I bought a large notebook to keep as a bit of a journal and to do some rough drafts of writing. To my dismay, when I got home I discovered that it was an unlined journal.
Now, for most people, that wouldn’t be an issue. But, for me, it is. I need order. And unlined pages simply do not provide the order that I need. Without guiding lines, I write at an angle, sloping down the page and, well, I just don’t like the way that it looks. It is messy and a mess and I quickly walk away from it.
So, I set about doing something about it.
I made lines. A sheet of paper that slips behind the page that I’m writing on to give me guiding lines. My writing is straight and smooth, and it is evenly spaced and just...clean.
Sometimes you just need to find a way to make sure that you get the order that you need.
Sometimes you just need to find a way to line the unlined.
Life is chaos. That’s a simple fact. Nothing ever goes according to plan, and there’s simply no guidebook to tell us how and where to go. But go forward we must.
I’m finding that especially true in my life right now. A year ago, my oldest child was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. The diagnosis, while heartbreaking in so many ways, was a relief, as it gave us answers and a new direction to follow. Metaphorically, we put away the old book that we were operating under, and opened a new one.
But the new book doesn’t have any lines. In one of our first meetings with his full IEP team at his school, the Occupational Therapist looked at us and said, “Here’s what I’ve learned, when you’ve met one kid with Autism, you’ve met one kid with Autism.” What she meant is that, while there are similarities and tendencies, Autism is expressed and lived out differently with each person. Which means that there is no one game plan that works for every person. So, it’s a matter of trial and error and figuring it out as we go.
We have a book, we have pages, we have ideas about what could be on those pages, but there are no lines.
Which means we have to figure out how to line the unlined. To create order where there is chaos, to give ourselves direction and guidance where there is very little, and to provide needed structure and balance for our beloved son so that he can develop and grow to be the best version of himself possible.
It’s terrifying, and it’s frustrating. Because we don’t know what we’re doing, and we never know if we’re doing the right thing.
But it’s wonderful and beautiful, because we get to let go of the expectations that we have placed on ourselves for what parenting looks like. We get to try new things and be new people and allow him to be the person that he is, not the person that the world would have him be. We, along with our son, with guidance from the professionals who are helping us, get to decide what those lines look like.
In the world of mathematics, which was my background before heading into ministry, there is a field known as non-Euclidean geometry, in which lines (and shapes and...) don’t always exist the way that you traditionally think about them. In non-Euclidean geometry, for example, parallel lines can intersect and a triangle can have three right angles. It’s not wrong, it’s just a different way of thinking about lines. In fact, non-Euclidean geometry is incredibly important when working with non-planar surfaces, such as globes...non-Euclidean geometry comes into play when you’re talking about latitude and longitude. In this way, changing the way that you think about lines allows you to view things in a new way, and discover new and important things.
Sometimes, you need to find a way to line the unlined, but sometimes, too, you need to change the way you think about lines.
I continue to be terrified. But I am full of hope, because we are making new lines, together, and figuring out how to guide the writing on the page.