I blame The Cripple Creek Crusher.
Up until meeting him, I hadn’t noticed much of an issue with large crowds or feeling stuck. But, after having met him, I was never the same.
On a family vacation in 1988, my family crammed into a tiny mine shaft elevator of The World Famous Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour to descend one thousand feet below the surface to walk through a once-active gold mine. We, quite literally, walked the mine shaft, ducking when the rock protruded too far and too low for our heads, squeezing through tight spaces, all the while, ogling over the veins of gold still seen in the ground all around us.
And, while the experience was marked with a trepidation and slow-creeping anxiety from being so far below ground and the feeling of walls closing in because, at times, they actually were, it was the descent into the mine shaft that changed my mental anxiety forever.
The metal shaft, no bigger than a closet, held probably seven to ten people all crammed in together with no personal space to be seen. And, then The Cripple Creek Crusher stepped aboard. A large, burly man, The Cripple Creek Crusher, surely had another, legal name, but that’s how he introduced himself to us as he stepped onto the lift, smashing all of us together a little more. He was our tour guide and probably a good one, but I lost focus on the gold and started hyperventilating a bit. My 11-year-old face was full-on smashed up against The Cripple Creek Crusher’s back. Every other side of my person was touching someone else. There was very little air in the mine shaft elevator. I couldn’t get out. I could barely move. I was stuck.
The only solace I found was the movement of the elevator. The walls of the elevator were such that you could see the ground moving up as the elevator went down. We were moving, albeit slowly. So, while I was stuck in the elevator, crushed up against people with no air circulating, I could see that we were, in fact, moving. That slow movement is what kept me from succumbing to the fear and anxiety I was feeling.
I have this ability to plan things in my head in the exact way they should happen. I know what sequence things should go in and can anticipate the effect that comes after each cause. But, as we’re all aware, life doesn’t work that way. No matter what the sequence is in my head because I’m a believer in the one true God, life happens as dictated by Him which, consequently, is rarely how I have mentally prepared for things to happen.
And, what I’m learning about myself is that when things don’t go as planned, I can hang onto the truth that all is under God’s control for as long as I see movement. If I have to go too long in a waiting, unmoving period, I start to feel like I’m back in that tiny mineshaft, crammed up again The Cripple Creek Crusher with no air circulating. I can’t get out. I can barely move. I’m stuck.
The last time I saw my momma face to face was eight months ago. She was three weeks into her first round of chemo having been through surgery to remove all cancerous growths in the uterus. She was feeling the mild effects of the chemo – loss of appetite, nausea, lack of energy -and her hair was falling out at an unsettling rate. The Saturday before I left to fly home to Atlanta, Mom asked her hairdresser to shave her head so she’d not have to endure the inevitable total fallout that was coming. I boarded my plane on Sunday with my baldheaded momma standing next to my daddy, waving me off.
Eight months later, I arrived at the same gate, looking forward to spending some holiday time with them and my extended family, delighted and a little shocked to find that my momma had an inch or so of silver, curly hair all over her head. “Momma! Look at all your hair!”
We talk on the phone nearly every day. We Facetime, too. We’d talked about how her hair was growing in and how she’d decided a month ago not to wear a beanie or wig any longer. We talked about her two follow-up appointments to the cancer doctor since April that both showed zero regrowth and heralded good news all around. I knew she’d gone back to her water volleyball classes, had taken on the role of facilitator for a ladies Bible study at her church, and was, in general, feeling completely back to her old self, prior to her cancer diagnosis.
But, to see her hair growth. To see the way it curls like it’s never done before. To know she’s scheduled for a trim on Thursday. It hit differently.
It was the movement I needed to see that the world is still moving; that I’m not stuck. My waiting isn’t in vain and while time has started to feel like it’s standing still, it isn’t, at all. My momma’s hair is proof.
I can be a little self-centered sometimes. Besides being a character flaw that I pray about all the time, I live alone which lends itself to focusing on one’s self.
But, it seems to me that if we’ll just look outside of ourselves and our own life, move our eyes away from our own waiting and divinely-placed life pauses, through the grates of the tiny mine shaft elevator, we’ll see the movement of God’s hand. And, if we’ll hold on, even when we’re crammed up against everyone else in a tight space with no air circulating, watching for movement in other people’s lives when we can’t see it in our own, we might notice the veins of gold God has placed in rocky places to remind us that He’s there and is working everything out for the good of those of us who love Him.