meanders

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photo © by W Coy. Use only with permission.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   John 3:8

Frustrated? I was beyond frustrated.  I was pleading with God, begging, crying out, and interceding in every way possible, but the spiritual roadblocks still stood like concrete, and I smashed into them daily.  Or, worse yet, I watched my friends and loved ones crash nose-first into massive boulders thrown by the enemy.

In my mind I could see the solutions, the barrier-shattering breakthroughs that would set all of us free, but I couldn’t reach them.  Nor could I force my way through the frustration. Staring out the car window, I stewed silently, wanting God to pulverize the obstacles and shoot laser-like sunlight into the haze as the residue dissipated.  I could barely articulate the avalanche of feelings.  Instead, my fingernails dug into my palms and tears crept closer to the surface.

We rode down the winding lane beside the state park, almost home.  For a moment, my gaze travelled to the meadow beside the road. Cultivated in hay, the winter-short grass revealed previously hidden rises and slopes. A slender but growing streamlet wended between the meadows, collecting water from the heavy rains, dividing land, and meandering toward a distant field.  Had I ever seen that water before?

Then I heard it.  “Nature doesn’t have straight lines.”

I looked around, peering at the details as we drove.  The tiny rill twisted its way through the lowest points, following the “lay of the land;” it did not take a direct route.  Trees along the boundary lines seemed straight, but their trunks bent and turned as branches jutted from the main stem.  Gravity bowed to swirling winds as rain slanted from the passing clouds. Flowers curved in Fibonacci spirals;  eagles soared and banked on changing winds;  stones fell into random piles at the bottom of the hill. Even the road wasn’t straight, having matured from a path along the edge of a steep forested knoll.

And butterflies?  Forget straight. Have you ever watched a butterfly’s path?

The point remained.  God commonly worked in curving paths worn in the lowest places.

“The way isn’t fast, nor direct,” the Spirit whispered to my heart.  “Go around the boulders, or let me incorporate them into your landscape.” The path of life, He indicated, ran slow, roundabout and flittering, like the butterfly; but it ran deep, conclusive, and life-changing.

I wanted quick and decisive, but He worked in relationships and revelations, thoughts, wonderings, and random conclusions. My way would produce fireworks, blasting problems to oblivion but potentially causing collateral damage;  His way, He implied, would produce life-change.  I wanted decisive Star Wars battles;  He was doing Les Mis gradual redemption.

Bah. I didn’t like the insight or the answer, but at least I understood.  Certainly what I heard lined up with Scriptures, not only John 3:8, but virtually every story of following God. Abraham’s journey to Canaan wasn’t exactly straightforward, but the long river route provided life.  The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert – in circles. Joseph and David endured more setbacks than progress to get to their destinies.  The apostle Paul retreated to Arabia for years before emerging to preach one place and then another, and then another.

I had enough analogies to give in.  Meandering seemed God’s way, however inefficient, interminable, and convoluted it might seem.  The wandering and waiting had a point, and I had best get used to winding streams.  I gazed out the window, following the twisting, running brook, and quietly, gently, began to enjoy the rain.

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The Lion Roared

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:31, NRSV

Hours, days, weeks in the hospital blurred into one long anxiety. Pain. Fatigue. Helplessness. Abandonment. Despair. Negative emotions swam through my mind and curdled my thinking…what was left of it.  My brain had no more room.  Too many tests, too long before diagnosis, longer still until treatment. I. Was. Done.

Where was the peace that passes understanding?  Where was the intimacy I normally felt and practiced?  Where was my Advocate? Where was Immanuel, God WITH us?

I paused.

Well, where was He?  It hadn’t occurred to me to look.

Aslan. Lion of Judah, my Shield, my Defender… I waited, wondering what it would feel like to have a Lion defending me.  Would he roar? Would he attack “them”– all those people and infections and reactions hurting me?  Not a mythical lion, but the Lion of Judah, who promised to be with me always.   What would He do?

He stood at the foot of my bed and He roared.

