The Blog

Wrestling Into Embrace

Maybe it’s your spouse. Maybe your lifelong friend. Or your parent or your child, your coworker, your boss — but there’s this one area where you find yourself trapped in a loop of unresolved tension…

It happens again. Somewhere mid-conversation, we realize that we are stuck in that familiar pattern we both loathe. We love each other, but we hate this well-rehearsed script. Sucked into a quagmire of old wounds and new failed attempts at breaking this spell, we reach for each other with one hand while the other keeps slapping and clawing like an agent independent from our will.

Down we both go till the harsh landing in our separate corners. Disoriented, we begin to grasp for understanding. What just happened? Again.

In my part of the equation, accumulated voices from books and blogs and research and friends one by one take the witness stand of my mind and speak their wisdom. Internally, I’m impetuously rushing towards resolution, somehow trying to set the pace of the process like an audiobook on double speed.

But that, too, is a familiar pattern that has never brought the desired outcome.

Genesis 32: 24-26

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

– Is that You, God, wrestling me through this knotted-up situation?

– Is Your intention to injure me so that I may injure others less?

– Do You want me to fight with as much tenacity as Jacob did, or to just wave the white flag in surrender?

It’s not like I hear an audible voice, but something inside begins to dislodge. It was that hidden something that has taken up residence in my body — an unresolved feeling of abandonment, a sense of rejection I’ve internalized. Whenever these types of tension arise, they’re usually tied to a deeper ache.

I can’t always see it, but God can.

The weight of His presence presses in on my own understanding, and a shivering reverence reveals that this is of far greater importance to Him than I had grasped. Neither of the hurting hearts in this precious relationship is pure — and neither intentionally unkind.

We are dust grappling with the divine.

While it’s true that “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, Part II , 1711), more than forgiveness is needed here.

Krista Bugden’s article about muscle adhesions, which was published on Sidekick, enlightens:

“Over time, repeatedly bad posture can create adhesions. The muscles and related tissues are placed under stress time and time again. … In turn, this stress can create micro-tears in the muscles. Your body fixes them by laying down scar tissue. Scar tissue is strong and supportive. It’s a natural part of our body’s healing process. Yet, it may leave you stuck with a giant knot in your back or shoulder that you just can’t shake. And ultimately, it leads to more pain.”

He, who created the visible realm to illustrate the invisible reality, now shows me my emotional scar tissue that limits my relational range of motion. Without the agony of this sore situation, I might not have been open to the surgery of first facing the mirror-tears of my own pride and control, and then willingly welcoming His wrestling grip.

Pain is a phenomenal motivator.

Deeper still, affection for the other bleeds an authentic desire to do whatever it takes to restore our fractured oneness.

Deepest, though, is the wise design of God, who uses our closest encounters to free us from ourselves and with surgeon precision cut off what hinders His image in our souls from full mobility.

In Biblical Hebrew, only the first sound of the word distinguishes “wrestle” from “embrace.” I first learned this from Beth Moore at IFLead 2020, and the realization is continually taking root in me and sprouting a whole new awareness. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “wrestle” (#79. אָבַק) is “abaq.” On the other hand, “embrace” (#2263) is“chabaq.”

When our grabbling for understanding from each other becomes an endeavor with our Creator to tackle those blindspots that repeatedly trip us up, not only do we then desire to walk back to the situation with a posture to embrace; we walk back with the humility it requires.

Hidden in old injuries are shadow names of failure, rejection, and shame. These are what shout at each other in these deadlocked patterns – until…

Genesis 32: 24-26

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be _________ (fill in your own blank), but “Triumphant with God”, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”(Translation by James P. Boyd, Bible Dictionary, Ottenheimer Publishers, 1958.)

We will grapple again, my loved ones and I, and then God and I. But each time, we detangle a bit better from each other and return a tad sooner and more eagerly to the wrestling mat with God.

Though I always dread the limping at first, I’m learning that it sweetens and strengthens the embrace.

Deuteronomy 33:26-27a

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,

Who rides the heavens to help you,

And in His excellency on the clouds.

