I started this morning with a good cup of coffee and a friend, discussing the way we can know God’s direction and once we’ve known to be reassured of it as we walk in it.
It was a two-hour conversation, but the best I could come up with was something about taking a step at a time; walking together.
Following requires trusting the one you follow. It doesn’t require comprehension of path or destination. It doesn’t require unwavering righteousness or advanced skills. Trust. And maybe some patience.
At mid-day, while running on a treadmill, I enjoyed my usual dose of Law & Order and Cold Case, alternating between the two during commercials.
I was shocked and affected strongly by the story presented about a desperate, threatened, victimized single mother who jumped from a window with her daughter to avoid the perpetrator of violence at her door. Her daughter died in the fall.
With visceral instinct, I cursed at the screen, at the fear and bondage and hopelessness, more in the violent prayer mode than the taking-the-Lord’s-name-in-vain mode. Then prayed more fervently and appropriately, “Oh, Lord, have mercy on us. Please, Lord, come quickly.”
I recognized that my prayer for his coming was much less about his coming in the typical manner we think of it, and more in the “please be here with us, please be near to us” manner; though I long for that reality in both ways, I’m sure.
I’ve ended the day with two things that have rounded out these others: tea and conversation with my oldest daughter, Katie, and a few pages from Frederick Buechner.
Time with Katie is a gift that I treasure. Hours such as these are an endangered species. Through conversations about her friends and teachers, her plans and hopes, her opinions and faith, her pursuit of truth at the risk of temporal alliances, she gives me hope for the future; a wish for a long life, so I can be a witness to as much of the beauty of her experience and influence as possible.
And somehow, the passage from Buechner comes with his powers of alchemy, when I’ve had all of the day I can take, and rounds this out, and draws it together, and makes, of the many experiences, one: fruitful in reflection and powerful in recognition.
Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering. Instead, he helps us to struggle and suffer as he did, in love, for one another. Christ does not give us security in the sense of something in this world, some cause, some principle, some value, which is forever. Instead, he tells us that there is nothing in this world that is forever, all flesh is grass. He does not promise us unlonely lives. His own life speaks loud of how, in a world where there is little love, love is always lonely. Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled. (“The Breaking of Silence” from The Magnificent Defeat, by Frederick Buechner)
So, from lessons learned on a Thursday, I offer a fervent and simple prayer: May we know Christ, the breaker of bonds, the narrow way, the fulfillment of all our deepest and highest hopes and desires.