Nita Gilger is the minister for congregational care at University Christian Church, Ft. Worth, Texas, and a frequent contributor to Open Horizons Magazine for Process Theology.
It was not finished but it floated. It was almost ready but not quite. I had offered to help sand and put on the last coat of epoxy on this treasured wood strip canoe that my husband was building in our garage. It was a nice day. The wind had died down a bit and was a good time to put the final touches on. My boat buddy was so very close to finishing this masterpiece. I mean really! A couple of coats, the outside gunnels, seats, and a few other things like brass guards on the bow and stern etc. and it would be complete. But to my great surprise, in came my master boat builder to announce he was taking the canoe down to the boat ramp in our neighborhood to test it out in the lake. Seriously? It was SOOO close to being done, completely protected, and ready for launch. What of all the talk of a launch party and the building excitement of seeing that first moment when this work of art touched the water for the very first time? Why change the plan now?
When I was asked for my help to lift the canoe to the top of our ATV so it could be tied down for the move to the water, I was resistant. I wanted to argue and advise but I knew that would not be a welcomed or accepted approach from me. So, I gutted it up and sealed my lips and helped secure the canoe to take to the lakeshore. Initially, I decided not to go to the water. I just knew this was a bad idea and I did not want to witness the impending possible difficulties. I stayed home for a while but eventually decided I should go check. When I got to the water’s edge, this is what I saw. I witnessed my husband gently rowing the canoe around the slough and beaming happily at his great success. It turns out he was testing to check the balance and maneuverability before installing the seats and other components. There was a method to this madness and a scientific quest to make proper adjustments and decisions. No harm was done to the canoe or the canoer. Both were sea worthy and all was well. My angst was completely unnecessary and wasted effort. There was merit and purpose in the testing time of the canoe’s in-between state. In short, I learned that I need to be more careful of assigning judgment to things I don’t understand.
Now, the canoe is back in the garage awaiting the final finishing touches. We are almost there, but not quite. The word quite has to do with degree. It can mean to the greatest extent; a little; moderately but not very; or it can mean very, totally or completely. For instance, I could say my husband was quite right to make this decision. Or I could say, it seemed to me the canoe was not quite ready. English words are so confusing, aren’t they?
Life is full of ‘not quite moments’– those ‘almost there’ kind of moments. Such was the case for the canoe builder who was quite right to test out the canoe. I thought it was too soon; too risky; and unwise but it turns out I was wrong and too hesitant. The master craftsman’s boldness and scientific, artisan’s mind was far more attuned to what was needed than my cautious mind. I had “the plan” in my mind and now it was all topsy turvy which gave me great pause.
What we choose to do with the ‘almost but not quite moments’ can be somewhat critical in our decision-making and living. If I push too soon and become impatient, I can make costly mistakes. If I almost decide but hold back too long, I can miss the mark and certain opportunities. I hope that I can have the wisdom to do just the right thing but sometimes those best, seemingly right decisions are elusive. In such times, it behooves me to pray for wisdom, wait, suspend my judgments, and be open to what is possible. In those uncertain, ‘not quite’ times, I would do best to live in expectancy with fewer expectations. Life can be most instructive during those times. Much time and hard work has been given to this beautiful wood strip canoe. It is work of art to behold. In the process of it all, I have seen perseverance, talent, frustration, and waiting periods that tried patience and delayed completion. But it is worth all the effort. It is creativity and possibility in motion. It is life.