Wait! Was that an impression from God or was I making this up?  I looked up, startled that my imagination had enough strength to function.  “Lord, is that YOU?” I asked.

He roared again–at the illness, the reactions, the complications, the doctors who frightened me, the CT scans that radiated me.  He looked at me with concern, and roared again and again and again.  “Lo, I am with you always,” surfaced in my mind.

He was holding back the things that would harm.  He was standing up for me when I couldn’t even walk. He was keeping the enemy from killing, maiming and destroying.  He was my Advocate, and he would not be thwarted.

“But Lord,” I thought, focusing on the foot-of-the-bed Lion, “what do I do with this deep alone-ness, this abandonment, this pain and despair?  You’re not taking it away, you’re not filling the hole, you’re roaring.  What do I do with this?”

And then there was a Lioness, beside the bed, licking, washing, pulling me toward her.  I imagined fur, and the strong body for me to lean against.  She purred, cleaned, rubbed.  I could almost feel her breath.  This was not a theoretical “with,” but a Jesus out to prove something.  He was roaring to protect, but He was nestling to nurture.  He would care and hold and shelter.  He would provide what the doctors and nurses and caring friends could not.

For three weeks He roared and nurtured, until I came home. For another three weeks, He purred and held me, through even more procedures and pain.  My hunger for Him grew even as He reassured me. I learned to wake up and lean into those secure arms.

Until one day, just eight weeks after the hospital post-surgery nightmare, the picture in my mind was gone.  “Lord?”  I looked around, hoping I would find the reassuring image and His reassuring breath.  But no, I didn’t need it any more.  I could still lean on Him, I could still be with Him, and I could still hear the roar.  Like the encouragement of a parent long-gone, the comfort was inside me.  I’d internalized the picture and the voice, and the trauma was over.

Where is the Lion of Judah roaring for you?  Is He nurturing, caring? Or fighting and protecting? Has He remained? Or has He vanished just as you recognized His care?

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When I Consider Your Heavens

courtesy of Fine Arts Media

courtesy of Fine Arts Media

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory
in the heavens… Ps 8:1 (NIV)

Defeated, my head slumped onto the nearest pile as scraps of ideas and budget receipts cascaded to the floor.  Papers jeered, “See ME? I’m the proposal that was due last WEEK!”

Never mind the mess, I was too tired to deal with screaming middle-of-the-night reminders. Extricating myself from the buried desk, I shuffled upstairs toward the bedroom.

With no moonlight, I was relieved that my feet knew the way.  I glanced up to the hallway picture window, for no reason, and gasped as a gleaming star show pulled my eyes from the dark steps. Like a vacuum suddenly filled with air, my heart drew in the radiance and wouldn’t let it go. I stopped mid-step and eased myself onto the window seat, entranced. There, there were the dazzling spots of light balanced in a dance called a constellation

On this first crisp fall night, the brilliant sparkle flooded my eyes and my spirit with wonder.  Orion’s belt blazed, diamonds dangling, tempting me to reach and touch a crystal mobile.  The stars burst through the darkness with glow so bright leafless trees created silhouette borders.  When did constellations get this large, I wondered?

No one demanded I put down the briefcase of anxieties, but who would want to carry it when faced with a celestial display of Christmas lights?  Thoughts of unfinished lists, overflowing folders, and demanding commitments melted down to size; even the warm bed just steps away lost its appeal.  Gradually, my weariness lifted as I marveled at God’s fancy in spilling diamonds so artfully.

‘When I consider thy heavens… What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” I pondered with the psalmist.

At peace, I waited. Silent. Still. Aware that the God of the Universe was pointing beyond the stars to His stunning Son.  “Look,” He was saying, “He’s coming. Just as the seasons tell you each year that His advent is near, so I’m saying again, watch and wait.  He’s dazzling. His promise is near.  Just as the stars surprise you each fall, He will amaze you again with His beauty and His coming.  Look, look at My display!”

And so, this Advent, I wait. The papers and to-do-lists may overflow, but God visits His people, and the heavens tell of His glory – dazzling like the stars, the Son is coming!

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