When water and worms emerge on Chicago sidewalks after April rains, walking is like a game of hopscotch. On a recent Monday morning, I half-stepped, half-jumped my way to get to my writing group.
Most Mondays, the walk comes after the marathon-sprint to get the kiddos dressed, fed, in the car, and on the way to school. Like most households – but not the ones on Facebook and Instagram – chaos reigns so the walk is a ritual for turning my attention to writing, and I don’t mind the puddles or the earthworms.
On this particular morning, the rain brought out something else, but I nearly missed them. I thought they were just rocks or pebbles kicked up by the storm. But, after the third hop-step, I looked more closely.
This is the rule of three that I learned in a conversation with a wise and generous pastor/friend/teacher. (Thank you Jessicah Krey Duckworth! See her lovely book, Wide Welcome: How the Unsettling Presence of Newcomers Can Save the Church.)
The rule of three is the reminder to watch when the world shows up in triplicates. When three co-workers (who hadn’t colluded on a plan) come in with the same concern, take note. When three students ask the same question, pay attention. When your walk is diverted for the third time by something on the sidewalk, look again.
Now, it’s not that individuals don’t deserve attention. The rule of three is simply a different kind of spiritual discipline. It demands not only paying attention but also noticing connections. It adds an element to poet Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life. She says: “Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell about it.” In order to follow the rule of three, you also have to feel and to draw connections.
Pay attention. See the patterns. Be astonished. Tell about it.
In this case, they were slugs. Not solid rocks as I expected but soft-bodied, slow-moving, ground-hugging slugs.
I discovered this because I had picked up a stick and poked them. Life with two young kiddos has taught the wisdom of a.) always having a good stick and b.) approaching unknown things outdoors with the aforementioned stick.
After the slug recovered from being poked by a stick, this little creature uncurled itself, grabbed the stick and inched forward – more like oozed forward. There we were. The slug was clinging to the stick above the sidewalk, and I was watching.
This is the image that has stayed with me. The clinging.
What a metaphor for those faith-filled days in between the land of milk and honey and the dark night of the soul. Clinging. I have a new sense of sluggish faith. It’s the kind that sticks and clings on. Not sure that I want to claim the slime-trail, though.
Sometimes faith and hope sound like such heady things, and the whole adventure gets boiled down to some deeply held convictions or a principle that can’t be argued away or an argument to assess. These are all things we do with our head. Important, life-giving things, but, aren’t faith and hope full-bodied adventures?
They seem to me to be more like the clinging of the slug with its whole self to my stick than assent to a belief or being convinced by an argument.
Let’s rewrite the metaphor of sluggish faith. It’s not a lukewarm, reluctant belief in something. Instead, let’s see it as the slug’s full-bodied clinging, a wholehearted hope that stretches – sometimes oozes – toward a new day.
Believe it or not, there’s another aspect of “Sluggish Faith” to share. Stay tuned for Act Two!
slug on stick: photo courtesy of JP Freethinker via Flickr