When I was a kid, I remember using bungee cords to keep the cabinets in our bus from flying open when we traveled. Bright yellow and blue cords were tied across the cabinets like a woven band. Even the bus handle had one–red, I think. Or maybe it was black.
Inevitably, as the bus dipped and shifted during a turn, mugs and plates rattled the cabinet doors, books flew off beds, and the refrigerator groaned and creaked.
Once the refrigerator door actually banged open after a sharp curve, spewing containers of food and other items. Leftovers collided with vegetables and condiments to concoct a kind of stew on the kitchen floor.
Whenever spills happened on the bus, my Dad usually made a proclamation.
“Why don’t we just open all the condiments and spread the ketchup and mustard all over the floor, too?” he’d thunder. “Let’s open all the containers and dump it all out!”
This was his way of expressing his frustration that items insisted on flying about. That there was no control over what fell down, be that a pile of books or dishes. (This was also part-Marshall humor.)
We never drank out of real glass cups when I was growing up. What was the point? They would probably shatter and end up on a pile in the middle of the floor after one sharp turn, anyway. Even our plates were plastic.
And it was a long time before I grasped that I did not have to tie bungee cords to the drawers on my bedroom dresser. Even after we moved into the log home where my parents now live, I remember one day standing at my bedroom door, and with a jolt realizing that my bedroom was not going to be cruising down the road. I could leave the pictures and mementos on the top of the dresser if I chose to.
Weird, I know. But bungee cords were a big part of my life as a kid. Making a vehicle travel-ready was an art. Packing, a virtue.
Lately, I have been thinking about those times when the bus took a sharp curve. It reminds me of my reactions to life since that time. I find it easy to slip back into the feeling that everything is crashing down around me, especially when I see a “turn” in my road. The vehicle I ride in shifts, the wheels gripping the pavement for all they are worth, the engine slowing for the turn, then revving. And my grip on the steering wheel tightens, knuckles white.
You cannot always see how sharp the curve ahead will be.
The road ahead could be covered in mist and fog or could bank steeply. Often the curve throws you to the side, causing you to slam into the door or the person next to you.
When my family moved to West Virginia in 2000, I remember learning to conquer the curves and twists on those back roads. I found that if I leaned into the curve as it approached (literally, turned my body toward the curve), I could maneuver the turn more easily. Leaning in–not shrinking back–made things easier. Bags, food, P.A. equipment, instruments–all of it would shift, but I was positioned to take the curve.
This does not mean each turn in my life today will be as easily maneuvered. But leaning toward the curve does make the adjustment easier. With each curve and twist in my road, I am reassured.
If I listen closely, I can hear the Lord murmur, “Lean in. I am here.”