The Rat’s Nest

“Somewhere in all that mess must be story,” I thought, carefully pulling the brush through our grandson’s wet hair. It was classic, like perfectly teased under-layers of the bouffants of old: hidden, tangled, and a bear to straighten again. How had his hair arranged itself so magnificently? No surprise – no brushing results in the growing of snarls, birthing a rat’s nest in a few short days. A teachable moment had landed in my lap. Literally. A freshly bathed eight-year-old boy, hair dripping, hairbrush in hand, awaiting his doom . . .

“Where’s my hairbrush? Where’s my hairbrush? Where, oh where, oh where, oh where, oh where’s . . . my hairbrush?” The silly song Larry the Cucumber from Veggie Tales sings burst from my lips. Such a well loved song, so ridiculous but forever fun, for everyone knows cucumbers do not have hair! Or so we think. Perhaps cucumbers get rat’s nests, too. Their twining vines certainly suggest the possibility!

Carefully the process began – me holding drippy strands just so to counteract the downward brushing, while young boy hands held his head to soften the pulls. “Did that really hurt, or were you thinking it might?” No answer indicated it was time for him to do the brushing, learn how to tackle the snarly mess himself. And learn the ways of hairs.

It was a near-revelation to this scientifically and fact-minded boy that in the night, while one lies sleeping, hairs tangle with our turning and rolling, pushing blankets over our heads, burrowing into the covers. Then the tangles get more tangled when left a mess, to tangle even more. The building of a rat’s nest was an interesting concept to him, especially when applied to the back of his own head. The untangling was just as interesting. While pulling apart stubborn tangles gently so the brush could then push the belligerent knots down, down, down the locks of hair, then out, his interest peaked to learn that water helped slick up the process. Then the soothing feeling of a brush pulling through untangled hair, freely massaging the scalp without those awful pulls; and the victory of conquering the tangled mess himself. Throw in the joy of that close conversation of a boy and his grandmother sitting together, and you have a sweet communion at the end of a busy, rather tangly day.

It made me wonder about those tangles in our lives that we ignore as we race through life, focusing on what we want, without considering the basics: taking care of our body, our mind, our spirit, our work, our service to others. Putting these things in right priority usually results in less convoluted days, or if neglected might result in a tangled mess. Even when I seem to be doing my part, life might tangle suddenly on its own. Plans and expectations are twisted, challenged, even dealt an unsuspected death blow. And like that young child, maybe it seems too much to try to untangle ourselves, or we are too busy focused another direction.

I have found the untangling of my mind to be the greatest challenge, and relief, of all. When my thoughts are straight, everything else falls naturally into place, like a brush gliding through untangled hair. When the tangles inevitably come, I know where to find solace, and clear and untangled thinking once again.

Isaiah 42:16 (NKJV) is a promise of God’s grace in the untangling our lives: “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.”

Written from approximately 739-686 B.C. this section of the book of Isaiah is prophesying the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ, and God’s provision and grace in that process. He is the mighty de-tangler of our lives, no matter the mess we find ourselves in. Separating the tangles may be painful at times, yet the result is worth the patience and endurance. For through it all, we are held close in God’s lap, like my grandson in mine. If we are willing to come, in our drippy tangled mess to sit closely with our Abba (Father) God, we will find He has the most gentle of hands. And as He can see through the snarly mess when we can not, His wisdom and insights are always what each of us, persons-still-growing, need.

May the water of God’s Word, His conversation to us, flow through our tangles to help separate them, and release those things that have become bound. It matters not our age, or the problem, God is ever ready to help us become free again.

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