It’s so hard to stay on track. What with everything pulling us this way and that. Attractive things. Tempting things. Necessary things. They all tug at our sleeves insisting we pay attention. Perhaps this is something of the sense Jesus had in the crowd when the woman who had suffered hemorrhages for years touched the hem of his clothes and was immediately healed. It stopped him into asking “Who touched me?” because he felt the power that had gone out of him.
I wonder about the power going out of me by all this tugging and touching and tempting. Is it dribbling and leaking? Or is it the power of healing to those whom I pass? Am I so determined to stay the course, persist in my doing, struggle through any obstacle, that I apply all of my power to my own path? Because that, I fear, is what happens when I fix my eyes on an objective and insist on getting there in my own strength.
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…” Psalm 23 says. Not, he jumps me straight to the end because I am special or because I have been well-behaved or even because he chooses to. He guides me on the path toward right. The ‘not right’ in me gets me off track. People call this ‘not-rightness’ sin. The Bible calls this not-rightness sin. And we suppose it stands on the path between us and Goodness. It separates us from God, we say, and that seems so.
But what separates may not be something that stands between. It may very well be something that stands behind and calls, or stands next to and tugs, or passes near and tempts. All it takes to draw me off course is a slight misalignment. So, I must attend to my guide, moment by moment.
How many paths of righteousness are there? I don’t know. But they all lead to the foot of the cross. And from each of our vantage points that direction will look a bit different. Almost as if we each stood and looked at the shadow cast by the sun’s beams spilled on the cross itself. The way would look straight from where we are. How simple! But as we walk, the sun rises and the sun sets and the path ebbs ever so slightly. Following it requires constant attention, supreme diligence and everlasting patience when clouds descend. All character traits I expect God intends to sow in me, not to battle death or defeat sin; He has taken care of that. No, I expect they are the power of God to heal. Heal me and heal others.
So we can journey onward toward the foot of the cross, the gateway to the Father Himself. Same gate. Same Way. Infinite number of paths.
Funny, during Lent the path has a different feel under my feet – a sodden, squishy, slosh. And there is a beautiful reflective quality to it, a sort of darkened, deepened, glow. Almost as if the shadow is cast on a lake and I am, we are, walking on water. The cross is planted on firm ground right at water’s edge. Set there to welcome travelers who are damp from effort. “Come on in and dry off,” it seems to say.
Hey, if we are baptized into new life, surely we can be dried off into Kingdom living.
To be a witness means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist. ~ Madeleine L’Engle Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art
I often need reminding that the only person whose behavior I can control is my own. Same goes for thoughts, actions, and intentions. I can’t cause you to agree with me. I have no control over how you respond to me. I can’t make you do what’s good for you no matter how strongly I wish you would. All I can do is live my life according to what I believe, and believe is best for today. Tomorrow, I begin again.
Witness is such a funny word. We’ve made it a courtroom word, a legalistic word. Who saw the crime? What can they tell us about what they saw? The funny thing is, witnesses are highly unreliable. Detectives and investigators will tell you this.
All the more reason not to listen to what I say. Just watch what I do, because whatever I believe it will be on display there. That’s a big responsibility if I try to control it, and try to make sure you come away with just the right impression. That I can’t do; it’s out of my hands.
Yet, that’s one of the biggest and, to me, best arguments for the truth of the resurrection of Christ. After the disciples saw whatever they saw, they lived differently. What they said and did made no sense unless they believed that Christ’s resurrection pointed to the existence of God.
Would my life, as I am living it today, make sense if God did not exist? I’m pretty sure I could not live it intentionally that way. That is, arise from bed, say to myself “God exists,” and then go about living the proof. How would I do that exactly?
But what of people watching me and trying to make sense of what I say or do? How I respond. How I spend my time, my money, my energy. What kind of witness do I present?
Some would say, “Oh, there will always be naysayers and fault-finders. Pay them no mind.”
But I don’t dismiss them. In fact, favoring those who would complement, encourage or affirm me, who would let me rest on my “church-going” laurels, may be just what the darkness would like. Nope. It’s exactly the naysayers whose attention I have attracted that I invite in. They are a gift to me. They challenge me. They challenge how I live, and how I respond.
It is exactly in those moments of potential confrontation, accusation or dismissal that my witness speaks up. My words are useless. My fear and defensiveness is what they expect. If I withdraw from the angry challenge, I leave them scratching their heads saying “what in the world made her do that?” That’s when God speaks up. Because those are moments not of this world.
It makes no earthly sense. Exactly.
I admit I love the sound of the silence when you close the door and no one else is home. (Thank you for this notion from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth ~ one of my favorite books of all time.)
Today this feels especially so. My young adults have returned from their schooling endeavors and have descended upon the homefront. Having been away last week, I had not gotten the full brunt of the morning whirlwind. Three girls and a husband, each off to a different place, with a Mom-made lunch in hand. I wish I had photos to share (they would not have stood for me taking them) but suffice to say, the attire of each spoke exactly the personality of each and the destination of each. NO words required.
And now there is silence. Even the dogs respect it. But my morning has been turned on its head. No longer the quiet expanse to sip coffee, ponder and write. How spoiled I was. Now I must wait until 9:00 (!) for the silence. I wonder if my “spiritual” brain will extend its timing until then. Until now. God seems to say, “Do you think I only speak blog at 6am?”
Funny. The clutter of doing this morning – the lunch orders, PBJ, ham and cheese, pretzels, popcorn, strawberries, bananas – at first it disarmed me. That, on top of retrieving the dogs and the newspaper from the pouring rain, making the coffee and the rest, had me spinning in circles. No progress at all, it seemed, until I gave up. Figured that a change was in the air and gave in to ‘work’ rather than quiet time in the early morning hours.
And all at once it wasn’t work. It wasn’t even whirl. God reminded me who I was. That the doing itself could be prayer and praise. Reluctantly, I gave in. And…put in a load of laundry.
Then, around 9, came silence. Beautiful. Golden. Lung-filling, brain-activating silence. And I knelt in the place I do when humility before God is especially in order. And God thought into my inner ear,
“Time spent well is not time lost.”
And I pictured the sticks and debris that held back the waters begin to release. Slowly, evenly, one by one, they entered into the downstream flow. Buoyant and bobbing happily. Orderly.
How often I want to impose the order. That it should be ‘just so’ before I release it. God reminds me that He has a perfect order in mind which things will assume naturally when we free them to float. After all, the truth is meant to set us free. As Madeleine L’Engle says, “Free to run across the lake when we are called.”
Do I have the faith for that? No way. But if that was what was between me and my Lord, if He called “Wendy, run across the lake to me,” surely I would because He would bolster my faith for a run such as that.
What if that was everyday? If everyday I listened in the silence or the noise for my name to be called and at that moment, whatever waters stood between me and the will of God were stilled so I could walk across them.
Surely I would run.