A random sketch of a fly, and the difficult flight of faith.
Written, April 2006
Beyond the windowsill, Pikes Peak looms large, immovable, dusted with snow and pink light. On the windowsill, the same pink morning sun bathes a big clumsy black housefly. The pink makes me think it’s a she. “She” is flipped on her back, wings buzzing, frantically attempting to right herself. Legs kicking upright in the air like a big beetle. She is fighting to flip over and fly.

She is a pink fly, fat and boxy. And, she is very close to falling off the edge of the sill. Thrashing wings and kicking legs, then resting, she is teetering closer and closer to a large drop. I lean in closer and squint at her many large fly eyes, “What got you in this spot? How does a fly land on her back?” Poor judgment, I decide.

She rests, and then begins the flailing struggle again. Each panicked jolt moves her closer to a fall. She is trying to save herself from her own poor clumsy choice. And, from my comfortable chair- turned- box-seat, I begin to see that her only saving option is over the edge. She needs to quit struggling and fall. One helpless trusting freefall is her only hope. She can stay there, baking to a dry death in the beautiful pink sun, or she can choose to have faith over the falling edge. And the falling edge is her best option. Because clearly, when a fly falls, flight happens.

This is obvious from a box seat. But it’s less clear as a fly on a windowsill. And, as she struggles, I realize. I am that housefly; awkward and clumsy, such an unlikely candidate for flight.

That pink fly is a picture of my gawky upside-down struggle. She is a perfect picture of the struggle to live a Christ- Following faith.

I bought a lie early on that has continually landed me flailing on my back like the fly. It has to do with control. It has to do with inner personal strength, and being all put-together, and having the right answers, and doing the right things.

I used to think my faith needed to look like a walking advertisement of Christ-given self-sufficiency. But I’m starting to understand the lie for what it is. It’s not Christ Following. It’s controlling.

There is very little control in Following Jesus. There is no self-sufficiency. I’m only supposed to follow; no matter how bad I might look in the process. Sometimes I hate that part. But, once I had a little gathering that altered my perspective.

I am a recovering clothes slob. Every few days I have to conquer the pile of clothes that accumulates at the foot of my closet. If left unattended, over the course of a week or so, a long mound of clothes and laundry begins to spread like cancer. My husband and I have to trip and step over and around it to get into the bathroom. That’s the truth. But I don’t want everybody to know that.

I spent an hour or so of fast hustling to get my house clean and looking perfect, so, that I would seem perfect for the small group of women who arrived at my house. Everything was perfectly in order. This was a new group of women friends. I wanted them in a home setting because I wanted to start off right. There were all sorts of issues to worry about. And I wasn’t meant to be in charge of any of them. God set me straight.

Before the little meeting, every part of my house was spotless, except for the malignant mound of clothes around the corner in my bedroom. It was hidden from view. Nobody would need to use that bathroom. Nobody would have to climb over that laundry mountain. Nobody would know. Or so I thought.

One woman brought her 6 year old son. He wasn’t feeling well. When he realized that breakfast was coming back up for a visit, the guest bathroom was occupied. So my friend, and her son, in a panicked pre-vomit rush, ran into my room. My mound of clothes slowed the sick boy’s run. He threw- up all over my clothes.

There were many things to learn from that.

The bigger lesson wasn’t about laundry. It was about weakness exposed. I’m not supposed to control and eliminate the appearance of weakness. I came to realize later, of all the women that came that day, Nikki most needed to see that one very imperfect thing in my house. It matched her own weakness. She needed to know I don’t have it all together. She needed to know how I would love and accept her, even if she entered my vulnerable place and her children vomited there.

She needed to see that. I really didn’t want her to. I didn’t make a noble obedient choice. That choice wasn’t left to me. But God used that vulnerable vomiting moment to reveal something a better sort of love in me. And He began building a relationship with Nikki in a way I never could have known. In that, I unpeeled new understanding of letting go of control: I have to learn to follow, even when it feels like falling. Because, God reveals Himself powerfully in those vulnerable moments.

This way- of -being plays out in many harder ways; ways that feel like being upside down with our legs scrambling in the air; ways that feel like death; ways we have to choose daily. They are the sorts of choices that land me on my back and make my pride flail on the window sill like the gangly Pink Fly.

These are the crisis choices of surface struggle when the world chooses to loudly question God’s goodness. These are the circumstances which scream that God is not to be trusted. These are the moments when we steal back the control and flounder on our backs:

When a job is evaporating,
or suicide is beckoning,
or addiction returns,
or a child is abused,
or chronic illness goes unhealed,
or a spouse is betrayed,
or a house is burned to the ground…
Whatever the sin-cursed issue, in these moments of choice the most obvious need appears to be an all out surface struggle. But, something counter- intuitive must be chosen, and the fly has it.

Faith isn't lived by sight. Sometimes a spiritual life has to choose in opposition to physical evidence: even if it means looking foolish,
even if it all looks hopeless,
even if all my weaknesses are exposed in the process,
even if I end up with vomit on my clothes.
This beautiful Way is still Life, even when it feels like falling and dying.

I want to learn to embrace faith in God’s control. I want to quickly flip my flailing into graceful falling and trusting flight. I want Jesus to be evidenced in my upside-down-life on this right-side-up planet.

But fact is, I still buy the surface lie. I still see the physical world first. I still control. I still doubt. I still want to look good. And I certainly haven’t figured out how to embrace dying- to- self in a way that feels more like flight, and less like the clumsy pink fly on her back trying to right herself. It takes practice to be otherwise. It takes time to be transformed.

This brings me back to the window sill. I wish every daily choice were always as obvious as the fly’s struggle. From the box-seat, it is clear. But, she doesn’t see it. Even though that fly has 1000 eyes, her physical sight is of little value. She doesn’t see that she must choose a helpless freefall. She needs to skootch all the way to the edge of reason, and choose a blind leap of faith in order to fly again.

Maybe her surface struggle is a necessary means to knowing flight. And for me, maybe the physical struggles of this planet are the best access to truly seeing and knowing the one Saving God. I feel like that fly; because, a lived faith is often accompanied by a clumsy, falling, dying sensation. Like her, my best option, is usually to quit struggling, stop, trust, and just fall.

Or maybe she’s just a clumsy Pink Fly who found her way to the window’s edge, and flew away. And I’m making way too much of it all.

“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me, will save it.”
~ Jesus


Laura Parker said...

love it! i remember reading this piece last year when you wrote. love the real life story. the image of dying and following. it beckons me to remember the kingdom life and not just the preserve-myself life. thanks again. another publishable piece, my friend.