SO... IT'S BEEN AWHILE.
I pray you are well.
I pray these months and the hardships they have held have brought you closer to Jesus.
I pray that as spring blooms dance on the wind and pop out from under snowbanks that you find a buoyancy kindled in your spirit.
There are quiet seasons – seasons that initially appear to be anything but quiet... days roaring and clamoring with distraction so that one must learn to stand and withstand while all inward reflection is stilled. But eventually the soul goes quiet and the spirit learns to listen. For me, this year has been a long, quiet season, full of wonderings with no time for ponderings, room just enough for simple trust.
I can't say I understand much. But then again, I'm finding understanding isn't the gold I've been mining for. It is trust – simple, childlike trust that I have longed for. And so, I lay you before you two poems, a parable and a promise – four, small bundles of imperfect words that I hope will point you to Him and remind you of His beauty, faithfulness and nearness.
potential triggers: no violence, no sexual content
A hemorrhage of hope
Seeping down down down down
Where unfurled dreams await
Sleeping down down down
thirsty soul drink deep
Steeping down down down
Inhale wonder’s perfume
Healing down down down
Faith dancing on wind
Reaping down down down
Rest now, hearts beat as one
Keeping down down down
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy," Jude 1:24
His keeping is a source of enduring rest for my flighty, fragile soul. The Word says He is ABLE to keep us – the broken, rebellious, hurting, stubborn humans that we are, bent in our ways yet yearning for something more – and present us blameless and with great joy!
Often when pressure comes, I find myself scraping at my best behavior for some kind of godly response to the hot mess around me. The result is, in a word – pitiful. I would have hoped by now I'd have been able to scrounge up something a bit more refined or, at the very least, diplomatic. Alas, I'm as ghastly and obstinate as ever.
But there is hope...
What if, when life gives us a squeeze, we drip His nature instead of our own? Could we be ok with having nothing even close to "godly" outside of an abiding, moment-by-moment connection with Him? I know it's a bit terrifying. But could we learn to accept the weakness and humility necessary to enter into a dependence on Him for the responses we desire?
If so, people will see Jesus.
Friend, I want to lean and rest on Him, don't you? Like Jacob on his staff at the end of his days, worshiping the God who wounded him, thus saving him from a life of leaning on his own strength and deceptive ways. I want to rest my hope, my future and my very self on the One Who overcame death and the trap of selfish desire to live wholly unto the Father. Is He not worthy to be trusted? Surely we can rest in His keeping.
Hope laps at the shore of possibility. Intimacy beckons from beyond, but there are giants in the land. The boat beneath me bobs as I skitter unsteady feet across the sea-scarred wood. It won’t float forever. At some point, it’ll be sea or land. The haggard, little vessel has accomplished its mission, my life has been preserved. It was never meant to last forever.
Ah, but familiarity. The creaks and groans of the tattered skiff have woven their way into my soul, and I cannot remember a night without their giving voice to my own heart-cry. I dread the shedding of this one last piece of my shattered world. Her wooden bones, pulled from the wreckage of another life and hewn together in a desperate haste, have carried me until now.
I let my gaze whittle its way through the fog and etch the outline of the horizon, past the rolling hills, jagged peaks and innumerable dangers. Past the excuses and fears and all that would tell me this boat and the memory it embodies are better...better than taking a trembling step into the Promised Land.
But who am I in a world whose form and seasons bear no resemblance to my own inner landscape? Will I find myself in the strange reflection its waters offer? Time will tell. He has not brought me this far for evil. His very nature exposes doubt as an intruder, a foreign, dark thing against the clear light of His goodness.
Yet here I stand, splintered wood bowing under the weight of my indecision and threatening to be swallowed by the swelling waves. The sky bellows in protest. I look up into a ceiling of muddled gray.
Do you really need everything, Lord?
Clinging to the last frayed edges of a known world, I let salty tears mingle with the salty sea. Silence conjures the last answer I was given to this haunting question – He gave His all for me.
