on looking for the green

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.”¹

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I may have a compulsion about plants. I’m no skilled gardener, but I suppose I have this affinity for growing things. I want to gaze on them, be surrounded by them, and see them transform. Thus is it always to my dismay when one of my own succumbs to rot or perishes for some other reason. I try what I can to replant, trim back, and wait for recovery.

And I have done this several times. It’s a slow thing. Weeds have no trouble growing quickly once cut back or plucked, yet the things you want to thrive seem to struggle.

But this summer, I have seen a turn. I have come across so many of my rooted friends growing again, after I’d given up hope and come to accept the losses. I have seen small eucatastrophes, if you will.²

If I sit open, I could find a greater hope than this.

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What hope is there in life, with affliction and certain death and suspicion and fear? I’m coming to think Christ is telling us all the time, but we have our eyes and ears inward, looking to our own answers, so wise are we.

You are leading me I know not where. I know not how. But I do know a few things. God is real. God is gracious. God saves me. But how can I make that to my heart the wonder it really is? I am hard and cold. Like old East Berlin in winter behind that wall. Help me out of here, out of myself. Why do I cling when I’m so miserable to cling to? I’m no kind of home to myself. Would that I could rest my soul in something sweeter, brighter, stronger. Would that You would become all to me, and that I would yield and trust and fall to worship.

So there is a great chasm to cross, but we can’t reach that far. We can’t stretch out and touch the hope that is there. No, friend, it would seem in all this world and life, hope lies hopelessly far beyond our fingertips.

And yet, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”³

Here He comes, the great Bridge Builder, crafting a way to Himself with Himself, stretched out and laid down so we might pass over into peace. If ever there was any hope to be with God, it was by His design and His death and His glory and love. And it is a turn of events unforeseen, least expected, least looked-for. A eucatastrophe of the greatest degree.

And so there is hope for me.

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That sweet surprise of new life. That beauty. Some days are hard, dark at midday, yet even these have beauty in them. And beauty calls to us, “God is here, with us. Wait.” Like these tiny new tips inching from the soil, soft and bright and green. Their small, smiling progress speaks to the nature of things – that growth is bitsy and tender, and breathtaking. Mine can be too.

Let it be.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! [Psalm 27:13]

 

¹ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

² Term coined by Tolkien: a sudden and favorable resolution of events

³ Psalm 27:14

on the senses and their frailty

Somewhere between the early days of this and now, things started feeling harder. Things have settled in. At first I felt some supernatural peace and ability to soar above everything, to accept whatever came. But now I’ve experienced more of what was to come, and I haven’t enjoyed it. I’m a bit more tired, broken down, disillusioned. I’ve let myself let go of that vision to praise God with everything, to tell everyone about His goodness. When the struggle becomes ordinary and tedious, there’s less to feel inspired about. And it’s unsustainable to keep inspiring oneself without end.

Even with a “good” prognosis, there’s the possibility for things to get much worse, much harder. More fevers, a relapse, who knows? My treatment plan was just extended by about a month, right after a week delay before that. It seems very possible that more delays will come. And there might be more intense suffering, and after options are exhausted, my life might end sooner than I’d ever anticipated. This is the first time I’ve written about that sort of thing.

People talk about death, for Christians, as “going home” to Jesus. In a way I think that’s right, because we will be more fully with Him than ever before. But heaven isn’t home. Jesus is. I don’t even know fully what heaven is, and it doesn’t matter that much to me. What’s promised for those who know Christ is that they will be with Him forever, no longer separated in a world sick with sin.

Then it seems to me that I should strive for that while I’m still here. I could learn to experience God as my home even now, just as we are called to become more like Christ here on earth, just as we are told to be rid of sin here on earth. None of these things will be ultimately completed until we are consummately reunited with God in death and in the new earth and heaven. There’s so much about that I don’t understand. But I don’t intend to wait until I die to practice making God my home.

