Earthquakes

straw-in-the-field-1318272103QII“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain –


Just when life is nice and normal, something rumbles through and knocks you off your feet.

That happened to me this week.

I really shouldn’t be surprised by anything these days. Yet, again and again, events shock me and bring me to my knees.

Life’s earthquakes feel something like a light blow to the stomach. Not necessarily a gut-wrenching pain, but a sense of lostness, breathlessness. Disorientation.

Sometimes I actually start feeling grown up…until another earthquake rolls in and reminds me just how small and unprepared I am for the rigors of adulthood.

I’ll be 23 this year. That’s an adult, right?

But still part of me wants to go crawling into my mother’s lap for a while. Hide from the problem, hide from the people waiting on me for a life-changing answer, hide from the fear of bungling an uncertain future. Hide from the responsibility to sort out a complicated swirl of desires, relationships, convictions.

I guess I like to have it all together, and earthquakes remind me that I don’t.

Not at all. Not even a little.

Today, my dad got a funny tone in his voice and I just had a hunch. I asked “Is it ____.” And it was. Oh boy. Why did I have to be right? Just when I thought things were settling in, now things get complicated instead.

You know, crises come and go. Today, my mind was in a whirl all day, processing the latest “earthquake.” Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, things will calm again. Sure, maybe my dilemma won’t disappear. I still have choices to make. But the earthquake passes and the aftershocks ripple with decreasing intensity each time they visit me again.

And, you know, as unprepared as I was for an earthquake this week, I’m really glad it came.

It reminds me how much I need God.

See, I often try to float along on my own. I figure I can hold it all together pretty well. Maybe I don’t consciously think it, but my actions show that I tend to forget God’s present help, and lean on my own understanding instead. 

Earthquakes send me rushing for the only security I have — the holy love of Christ.

So somehow — beneath drama and options and strange events — I have an anchor.

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, 

Hebrew 6:17-20a, NKJV

Not only do I have a safe place to hide when life’s earthquakes try to bowl me over, but I also have the hope that all these interruptions, confusing choices, and complicated friendships will birth into something beautiful.

You never know when an earthquake might come rumbling in. When it does, where will you go?

Maybe you could join me, on my knees.

“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.”

– James 1:2-4, CEB –

 

 

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Wind, Light, and Forest Footholds

path-in-the-late-sun

“The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.”

– John Greenleaf Whittier –

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One thing is certain as I get older. Uncertainty. That ever-constant wind.

Sometimes that wind is warm and robust with adventure.

Sometimes it makes me afraid. Its fingers are cold and its face is wet and its chill wraps around and leaves me shivering.

Years ago, I set out on a path, led there by a Guide, the only One who knows–who is–the Way. Staying in that right way is hard; migrating off the course seems to come as naturally to me as to the dark, overhead arrows of south-veering geese.

Faith is a lesson that has come to me in these places, hunted me down, like Heaven’s Hound.

Faith has trailed me and found me in the dark, in the strange, lonely places where my feet slide in the path-edge crumbling. Many a weary time, I’ve looked down at the winding little trail, only shadows painting the ground beyond my current footholds. It’s true, those words–it seems there is “just enough light for the step I’m on.”

And for that one, I still have to squint.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home – Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene, – one step enough for me.

– John Henry Newman –

For some reason, in a journey’s thin light, my memory fades. If I were honest–if I were conscious–of all the places my Guide has brought me through before, maybe that next trembling footstep wouldn’t take so much out of me. If the way behind me wasn’t all fog and more shadows–shadows of dim remembrance–I might be able to hold a little bit less of my breath for the plunge forward into the unlit places.

So it is, that when I am hesitating here on the precipice from known to unknown–and I am here at this place, a thousand times today and yesterday and tomorrow–so it is that my Guide is all I have to go on. My Guide, and feeble rememberings, and grace that brings just enough light.

“All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
….For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

– Fanny Crosby, emphasis mine –

Sisters, all of us have forests with dark paths that wind into the distance. In my forest, I often travel alone–at least, alone with my Guide. But really, we are all together in this forest deep, threading through dim footpaths that intersect and mingle for a way and sometimes merge to go on the rest of the way together. We all have forest places where grace is our only light and faith our only foothold.

Let us look up, see the stars over the dark woods.

Light pinpricks, shapes of a thousand things to point us on and give us hope.

The adventure-wind whispers in the pines and dances in the oaks and shivers through the beeches and perches on my shoulder, trickling, tickling with its soft-breathed words. “The Guide who made these stars knows their names, each one. The Guide who grew this forest traced with His finger these meandering trails. The One who set your feet on this path counts the number of the strands of your hair shivering and streaming and shimmering in my breath. This Guide smiles on this direction you travel and braces your steps on the rocks with His own trail-worn hands and has promised to take you safely through this wood.”

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…be glory….”

– Jude 1:24, NASB –

So it is that I am still stepping, my friends. I am still living an adventure here in this forest often dark, this forest called life. Sometimes the sunrise floods the silvered branches with light and I see the remembered shapes of what my Jesus has done and all it is that He has promised to do. I still close my eyes into the stiff, bright chill of the adventure-wind, smiling and hoping and praying.

This place, right here, is where I live.

Putting one step out in faith, waiting for the next glowing illumination of grace (2 Cor. 12:9). Jesus has never failed me, you know. He does all things well.

Even for this straying daughter who can’t seem to remember her way home.

Won’t you step out too?

– – – – – – –

“Nothing does so establish the mind amidst the rollings and turbulences of present things, as to look above them and beyond them – above them, to the steady and good hand by which they are ruled, and beyond them, to the sweet and beautiful end to which, by that hand, they will be brought.”

– Jeremy Taylor –

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A big thank-you to John Luty at Public Domain Pictures for this lovely photo!