I have been dwelling in darkness here lately, on this blog. At least it feels that way. Trying to dress up what are essentially complaints to make them more user-friendly. I knew I was doing it, which was why it was hard to justify continuing to post things. Also, our old computer was not working. I find, however, that we have this new fabulous computer at a time when a sudden growth is happening in my heart.
When did this start? I can point to other little blooms of growth along the way. Times when I started to feel more spiritually stable, more at peace with where I stood in the world, more accepting of what I couldn’t change and didn’t like. Times when I spent more time doing and less time ruminating on what God wasn’t doing for me. Times when I would catalogue my life and get real about the people I’d hurt and the sins I’d committed and then go back and say sorry for them as best I could. And all along, all of my whole life, sometimes because of what I was taught sometimes in spite of what I was taught, I could feel that God was there. I would be moved by things not even understanding why I was moved. Embarrassed even, to be choked up in the midst of people who had more command of themselves. I would sit with my face in the window of our minivan watching midwestern fields slide by and just catch the glory waiting there, though it wasn’t grand. I remember long and solitary bike rides listening to DC Talk. One in particular where I rushed upon a field of new-budding something that was brightest chartreuse and I remember gasping, shocked by this jewel in the midst of dreary brown.
When Gilead was born I felt this expansion. Actually, AS he was born. For weeks afterward even in my pain and the fog of first sleeplessness (when is it ever harder than that first time?!) I was giddy with new understanding of God’s grace and my creatureliness. And, thinking I would feel it all over again, I was disappointed when Wyatt’s birth turned out ordinary. For the last year and a half I have been sliding. One long, slow, slide into the dark. I listened too much to voices not His, I looked to hard and long at things I didn’t have and I – as He recently put it to me – tried to merely rinse out my mouth in the stream of life instead of drinking long and deep.
In the midst of it all, however, a bud. Something. Hope. Bright spots in the dimness. I attended a couple of classes, I had spurts of praying more and I could occasionally see beyond the fog I’d created for myself. I found myself wondering whether those moments of womanish emotion I’d fought so hard to keep hidden in groups all my life were actually, maybe, the movement of the Holy Spirit in me. As soon as I admitted this might be a possibility, the floodgates were open. The more I admitted might be possible, the more I could see, the more I could feel, the more pointed the messages I received. He’d been trying, trying, trying to speak to me all along, all the time, over and over. It was never more clear than at the ordination of two men in our church. I’d never been at an ordination before. It was the most sacred, most joyous thing I’ve ever witnessed, excepting the birth of my two sons, I think. When I shared with Fr. Gregory Whitaker (one of the men) my impressions of that day which were just too blindingly real to be ignored, and also substantiated by Henry’s impressions, he told me (among other things) it was because that ordination was FOR ME. To build and affirm the body of Christ.
So recently I’ve returned to the spending of time God in the early morning. It’s the only time I have. Much of my complaining at home and to friends has been about not having time and not having resources to feel like a person. And it was largely centered around Henry’s not being there for me in some way. There were many ways in which I felt this was the case, at different times. And then it got centered around, if I was honest, God not being there for me. Getting stuck in this situation where we’re in our 30’s with kids and ONLY NOW starting a career, and myself not having a career because who can count raising kids and keeping house as a career? Anyone could do that, I would say to myself and anyone else who would listen. And who cares if I mop the floor today? By this time tomorrow it will look the same as it did yesterday. Breakfast and Dinner are eaten together, yes, but punctuated by much, MUCH screaming on some days and over in about 5 minutes for all my slaving at the stove. My job just doesn’t matter, I would say, and I don’t have the wherewithal – or the resources – to lend it a bit of grace via some beautifully crafted blog or Etsy store.
And you know what? I don’t know what got me to the point where I could pray the prayer that started the change, but I remember when I finally realized it was the only prayer I could pray because there was no other answer.
That’s it. Willingness to do what I have to do.
I’m telling you, as SOON as I prayed that prayer. It feels like, as soon as the IDEA of praying the prayer entered my head I felt better. It was a small, no, tiny turning. But that’s the Kingdom of God…like a mustard seed. The tiniest of seeds grows into the largest of trees where birds can make their homes.
I don’t have time to write about everything that has happened since that moment. The highlights are that we have found what feels like a home in our small group at church. This didn’t happen because we were actively seeking or because I was especially virtuous in any way. It just sort of happened. But I could immediately tell that they have so much joy. And I can say from longer friendship with at least one of the couples – the joy is there because of practice. When they lost their first baby three years ago just after I’d given birth to Gilead, to my astonishment their first reaction was literally to worship God. It would be one of life’s greatest gifts to walk alongside people like this.
The other thing that has enriched many of my days since then has been the gift, by my Mama, of two books: Jesus Calling and One Thousand Gifts. I wish I could tell you that I received them in the spirit with which they were given, but when I did finally open them I found only (as ever) a reiteration of the message I have received from God since the day I was born: “join the dance. Be part of the beauty. Come, run with me.” As I see it now, a flood of images and words and beauty that He has lavished upon me, because He loves me. All I have to do is to say yes.
I was pondering that mystery today as we took a walk through the neighborhoods in our 40-some degree weather. Do you ever have the experience of being moved by something and not even knowing why? I remembered this image from the Planet Earth series. I can’t remember if it was the opening overview showing images from around the globe or if it was in the jungle segment, but it was a time-lapse shot of the jungle floor. At first I didn’t realize it was a time-lapse and I remember being about to make a joke that the movements of the small plants were a little too sexual-looking for me: They would swell and grow a bit larger with each “breath”, heaving themselves upward toward the light. And then when I understood the time lapse I thought about how that must be how God sees the world – or could see the world if He chose – everything stretching, breathing, straining toward Him.
And then today…I just got it. In a new way. It IS SEXUAL. Rather, sex IS this…this thing. This reality. Or one embodiment thereof. We ARE all meant to be pushing, straining, panting, longing after Him. Jesus. Pure light and life. That is why the rocks would cry out if we did not; because they ARE! We just mostly can’t see it. Or we can’t see it if we’re not looking. And the way to look is the YES. Stewart says it all the time in his sermons, C.S. Lewis says it in all of his writings, there it is in Ann Voskamp as soon as I crack it open. All it takes is one little turning, one little yes. So simple, so small, so unbelievably stark. A turn away from sin isn’t just a turn into nothingness as I so often have blinded myself into believing. It’s a turn from un-reality into that which is the only, utterly real in existence. And we have to say the yes to be with God because God IS the yes. All of God and all of creation come together in one big ecstasy of YES!!! THAT is why Jesus death on a cross isn’t the dark, shameful, horrible thing I grew up feeling it was – this thing that made me feel pity but not much more. Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross but He did. He said yes. And the Bible is actually very clear that that moment, unexpected by the very people who had been trained to look for it, that moment when He was stretched out – arms wide to the sky – abandoned and suffering for the sake of the world. THAT was his greatest victory. His greatest yes. The emblem of all emblems of the essence of God.
He came so we might have life abundant. The only way to that life (not merely the life-everlasting of someday heaven, but the grab-it-by-the-balls LIFE that is thrumming under our feet and everywhere all the time) is the yes – even unto death.