In Him is found everything we could ever want in a home – peace, protection, unconditional love and welcome, wholeness. In Him is everything we look to the world to give us, everything we ask of other people and things. Everything we think will make the hard stuff better. He is ultimately everything I want, but it’s harder somehow to look to Him for it. So that’s my practice. That’s my hope – that I would experience God as the Home He is. It’ll be a way of getting ready to meet Him face to face, a year from now or 70 years. Or any number in between.

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Last week was gorgeous, so bright and clear and sunny and warm. It was so opposite how I felt inside, where darkness called the shots. Everyone kept remarking how beautiful it was, and it brought me no joy. Me, who in the depth of winter felt shrivelled and blanched for the deluge of water and the blackness of days. Me, who cat-like would sit in sunlight any chance I have. Me, whose spirits used to rise at the mere sight of a ray of light. Here, after all the wet months, I wished it would rain. I sat in a puddle in a cave, humourless and hopeless. It came on like the gradual chill of evening after sundown, but I didn’t perceive it until I was shivering and alone in it.

And then I felt trapped and confused, disenchanted with the small delights of God’s gifts, taking interest in nothing, resenting people for caring to interact with me. Smiles escaped me, words evaded me. Nothing mattered. It’s been weeks and weeks of listless trudging. Fear. Cynicism. Sadness. Loneliness. Social fatigue. Ungratefulness. Tiredness. This became all I could taste. I was in no mood for God and His glory.

At the end of last week, my husband spoke some good, true words to me about the nature of life and God, and it seemed my heart was so desperate that drops of truth slipped in by the cracks in the dried up ground and started to nourish me again. My heart actually desires God, beyond simply needing Him. I can’t deny His goodness, not when I know He loved me to death and not when pink magnolias exist in the world. What’s true doesn’t rest in what I feel. As roots slowly drink to restore their stems, my exit from the dark has been almost imperceptible, but at times I notice a deeper breath, an easier smile, a firmer trust in God’s sweetness. By little bits, God is peeling back these layers – I don’t remember how they came to be – and recalling me to light. Maybe I’d be blinded if He did it all at once.

Blurry eyes, remembering how to gaze. Blurry window panes. And the rain that is falling tonight seems refreshing, gentle, and sweet, like a spring evening rain maybe ought to be. It falls on my garden and the grass, and grace falls on my soul, and we both will grow.

….

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

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small things … glory unseen

There is a great and beautiful book that I want to share with you. I return to it every few years for renewal (self-renewal). Hinds’ Feet on High Places* allegorizes our spiritual journey so tenderly, and here and there are some rich nuggets I’d like to highlight in the posts to come.

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Once the Shepherd stooped and touched the flowers gently with his fingers, then said to Much-Afraid with a smile, “Humble yourself, and you will find that Love is spreading a carpet of flowers beneath your feet.”

Much-Afraid looked at him earnestly. “I have often wondered about the wild flowers,” she said. “It does seem strange that such unnumbered multitudes should bloom in the wild places of the earth where perhaps nobody ever sees them and the goats and the cattle can walk over them and crush them to death. They have so much beauty and sweetness to give and no one on whom to lavish it, not who will even appreciate it.”

The look the Shepherd turned on her was very beautiful. “Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted,” he said quietly, “and the little wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach. They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems that there is no one to appreciate them. Just as though they sang a joyous song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return.

“I must tell you a great truth, Much-Afraid, which only the few understand. All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and it most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at. Every inner response of the human heart to love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.

There is something down deep that knows this is true, for human recognition never fully filled a person. But we know that our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us, will notice, will glory in us as we do in Him.¹

Every mundane thing we do that seems so thankless and/or pointless, every time we are put out and not thanked for it, let us recall the instruction to “live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”² It is so worth it, dear ones, to give and to love in this way.

 

 

*by Hannah Hurnard

¹Matthew 6:4

²1 Thessalonians 4:11