Ricky Bobby: “Don’t you remember what you taught me, Dad? If you ain’t first, you’re last…”
Reese Bobby: “Ricky, I got that off a bumper sticker! And it doesn’t even make any sense. You could be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Heck… you could even be 5th !”
Ricky Bobby: “What are you talking about? I lived my whole life based on that. Well, now what am I supposed to do?”
Reese Bobby: “Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Good luck to you, son.”
I’m not even a little bit ashamed to say that this movie, Talladega Nights, with all of its Will Farrell hijinks and humor is one of my very favorites. Don’t even get me started on the dinner prayer. That will have to be for a future post…
But this conversation popped into my head the other day after my husband quoted something similar to me.
“If you ain’t growing, you’re dying.”
He said it to me in terms of jobs and education, but it really got me thinking. Things really aren’t that black and white. There’s a whole lot of in-between. And it can get pretty uncomfortable in that undefined, gray place.
I am 100% guilty of being very uncomfortable in this space. But ironically, In my creative life- this is actually where I thrive. When things are not defined, the finish line is slightly blurry, and you have to dig deep and trust your instincts to make it to the end product. But in my personal life? I’m pitiful. I have as much bandwidth to stay the course in unknown territory as a sugared-up Kindergartener on a merry-go-round.
I only recently realized this- and interestingly enough- it had nothing to do with my personal life. I killed a plant.
Yes, I killed my most prized of plants- a brand new, huge Rhododendron bush. I was so proud of it when I planted it. I talked to it every day as I walked by, pointed out to the girls every new little bud growing and nurtured it to its full, bountiful, beautiful bloom late Summer. But as the Fall and early Winter came, it looked awful. Not typical off-season plant status… just plain awful. I tried talking to it and pulling off the dead stuff, but it just got worse. Therefore, I did what any nature lover would do- I took a huge shovel and yanked it out of the ground.
I felt very good about putting my poor bush out of its misery and told myself over and over that it was in a better place. A nursery high in the sky. Until the day I paid attention to the house by the park. With its rows and rows of dreadful looking Rhododendrons. Oh, no, I thought to myself. What have I done? And sure enough, when early Spring of the following year came- those rows and rows of dreadful bushes were popping out sweet little buds. Everywhere. Originally, I really did feel like they were taunting me. Reminding me of my complete lack of faith in the process that needed to happen within this living thing. But then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing to be reminded of.
Now, what does all of this have to do with anything? I find myself asking the same thing as I’m sitting here typing, but I promise- I had a point.
For a little while, it seems both Ricky Bobby and I had a similar outlook. “If it ain’t growing, it’s dying…” But the truth of it is, there was a LOT going on in the life of that beautiful plant that just couldn’t be seen. It wasn’t quite growth, but it was far from death.
Have you experienced this in life? Possibly during this past year? With all of its challenges, hiccups, strains and detours? I certainly have.
Every Easter, I am reminded of the ultimate act of trust in the unseen. Can you imagine what was going on in the hearts and minds of the disciples and those who loved Jesus during the last week of His life? Sure, he gave plenty of warning and foretelling about what was to come- but when the bleakness and darkness of Good Friday was in full effect, it must have been near impossible to stay the course and fully rely on the promises once heard. But three LONG days later, everything made sense. And we can use this in our own doubting troubles that plague us.
When things don’t add up, when things aren’t quite moving the direction you’d thought, or when things seem to have come to a complete stop- remember the promises. Much is being worked out in the quiet, dark, and still; that gray in-between. Looking back at my own life, I happen to believe this is where God’s creativity deeply thrives. He’s asking us to trust and hold on just a bit longer. And meanwhile, while the waiting is hard, imagine what unknown greatness God might have in store for you on the other side.