Why am I so scared? I have searched the world for a man who looks into my eyes and doesn’t search them for someone else. God has been the only one to truly ever see me, to find me buried beneath the monuments, the ruins of men’s desires. Has He not proven Himself worthy of trust? This abiding ache has driven me to this moment – I want to be known, to be seen and loved. But what if I find I am not…loved or loveable? After all the loss, I thought I’d shed these preoccupations with facades. Yet I still scour every hollow of my soul to uncover some great skill or virtue to tuck my insignificance behind.
The boat pitches sharply and I land on my knees, nose inches from the foaming surf. I remember – intimacy does not hide one’s faults, nor does it flaunt one’s beauty. It seems to me always focused on another, withholding nothing for oneself, but offering unimpeded access to the will of Him. Salt burns in my eyes. Right now the only thing intimacy appears to be is a plunge into these frothing waters before they tear apart the boat’s underbelly.
The sky erupts in brilliance. At once blinding and mesmerizing, peals of thunder chase lightning’s many tails through the pewter clouds.
A sigh escapes through clenched teeth and I brace myself as the wood beneath my feet surges once more.
He has brought me this far. It is foolishness to doubt Him now.
Knuckles tipped white as waves, I summon what courage remains and no small measure of fool’s hope and hurl myself at the rough face of the water. The bosom of the roaring sea enfolds me, and I am buried beneath her unseen forces. Head over heel, whirling like a child’s top, she rolls me on towards an end of her choosing. Just as my lungs threaten to burst, my flailing limbs cut a rut in the rising sand floor. In a fit of fury, she coughs me up in a spray of salty mist onto the riddled shore.
I sputter, choking up a bit of seaweed, and take inventory of my faculties. Every part of my body aches, but I made it in one piece, mostly. Searing saltwater creeps into newly torn flesh, but it will heal and cleanse as it burns. I’ve lost all I am, all I thought I was; I have nothing to offer, save myself… but I made it. He has brought me through. Regret sinks beneath the waves with the remnants of my past, and the future beckons.
I can only smile.
"The LORD Himself goes before you; He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Picture it: Moses is old. I mean really old. So old that he "cannot come and go anymore." The Lord has forbidden him from journeying any further. Here, at the big, uncrossable Jordan river, Joshua is being told to lead this new generation of Israelites – whose parents were a bunch of cantankerous slaves that knew a lot about making bricks and eating leeks and not a lot about battle – into the Promised Land to wrestle it from the hands of angry, hybridized, warrior giants. I don't think Moses was being senile when he repeated himself multiple times in the first seven verses of chapter 31:
"Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them"
"Be strong and courageous...Do not be afraid or discouraged."
"The LORD your God Himself will cross over ahead of you....The LORD Himself goes before you"
"for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
"He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you."
The task was impossible...
...Impossible without an abiding trust in an omnipotent God who goes before and promises to never leave us. And you know what? THE IMPOSSIBLE HAPPENED.
Friend, do you hunger to live a life greater than "possible?" Do you ache to live a life that drips with eternity, with the very love of Christ for a hell-bent world? Yes, I know we have tried before and the pressures and cares and weights of life have squashed that innocent desire of first love, but can we also agree to try again?
This time let's try softer, weaker, humbler... this time let's try by first entering that keeping rest – an active, vibrant rest from self effort that petitions heaven for nothing less than the fullness of God's desire manifest in His Church. Let us believe and ask, knowing we are merely giving voice to His eternal desire, a desire that will be fulfilled one day when Jesus is presented with a pure and spotless Bride.
A Closing Poem (and a Prayer)
Slay the worthless years
That hew their way
Into future comings
It will not be
As it was
Loss upon loss
The eternal regret of
Pursed lips, heavy breath
Heaving hope against
This wall of doubt
I will not wait
To curl up beside me
I will meet
Her ravaging hand
With a plume of wonder
O my soul
One two three
Unto Pierced Hand
Sorrow clasps joy
and we place
One more weary foot
Dust upon dust
I will return
But not until
Daily deaths died
Life of Him lived
His “Well done.”