The eternal God is your refuge,

And underneath are the everlasting arms;

[title Wrestling into Embrace]

[category Come Fill the Gap]

[tags Genesis 32, Deuteronomy 33, conflict, resolution, blindspots, peacemaking, forgiveness, soul care, inner healing, wrestling, embrace, Beth Moore]

Compassion Fatigue

Empty-handed I come to these healing waters. It’s been a long, strenuous journey. At first, familiar adrenaline energized my gait and disguised the exhaustion, but gradually, the pace began to sag till I arrived here in a slump.

Like oil leaks from a degraded engine, behind me puddles of caffeine-induced stamina mixed with discharges of drained compassion and a diminished capacity to listen leave a trail.

According to Golden Eagle, a company that specializes in producing car maintenance products, oil links in cars are a tricky business:

“A leak of any kind should be addressed immediately, but an engine oil leak even more so. Knowing what causes engine oil leaks will help you know where to look and how to start fixing it yourself. Don’t ignore it, or hope it fixes itself.“

Perhaps I have been ignoring it, hoping it would fix itself. The engine light signaling exhaustion has been blinking for a while:

  • Sensations of ants crawling under my skin when I go to bed
  • Throbbing headaches in the middle of the day
  • Disproportionately jolting by every notification on my phone
  • Anxiety over the too-packed calendar

Golden Oil exhorts us:

“Be proactive. Protect and preserve your vehicle’s performance so you can keep it on the road where it’s meant to be.” Yet it isn’t proaction on my part, but the sheer act of protective mercy of God, that pulls this vehicle off the road for a while.

I had heard His call to rest, but didn’t know how to heed it. For every margin I tried to establish, a dam broke somewhere else. I couldn’t take this Sabbath by force, so it was handed to me as a gift ― the way water to a parched marathon runner is a gift.

I don’t take it for granted.

I close my eyes and shut down all other senses while the life-restoring liquid slowly enters my internal desert. It’s hard to temper my breaths and pace the gulps, but I try to be present and just receive one drop at a time.

Gradually the overheated fumes cool down and the fog begins to clear.

And then He comes to me, the One my soul loves and has learned to recognize among a thousand voices. Though still on wobbly feet, I fall into cadence with Him as we begin to walk along the water’s edge.

He gives me space for the stream-of-consciousness questions that now spill out unedited and unashamed:

  • Why is it so hard for me to know when to say yes or no?
  • Why am I always torn between the principles of balance and the call to sacrifice?
  • What do we do when the needs continually overwhelm the resources?

Like hot tears, my frustrating dilemmas keep pouring out till their reservoir is drained. It’s a good emptying. Peace fills their place as we keep strolling wordlessly.

I feel like a child who has thrown a million puzzle pieces on the floor and now expects the adult to begin making sense of them.

It’s okay that He takes His time.

I’m not rushed inside anymore.

“I know it’s a lot,” He then says, adding, “In fact, it’s impossible for you. So I’m glad you came here. Let’s go off to a quiet place and rest awhile.”

When He shows me the place where I can lie down, I don’t resist. Inside His peace I feel even more just how tired I am. My head, my eyes, my legs; everything is so heavy.

I feel the shifting shadows and lights as hours and days pass over my sleep. A lighter air awaits me when I wake up, and He is still there.

Stroking my hair while I lay with my eyes closed, He gently explains,

“You will always have more needs around you than you can satisfy. You will always be torn between your own thirsts and those of others. That’s what keeps you so dependent on Me.

But I will teach you the unforced rhythms of grace. I will teach you to recognize the seasons of your soul. There’s a time to be flexible and a time to be firm, a time to give and a time to receive. This is where your leak is.”

And I realize that I have reversed the appropriate reactions to my engine lights. When I should have slowed down, instead I sped up, attempting to attend faster, and therefore more rushed, to the increasing cries for help.

But I can’t ignore them, though, right?

“No, but you can entrust them to Me. You are limited; I am not. Every human resource will run dry; that’s how I designed it to protect you from looking to each other for what only I can give.”

As Priscila Shirer states on page 69 in her book, Breathe, which talks about making space for Sabbath in your life:

“Believing that doing less can somehow produce more requires resilient faith. It takes an unshakable, concrete trust in God ― the kind that won’t topple in even an earthquake of doubt ― to maintain the confidence that allows you to stop, even when everything in you and around you says keep going. Keep pushing. Keep persisting.”

