A few people have told me that I was faithful – that through everything that happened with Allistaire, that I was faithful to God. To tell the truth, every time I hear this, something in my guts twists and I feel myself pushing back at this statement. Faithfulness is not at all the word that comes to mind for me. To say that I was faithful sounds as if I did something right, something strong, something noble. No, the pervading sensation was desperation, was clinging. I had no other choice. That’s how it felt to me. Even now, when something comes into my moment, into the day that throws me back into that place and time in the hospital, like a trigger from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I find myself reaching out my tired arms to the Lord and asking that He hold onto me. When Allistaire throws a fit or refuses to eat; when she asks for help going up or down the stairs or wants a hug, like a strange portal through time, I feel myself being whisked back into that darkness, that dread and fear of what might be going on inside her body where I can’t see. When I read the text from my friend telling me that one of the other AML girls is having a really rough go and she may not make it, my heart thuds slow and thick. I go out to the deck to make myself look up at the stars – to remember the splendor and wonder and vastness and complexity of my God – to force myself to crane my neck back and with this view in mind, call out over and over that He would show mercy to her flesh.
Since I was a teenage girl, I have had a habit of looking for the first star at night. I would wish upon that star. I would pray to God any number of things and nearly every time there was the prayer that should something awful ever happen in my life, that He would help me to not turn away from Him. It seems to me that God has been the faithful one and yes, He has enabled me to keep my face turned toward Him. I know that this is a great gift from Him, because there have certainly been other times in my life that I have not felt drawn to Him and it has seemed as though He was content to let my heart and life wander far and at a distance from Him.
One of the most beautiful, wondrous, mysterious things about God that I have grown so much in my delight for over this past year, is the way in which God has allowed me to see His faithfulness in how He has gone before me. I pray often, “Hem me in, behind and before.” I ask my Father that He would go ahead of me down the road and that He would come up close behind me. That on all sides I would be surrounded by Him. I constantly see my life in my mind as a journey I am on. I used to assume there was a road upon which I was traveling. In the last year, the Lord has shown me that, no, sometimes there is no road, not even the dimmest trail to follow, but rather, He Himself, Christ, is The Way, and He lays Himself down for me, so that there is always sure footing for the next step, but sometimes it really is only one footstep at a time. While from my perspective, there is no visible path, there is no way to look down along the road and anticipate what is coming, I have discovered over and over, that while the direction of my life is kept hidden from me, God has gone before me.
A number of years ago, Sten and my dad, hiked the Wonderland Trail – 95 miles encircling Mt. Rainier. They were gone 11 days and we had planned that I would meet them at Long Mire to bring them a cash of food. They came around the bend and there I met them at a picnic table with the tastiest lunch I could think to come up with. Hikers will sometimes arrange for cashes of food to be stored at various points along their journey because there is no way for them to carry all that they need from start to finish. This is how it has felt to walk with the Lord this past year. I have discovered at various points along the way that He had gone before me and provided, in abundance. When I consider my most significant needs over this past year, I am awed to see the very specific and tremendous ways that God, long before, laid down foundation stones in my heart that allowed me to stand in more recent times. Some get very dogmatic that God created the world in 6 days, I personally believe He very well may have, yet I derive such joy from seeing how creativity is so core to the character of God that He could not stop Himself. He has not for a moment, stopped creating. What creative person has worked hard and long on a project that turns out beautifully, that says, now I have no desire to create any more. No, creativity fuels more creativity, and while the fundamental elements of creation may have been completed long ago, I have sensed God crafting in me something of His own intention, something that I think He really must be giddy about.
In my church growing up we repeatedly sang a song I found utterly repugnant. “Spirit of the Living God, fall a fresh on me, melt me, mold me.” It sounded disgusting to the mind of a 10-year-old, and I still think a different selection of words would be lovelier. Yet I have had the odd sense that God really is doing this in me. I am realizing that, as tears come so quickly to me, that I still feel broken, I still feel frail. I still feel as though, while the skin may have healed over, the wounds remain deep. It is a strange thing for it to dawn on you that the God you love, the God that is said to so unimaginably love you, has been the breaker of you. Yes, I hold Him responsible. He came down and broke my clenched fist. He came down and broke my bones; those bars of strength that have held me up all of these years. He tore at my heart, not just once, but over and over until it was raw and bleeding and weeping. This lover of my soul has done this to me. I am ever in awe that God is at times so brutal, such a ravisher, such a destroyer. One cannot get away from the truth that He allowed His own Son to be put to death. Who is this God? I ask and I cry and I wail out at God under those stars and the faint cloudiness of the Milky Way stretching across the sky, “Who are you?” But here, in the silence of the starry night, I hear the reply, “I am the one who tears down and binds up.” You see, I have found this elegant, halting, beautiful mystery: part of His creation is destruction, but it is a creative destruction, like pick-up-sticks, where each move is carefully considered, God pulls apart. But His destruction is for the sake of building, of raising up. It is hard though, I do not see how His steps lead to something lovely, sometimes it only looks like destruction, sometimes it only looks brutal and harsh and ugly and wicked. Yet we are so incapable of seeing the long view, we who dwell in the land of manufactured homes and fast food chains, we who scoff at dial-up and pagers – TOO SLOW we bellow. We are no longer acquainted with craftsmanship. We have no patience for things that take a long time to be made, nor are we willing to pay the high price for such works of art – beauty that stands the test of time and spans generations. If the cathedrals of Europe or the pyramids of Egypt seem like they took a long time, and a ridiculous amount of effort and expense, we cannot begin to calculate what God is up to. His ways seem foolish, outlandish and sometimes, just downright wrong. We lack view, we lack perspective. We stand on our tiny hill and yell out in raging anger and pain, “I don’t get it. What is the point!? How dare you!” But then sometimes, you come to a bend in the road, and you cannot believe your eyes, for there is delightful, abundant nourishment and the realization sinks into you – He went before me. There seemed to be no road. There seemed to be no direction. I felt as though I was wandering in a desolate land. But you feast on the provision and you get a glimpse, a small crack in the door that shows you, He is so very far ahead of you. While He was still by your side, and as He took up your flank, He was at the very same time laying down a provision for you, that you needed so deeply you could not even conjure words to ask for it. But behold, here it is, the meeting of your need that took years and a thousand situations to construct. As your knees were about to buckle and your throat rasped with aching dryness, you came around the bend and took in the view of God’s sovereignty, His lavish provision.