Sunday, March 23, 2014
We are water people. Ocean, lakes, rivers, pools, you name it, we're in. My husband did not begin our marriage as a "beach person." He does not love extreme heat, sand in his crevices, or sharks. Go figure. But twelves years in, and a couple dozen beach trips later he's assimilated quite nicely into my beach-loving family. But if it were up to him, he'd choose river over ocean any day. Our kids are total water babies. It' s kind of like the great equalizer when it comes to athletic ability. The verdict is out as to whether Harper will be an athlete or not, as she currently acts a bit like Bambi on ice, wobbly and uncoordinated. Except she's not on ice. She's on carpet. Flat carpet. But in the water it doesn't matter that she's not grown into her long, lanky legs. She can can just swim and swim freely. The point being that water tends to be a WIN for our family any way you look at it.
Eric and I took an anniversary trip this past Summer. We had not taken a big trip, just the two of us, since our honeymoon, and had promised that we'd take one on our 10-year anniversary. Well, ten years rolled around, Baker was an infant, money was tight, and when I casually brought up the idea of this promised 10-year anniverasry trip Eric genuinely looked like he might cry. We barely had the energy to chew food with our mouths closed, much less to pull together a Caribbean getaway. So we broke the mold and went big on our 11-year anniversary. And it was awesome. We went all-inclusive at this incredible resort in Mexico. We wanted ammenities so nice that you would feel no need to leave the resort if you didn't want to. Hiking, water sports, and wild excursions were nowhere to be found on our agenda. Basically we wanted to remain sedentary and uncomfortably full with shellfish for seven whole days. We succeeded. And I bet we spent 95% of our time there next to water. All of the other guests would head in around 5:30 or 6 to shower for dinner and Eric and I would stay by the water. The sun would set and we'd be floating in an infinity pool all by ourselves. We'd peak over the edge of whatever book we were reading to share some unhurried conversation, and then just continue to float. We had nowhere else to be and no one else to be with. It was incredibly sweet. Something about the water though. In the water we forgot ourselves. In the water we stopped striving. Stopped working. Time passed in spite of us as we let the water move us from one place to the next.
I caught myself developing a not so great prayer habit in the past year or so. I've been taught since I was a young believer that God wants us to be honest with Him, to share our desires with Him, to wrestle with Him, even. And I agree whole-heartedly. He is a good Father who lets us come to Him exactly as we are. No need to censor. But in the name of "being honest with God" I found my entire vantage point shifting. I was settling comfortably into a place of self-importance where I grossly overestimated my bearing on the course of my life. I brought my unmet desires to God like a stack of bargaining chips as I wagered the following deal: "God I have been really faithful to you and have given up a lot of things so the least you could do is come through on the following...." I'd then list off my requests, my entitlement masquerading as confidence. I knew surrender was the better option but believed it to be a lose-lose. I'd surrender to God, thus losing my so-called "leverage," and I'd still not get what I wanted. Real pretty, I know.
Then something happened that turned the tide. In late October we lost our friend, Jay. His is the story I have yet to write. Well, that's not entirely true. It is the story I've been writing since this Lenten journey began. And when the time is right, and with his wife's permission, I'll share it. In the weeks after he passed I wouldn't say it was answers I was looking for. I knew those were not for me to know. It was more refuge that I was after. And, yes, I experienced the comfort of The Lord in very real ways. But there was also a reckoning. I'd close my eyes and Jesus would be there. But not in the way I expected. I wanted so badly for him to turn and look at me, to tell me it was all going to be okay. To make it hurt less. But he wouldn't. His gaze was set elsewhere, his countenance unflinching. Who was this man? And where was he going? What was so important to him that he couldn't break character for just a second to give me what I needed? I looked ahead to try and make out where he was heading. It remained blurry for a long, long time. And then one day a shape started to appear. Rugged and familiar. The cross. Of course, the cross. Always, the cross. I looked at it, then back at Him. I mistook it for a crossroads, one where I decided whether or not I would surrender to Him. But it was more than that. And then He spoke. Finally, He spoke, His voice tender, yet unmistakably firm. "You do not decide, dear one. Surrender or not, I am moving forward with great force. There will be tremendous suffering. It will wreck you, body and soul. And then.... AND THEN....I will triumph over it. And oh, the JOY. The unspeakable JOY. Trust me or not. Join me or not. I AM and I WILL." I was so small before Him. So unaffecting. And it was as it should be. Maybe for the first time, or the first time I was aware of at least, it was as it should be. Me, small yet beloved. Him, powerful yet good.
I've been caught in a riptide once in my life and it was an awful feeling. I swam furiously towards the shore, only to be pulled further out to sea. I've learned since then that the best way to handle being caught in a riptide is to lie on your back, parallel to the shore, and to let the current push you towards dry land. Striving makes it worse. It always does, doesn't it? It creates an illusion of control as we swim upstream, leaving us exhausted, sputtering and choking on our own ideas of what's best for us. I talk about "whether I will surrender" to the Lord as if I have any bearing on His will for my life and the lives of those around me. And then I look up to see Him on the riverbank. Compassionate. Resolute. Asking me to turn ever so slightly to let the water do the work.
Lord. Jesus. Mighty River. Take us where you will. Amen.