Compassion fatigue is so common in ministry, so accepted as a necessary battle scar. I can diagnose it in others and help coach toward gentler ways while somehow missing its flashing warnings in myself.

Listening to these healing waves’ faithful rhythm in tireless tides that approach and retract, back and forth, accepting the continual dance, I realize that my own rhythms of grace will be found in similar fluid motions.

Beth Moore affirms this in her Instagram story on September 19, 2020:

“Until we see Jesus face-to-face, our journeys won’t be straight lines nearly as often as they will be a series of loops rolling us forward by circling us back to faith.”

So we go back to our daily lives with our hands full of His gifts, only to return back to His ocean at a later moment to have them filled again. To my surprise, He dips His hands in the ocean and playfully splashes its salty drops on my face before He pulls me into His arms, laughing. Childlike.

“I’ll be with you, remember! Every day, every moment. Yes, you will need to mature in cultivating the principles that nourish your soul, for they are life to you. But when you lose your balance, when you hit rocky ground, I will be here to catch you. This is not a test to trip you up! This is the grand adventure you were made for!“

The Exclusion Monster

On her childhood playground she watches the other children play. An impenetrable wall separates her from them, but she doesn’t know why. In her eyes they are one huddled organism, an exoskeleton with its armored back against her.

On the other side is a warm embrace she can’t enter, a wonderful welcome not extended to her. They are in.

She is out.

And she doesn’t notice the dark presence slithering up to her, coiling his hopelessness around her soul, infecting her every experience with nightmarish undertones.

Later they burn her clothes with cigarettes and her soul with sarcasm and she wears that charred brand, her scarlet letter read and understood by all.

E for excluded

As the years go by, she masters the optic illusion of painting achievements and accolades at just the right angles to cover the mark, and sometimes people don’t seem to notice it at all.

But she can always smell the singed flesh, even after trying to conceal it with perfume and an air of unapproachability. And always, always her eyes scan the room for that monster of exclusion, thinking him to be out there.

But he is in here, choking her under her skin, making sure she interprets every circumstance through that strangled feeling of rejection: people going to lunches and dinners without her, sharing inside jokes and vacation plans while she watches alone. So when they do invite her, she knows better than trusting it. She is nobody’s pity project.

She holds her head high, wears her rehearsed smile, waves and leaves before the tears of the little girl inside betray her carefully cultivated image.

But lately the gap between her public persona and her private pain has darkened and deepened. It’s a chasm one might trip into and never reach the bottom. From its caverns, her tormentor’s voice taunts her with increasing volume and venom and her head is exploding. Her mask is cracking. STOP!

She doesn’t cry for help. Who would care? Who would come?

And her dark captor almost wins.

One barely whispered prayer of fading hope…

SELAH

How long have I been in the quiet place? Where is my constant companion, that vicious voice? Who managed to shut him up?

And the light isn’t harsh; it’s gentle. Am I dead? Is this heaven?

This must be peace? It feels like a soothing blanket inside. No tremors. No anxiety. All the oxygen my lungs desire.

Just to be sure, I gulp in some gigantic breaths and still, there’s no strain. There is enough air for me.

It’s not just absence of pain.

It’s a presence of something I’ve never felt before. It feels good.

And that’s when I grasp it: one alliance has replaced another.

I was never alone.

There is no neutral ground.

Somehow I know this is holy ground and somehow I know I am home.

But I am still in the land of the living.

I breathe in this fresh free air for a while.

And then I turn my head towards Him.

His golden eyes caressing me, He has patiently waited for me to look at Him. All my automatic defense mechanism rush to mobilize and then they pause; I don’t need them anymore. I am safe here.

Safe. That’s what this is.

His hand slowly moves to caress my hair, His eyes asking permission. He will not cross any lines without my consent. I’ve never seen that before.

And then the dam breaks; like lava from all those years of stuffing it down, my heart erupts in cries and questions and shame and anger. One hot stream of purging pain carrying wails and sobs as it leaves my soul.

When it subsides, again I just recognize with wide-eyed wonder that I still feel safe. Whole.

He pulls my head to His chest and tenderly brushes my tears away with His knuckles… and then I hear His voice for the first time, yet somehow my innermost being already knows it from before I was born.

