Looking Up: Sunroofs and God

We were driving to our local Mexican restaurant with the twins, listening to Purple Rain, when my husband opened up the sunroof of my minivan. I DID NOT KNOW THAT I HAD A SUNROOF. I had been driving my 2006 minivan for five long years and I had somehow missed that very important feature. It was like I suddenly got a convertible. I changed the song to Rolex so that I could twist my wrist outside of the sunroof while I sang, “I just want some ice on my wrist so I look better when I dance.”

I was laughing about this with a friend who asked me, “How did you not know that you had a sunroof all this time?” I told him that I’m usually keeping people alive and passing out snacks when I’m in my minivan.

“I guess you had no reason to look up,” he said.

It’s true: in my minivan and in my life, I rarely take the time to look up. I look out and ahead, which is good and right and keeps us all on track. It does mean, though, that I sometimes miss some pretty great things, like sunroofs, stars, wild geese and God.

When I was younger, I didn’t look up because I was always trying to make sure I was on the perfect path. I understood God’s will for me to be something I could figure out if I followed the right steps and went to the right school and chose the right career. I understood God’s plan for my life to be like a scavenger hunt. If I found one clue, it would help me figure out the next step. Finding the right next step or answer or place was everything. I experienced God as a vaguely displeased boss who withheld information until it was earned. It makes me sad now to remember my younger self scrambling to put the pieces together and make God proud of me.

Once I had a child of my own, everything changed. Almost immediately, I understood that my well-being would forever be tied to my daughter’s well-being. I was able to comprehend God’s vulnerability. I started to imagine God as a loving parent who wanted all of her children to experience grace and wholeness.

Gradually, I shifted away from this scavenger hunt mentality to more of a trail map system. I now trust that God does not have one right answer for me. I now see decisions in my life as hiking trail signs: I can go this way or I can go that way, but either way, God will be with me. This has been a huge shift for me spiritually. Even though I often get distracted and forget to look up, I know in my bones that God’s love is above and around us all. I now trust in a God who wants to show us beauty and goodness. I believe that God is excited for us to see the blessings that await us around each corner.

My four kids start school next week. This next month will be an intense time of looking at lists and schedules and calendars. I hope that we’ll also take some time as a family to look up. I hope that we’ll trust that God will be with us in all of our endeavors. I hope we’ll open our newly discovered sunroof and sing.

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