I had a perfect game going. Had tallied a number of days in a row. Feeling pretty daggone proud of just how perfect the game was that I was pitching. Also, the pressure was building. Don’t blow it now.
Oh, there had been a couple of questionable calls, but the perfect game was still intact. Until the soccer game. Caught me totally off guard. I mean, for crying out loud, I have coached for years, worked with athletes. My daughters are all certified referees. But “Geez! That ball was off white!!”
And there it was. The complaint. And the band switch, made even more humiliating by the pouring rain and the elasticized sleeve of my jacket on the wrist of the hand holding the umbrella. But that’s not the worst part. Once I had blown my perfect game, the motivation to maintain my streak had vanished. Why not toss in a few more comments now that you’ve already blown it?
Oh, little purple band of mine. You are an illusive perfect game.
So yep, I’m back on the mound again. Got my defenses up, especially in the danger zones. We’ve got the scouting report on the other team. We adjust accordingly for the lefty who usually pulls it or the righty who hits to the opposite field. I’m pretty sure I won’t strike out every batter. But I’ve got a capable defense behind me. And knowing that makes me a better pitcher.
What’s 21 straight batters? Ugh. That seemed so much easier in the dugout before the game. Before the world came to bat, dedicated to defeating my best attempts. I am better than this. Better than them. Perhaps a bit of rosin and a pause before the windup. We can do this. Batter up!
There’s a picture in my high school year book, senior year, of me connecting bat to softball. I am recorded for the ages in my blue and white Sherwood Warriors uniform, applying a mighty swing. The funny thing is, I am not looking at the ball. I am looking off into center field where I hope to hit it. The caption reads, “Wendy Rilling taps ball in front of plate.”
Yep. I think I beat that one out for a single, but it was not one of my better at bats. In fact, by high school, I didn’t have “the feel” for hitting like I did when I was a bit younger. Curiously, this photo probably holds the answer to why…I was trying to hit by feel, not by sight.
I guess I have always been kinesthetic, probably made that way. But I wonder how often this prohibits me from really succeeding. What if I truly attended to the thing I was doing? If I trained my eyes on the one thing in my hands. And wasn’t so often looking into the distance to see what might become of my effort. What if I just gave the day its day? the moment its moment?
Two hands and both eyes trained on what the Lord requires of me right now.
I know the Bible says we’re supposed to walk by faith and not sight, but blind faith – at least for me – is not usually a good combination.