When I was four years old, our family visited Bermuda. Memories of that trip include opaque blue water, a bald man being stung by an octopus, and a humbling experience involving snails.
The tide pool near our cottage became a perfect playground for an ocean-wary child and sheltered a small colony of snails. Mostly leaving the snails at peace, one day I used them to decorate a neighboring rock. After much labor, I completed a design resembling half star-half spiral and, with great excitement, ran off to fetch my Mom.
When we returned to the site, I was distraught: my carefully engineered design had … crawled away! I tried to explain to Mom what was, using my fingers with intensity to trace the now empty palette. My creation had vanished! Did Mom think me a fool? A liar? Had I no business messing with those snails? She, being an exquisite mother, softly replied, “Snails do what they must do.”
As is common with childhood lessons, this one, misunderstood, lodged in my subconscious.
At 26 and a new music teacher, my kindergarten class was seated on the floor in a perfect circle; a routine and calming formation for the start of each lesson. I turned my back to cue the music for the next activity. On the first note, the students scattered in great excitement. Suddenly that moment with the snails and the accompanying dark voices overcame me: “You are a fool! An imposter! You can’t control your class!”
The lesson remained misunderstood at age 26.
Now, a select few decades later, it becomes clear that my self-worth in both scenarios was cemented in the illusion of control. Control snails and children and you are powerful. Lose that control and you are a fool stumbling in the dark. Was this not the same illusion that caused Jacob to wake up with a broken hip after wrestling with the angel?
Luis reminds us often that we are a unit of God’s grace. We mess up, but it’s okay. God has our backs. Snails carry on with grace. We can, too.
– Lisa Koehler