At long last I am able to attempt to tell a story that has paralleled the story with Allistaire. The quandary is how to do so? Where do I begin? How do I tell a story that in some way begins in my childhood, in other ways 10 years ago, 5 years ago, this October, this December, this January and the present? I draw on what I’ve written in the past about how God has been working on this yearning in my heart. Montana. It’s simply beautiful to say and it conjures up for me so many deep joys and hopes. Bare with me.
From February 2, 2011:
“Wow – who knew it has been so long since I’ve written anything. Anyway, today has been one of those magnificent cold sunny days that if you’re not outside feeling the cold, can remind you a bit of a summer day. As I sat just now at the kitchen table working on my BSF lesson (we’re at Isaiah 40), I saw the street lights flicker on. It’s getting dark, but it’s still plenty light to see outside. Suddenly, I remembered back to being a kid; the rule was you had to come inside when the street lights came on. We hated it – we just wanted to stay outside forever and keep playing. There was endless adventure to be had outside. Such a life, in reflection, seems so utterly alive. I looked out the window up at the small gray clouds slowly moving across the blue and I thought, how can my children possibly grow up with this tiny backyard and streets all around? How can their souls drink deeply of the sweet, wet evening air, of playing in the woods with sticks and ferns, of riding bikes down dirt roads and playing a thousand games on a pile of dirt? My mind then returned to what I had just read in my lesson – that according to the book of Isaiah, the answer to fears, doubts, questions, etc. is to be reminded of and steeped in the incomparable greatness of God. When reading this it suddenly struck me as an astounding idea. When I pray because of fears and questions weighing heavily upon me, I want real answers. Pondering the greatness of God feels like something to get done so I can move on to getting some real, satisfying answers. To meditate on the majesty of God seems like an attempt to divert me from what I really need. And yet, what would it be like if I embraced this and sought satisfaction and peace in considering who God is, to be THE answer to my prayers. Is it possible to simply rest knowing that God hears me, loves me, cares and is powerful enough, wise enough and good enough to accomplish His will which ultimately IS what I want? As I looked out the window and longed for Montana, for the Meadow house to be our home, for fields and mountains and great vast skies to be my view and the realm in which my children’s beings grow, I asked God will we ever be there in Montana, will you keep us here in Kent? How Oh God can you embed yourself and your wondrous, painfully beautiful glory here in this wretched place of strip malls and endless identical houses? Then I thought, is God not able to craft them into the very people He has for them to be? Is He not able to do this wherever on the earth they might dwell? He IS able to bring us to the home of my dreams in Kelly Canyon and He IS able to form them even from dust, from sources that seem utterly insufficient for wondrousness. Lord, my God, who calls to each of the stars by name, hear my cry to you, form in Solveig and Allistaire and any other children’s hearts you give me, form in them a deep, rooted, swelling love for you that they can never depart from. See my children God and draw them to yourself I ask.”
From May 22, 2011
“Why is idolatry wrong? Is it because God is actually unimaginably arrogant and cannot stand for us to put anyone or anything before Him? We make Him in our own image when we view Him such. Why is idolatry wrong? Because ultimately, it is enslavement. It is being tethered, bound to something that not only does not provide the life I want and demand it give me, but even further, it demands that I constantly, relentlessly give to it. I am owned by what I sought to own. Our pastor, Michael, today spoke about the 4th commandment – to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. He said that the Sabbath is about rest – about ultimate rest for our souls. The command is first given in Exodus with the rest of the 10 commandments but again is given in Deuteronomy 5 just before the Israelites enter the promise land. God says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” The Sabbath is a declaration; a proclamation that I who was once a slave am no longer. I AM NO LONGER A SLAVE. The bars of bondage have been removed and I have been set free!!! Observing a day of the Sabbath was insufficient to cause the Israelites to leave behind their bondage and relish in their freedom – in their rest from the hard work of being enslaved. They actually asked God to allow them to return to Egypt, the land of their slavery, because they thought life had been so good there – after all they had cucumbers (Numbers Chapter 11). The command to keep the Sabbath was a foreshadowing of the ultimate Sabbath to come. And so Christ is the embodiment, the fullness of the Sabbath; of rest. I am no longer a slave to sin. My sin has been done away with and behold I enter a land of rest where I am no longer enslaved. It is hard for one who has always been a slave and comes from generations of slaves to comprehend freedom. Slavery is ever so much more comfortable because it is familiar and it feels safe in contrast to vast wide open spaces. Freedom, like the frontier, is wild and uncharted. Its paths are less worn and the way ahead is unclear. Freedom tingles with danger. How in the world am I to live unencumbered by a thousand voices that seek to keep me down, constrained. In Christ, that is the answer. I do not have to walk the road alone. I, in my own strength and wisdom, do not have to know the way. Christ is the way. And mysteriously I am invited to be bound to Him. Those other bonds keep me from life; this bond is the source of life. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The beauty of this mystery pains me to the core. It undoes me. As my heart labored to take all of this in, like ground whose dryness cannot fast enough receive heavy rain, it came to me that Montana has been for me an idol. It was God Himself who turned my heart to long for that place. And I have longed long for it. I imagine its vast skies of blue and stars and storm, its endless fields of long grasses moving in the wind, gravel road after gravel road headed off in every direction to explore, its mountains springing up everywhere and I think here, this is the place where I can rest. This is a place where one can sit in silence and ponder and mediate; to come to know oneself and the truths of life; unhampered by so much of the materialism and business of urban life. In this place one can choose meaningful work; a simple life where you can see the produce of your hands; where you come to sense in your being the ebbs and flows of creation and the ground. This is the sort of place I yearn for my children to grow up in, to play in and be formed in. And then there it was, the thought so clear. Montana has been my promise land – it is the place of rest I long for. Every single thing I’ve said about Montana is true and yet it is insufficient. It is just as insufficient as the belief that a beautiful body, a great house, a successful career, a high enough coolness quotient, etc. will bring me life. It is just as insufficient as the belief that if God would just hurry up and sanctify me, fix me, make me right, make me righteous, I will have at last arrived. None of these are the promise land. None of these can deliver the rest every cell in my body groans ceaselessly to know. Forgive me Father and thank you Father for showing me how I have once again stopped short of what it is you have for me.
