Monday, February 27, 2012

These Are Days

The plane bumps. Matt Nathanson sings in my ears as he did in the fall when I ran through sunlight and decades to find my way back to myself. I am headed home from California, a place where two of my children live, one finishing a story, the other just cracking the table of contents. I have finished a book with which I had a divine appointment and as I bask in the sorrow of its ending and the glow of its enlightenment, I look behind me and see so clearly.

There was a time when I was eaten up with longing for what might have been. How is it that I now live in a place where peace has replaced craving? Fear, once the water that filled my basement, is now but the occasional drip of a faucet and needing only a turn of wrench or mind to stop the leaking. The promised land is ahead of me. But today I see milk and honey where once lived only monsters. 

At 21 I had a vision of what my life would be. At 35 I clung to that vision with bloodied hands, and at 45 I let it go, slipping beneath the surface of dark waters not knowing if I would breathe oxygen again in the fair light of day.  I did not see it coming, the day when my life became unrecognizable to me. No signpost on the road-TURN OFF HERE-to warn me. Just a day when I woke up in a land not my own and without a soul I knew in the jungle, an invisible compass recalibrating every step. "He who loses his life will find it," was not some Jesus catch phrase, no 'let go and let God' for the wannabes and rabble looking for inspiration, dinner, or love in all the wrong places. Wannabe and rabble member both, I repeated these words in darkness, some days like a magic spell and others with faith smaller than a mustard seed, believing there was nothing ahead but more loss.

I was wrong.

And as I contemplate, from 35,000 feet, the land I now inhabit--the people I love and the places I call home--I am stunned to discover those words are true. It is a life I live but do not own, of human frailty, f-bombs and forgiveness. It is also a life of unexpected comrades, unrequited love, and unparalleled joy; a wilderness inhabited now with experienced guides and hands that need holding. The night sky's crescent bears witness to the hope of light and the reality of dark; the land we inhabit somewhere between the two.

Thursday on the plane, a slender bookish man with beautiful reading children and a sympathetic wife, offered me a drink ticket with a smile as if he were handing me a $100 bill. The surfer next to me read the Bible and played video games on his I-pad. A former colleague and I shop for her dress online and a current one calls to report in, the cheer in his voice when he heard where I was headed all the proof I need that this is more than a job. A familiar face in the airport gift shop takes me back 25 years as I see the outline of an old friend in his now-adult son and in greeting him, see that he is his parents' child in every good way. There is no direction I look in which I do not see a miracle.

I see again, my daughter's life in the midst of a weekend that didn't always go as planned and yet somehow managed to deliver all we hoped. Friends like precious pearls are introduced as the treasure they are and time too short is released with a sigh and the promise of more. Another daughter sings of love from 3000 miles away, her joyous spirit resounding in my heart as if she were across the table from me. My sons weave threads of life amidst three circles of unknown. They are brave and have chosen their comrades so well, willing themselves to walk in such a way that the bridge will appear beneath their feet. It is not the life I imagined nor even a repaired version of that broken vessel. It is something entirely new and but for years of grief I would never have known it.

Ten years ago I read the Book of Job like an owner's manual, frantically searching for anything that would help me make sense of our life. There was much that would bring me comfort over the years but nothing like this passage from the 23rd chapter, Job's words after calling out the big fat nothing his God-seeking days had produced, "But He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me I will come forth as gold." There were days I was so furious that this assertion meant nothing to me, and days when it was the lifeboat to which I clung. Tonight it is the thought I'm dying to tattoo on my arm, this reminder that there is no outcome I seek more precious than what has already been planned. 

Your journey will be your own perfect, disastrous story, every wrong turn and hiccup the seeds for a great harvest ahead. I don't know when.  I don't know how.  But let go, open your hand, lose your life. I promise you'll be glad you did.  


  1. Replies
    1. Ah, you are so kind, my good friend. I feel the same way about you!