John 10: 7-10
“Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
So if it comes to pass that God someday leads us to Montana, I will rejoice. But I cannot put my hope in Montana – not for myself nor for my children. What then is my highest hope? What is the jewel of inheritance I have the opportunity to pass on to these wondrous girls? It is to know true rest in this life (wherever I live) which is quite simply and significantly, to know Christ. To literally learn what it is to walk with Him. How can I ever teach my children to walk in this way when I have only just begun to take my own first steps? I remember when Solveig first learned to walk and I feared people would think I abused her because she was so often covered in bruises from her many falls. So there it is – learning to walk involves lots of falls – aka lots of failing. And all my life I have lived gripped by fear of failing oh look, just another way I have experienced slavery. Yet here I am. Standing in this great expanse. I have the opportunity to learn to walk and I will fall but it’s sort of like all the stories where the hero can’t die, where unlike your child that shivers with fear at what will happen as the story unfolds, you know in your core good always overcomes. But why is it that good always overcomes? Is it even true? And if true, how can I stand secure in it? Christ has already died and paid my sin. Christ has already risen and overcome death. My ultimate enemies are truly already slain. So I stand in this great expanse knowing that I will fall but I can only be injured, I cannot die. I, who was once dead in my transgressions, a slave to sin, have been made free. I have been joined with Christ in His death and so joined with Him in His resurrection. I can fall and I will fall. But, I will not die. Here is freedom. I felt the tiniest turning of it the other day; like the nearly imperceivable lengthening of the day as we head toward summer solstice. But I detected it nonetheless. I awoke knowing immediately something was wrong. I racked my brain and then it came to me. Sten had finished entering our receipts into the computer and we’d had the discussion about how yet again we really need to reign it in and we had less savings than it seemed we should have. At first I felt myself going down the same worn path of guilt and feelings of hopelessness that things, I should say I, would never change. How could I find myself in this same place again? And then there it was – the lovely subtle shift. Yes, this is sin in my life; sin that I commit over and over. But you know what? It is sin that is paid for, dealt with, done. It does not have the last word, it is not the ultimate power over me. I am free to walk forward in the life God has not only offered me but given me. I am in the promise land – I AM IN CHRIST. It is one wee step forward walking with my Lord. A year ago we received in the mail the King County property tax statement for the coming year which is based on the value of our home. Another eighty something thousand dollars gone. It was basically a letter informing me of how much deeper I was buried in the constricting hole of my home loan than I had known the moment before I read it. There it was, the slaying of my hope that we could sell our house and move to Montana. That was the first time I detected the shift God was working within me. Oddly, I actually sensed myself trusting God, knowing that He is the One in control of my life – not the housing market, not the global economy, not the government’s policies, not the cost of oil determined by the happenings on the other side of the globe. God, and not just God, but my Father – He is the one in control. Did you know that God moved the island of Japan 13 feet when He caused the earth to quake? Could one have ever imagined the wild-fire of revolt across the Middle East in the last several months? What seems immovable is of no consequence to God. He is in control. He is at work. I saw this morning that I had lost more of the hair on the top of my head. I walked through the forest yesterday. It was lush and quite literally bursting with eager life. And there were innumerable fallen trees. God knows the number of hairs on my head. He is content to allow death and life to mingle – at least for now. God is at work. He is able. He can be trusted. Yes, I live in the already and the not yet. It does not at all feel like the promise land. Perhaps the key though, is to fix my eyes on Christ in whom I rest who is the very promise land, who is the very Sabbath, and not stop short by hoping to see the promised land unfolding around me. Christ is at work bringing redemption, but it is by walking with Him that redemption will come about. This is what I pray for my Lord. Teach me to walk with you. Help me, even covered in bruises, to be able to say to my children, and anyone else watching, this is the way – look there, it is Christ, He is the One in whom we hope, He is the One who invites us to walk with Him and promises to never leave us or forsake us. Lord hear my prayer.”
Because this is a longer tale, I’m going to spit it between two posts. This story in our lives has been a lot about waiting…so you’ll have to wait too. 🙂