“You were never alone, you know. Even in those nights that broke you. Even in those days that froze you, I was right there with you. There are balances of eternal principles you cannot yet understand, reasons why I must not step in and prevent every violation. But it broke My heart more than you know. And I held you through it, My daughter, and I sang over you and I never let go.

I flung your evil subjugator far from you, but you will need to resist him by your own choice. When he slithers up to you again with his poison of self pity,

When he tries to turn your back against love in isolation,

When you feel his hot breath pushing you away from Me,

It is yours to resolve whom you will obey.

And once you have chosen, I will move heaven and earth to assist you and teach you how to live in this new Life I am offering.

Even when you can’t see Me I am here.

I adore you. I want you to thrive as My daughter. But I will never take your choice away from you.”

And I sigh like a baby who has cried for too long.

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?

to be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!

If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings

to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute—

you’re already there waiting!

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!

At night I’m immersed in the light!”

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;

night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out,

you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

before I’d even lived one day.

Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!

God, I’ll never comprehend them!

I couldn’t even begin to count them—

any more than I could count the sand of the sea.

Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!”

(Psalm 139: 7 – 18 The Message)

I am safe.

SELAH

The Ancient Path

I exercise just enough to satisfy my doctor at my yearly visits. But when I do, I prefer a ballet barre, because I’ve always loved a good plié. When I focus on leaning into it with the right technique, something inside me shifts.

I find an internal balance.

But it’s more than than that. It’s what I’ve always done, long before my parents gave me the gift of my first dance class.

So when my 54 year-old self flips a chair around in our somewhat over-furnished living room, it becomes a barre, and I remember who I am.

Even after decades of not dancing, my body follows well familiar paths, like coming home after a long trip.

“Stand in the ways and see,

And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,

And walk in it;

Then you will find rest for your souls.”

  • Jeremiah 6:16

Lately current events have taken me back to another old path where my soul finds rest:

Training for courage.

I don’t understand enough about genetic memory to expound on it beyond my personal experience, but before my father ever told me of his experiences as a child in the camps after World War II, I had already been thinking like a refugee.

“The bathroom would be the best place to hide,” my 9 year old reason concluded, “when they come for us, there will be running water in the bathroom.”

Obsessively reading everything I could about surviving in a hostile environment shaped my childhood mind.

As a young pastor’s wife in South Beach with two wonderfully rambunctious toddlers, I forgot for a season what I had learned. Bombarded with expectations about the American Dream version of the Christian life, I lost perspective. I lost contentment. I lost myself.

In that season I measured my husband, who was a bi-vocational missionary church-planter, by what he did for me and the children. I was afraid the kids would one day hate the church because it took so much of their daddy’s time. We’ve all heard about those pastors’ kids…

But then someone sent me a magazine from Voice of the Martyrs, and just like my muscles embraced the familiar ballet movements, my soul embraced the visceral reality of following Jesus when it’s costly.

Throughout time and geography, normal Christian life has been one of persecution.

Rather than worship festivals and family retreats, suffering has been the expectation.

And what we expect determines how we think, feel, and act.

In the company of widows whose husbands were tortured and killed for the Gospel, my petty grievances evaporated. Their children expect to pay the ultimate price because that is the path of the Cross.

The ancient path, the good path, where we find rest for our souls.

“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered …”

‭‭- 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:14‬

It doesn’t take a prophet to see that we, globally, are headed into hardship.

We are bracing for a storm.

But we were made for this.

For me, the physical grounding at the barre and the mental armor of accepting the cost of the Cross clarify my space on the ancient path, the Narrow Way.

As I now revive my blog to be a voice in the current conversation, I realize how much this scarlet thread runs through it.

And you have your own.

What has given you joy and strength throughout your life?

What has inspired you?

How does your ancient path lead you to find rest for your soul today?

If you’ve forgotten, ask God and He will lead you there again.

Please comment, so we can strengthen each other all the more as the Day draws closer.

Troll Hunting

That area we go to great lengths to avoid – that’s where He now takes me. I didn’t just casually leave it, I slammed the door to all my ferocious fears and bolted as far and fast as I could… No need to go back to those sinister shadows where old rejection and loneliness roam like tyrant trolls.

“You’re not under the Curse anymore. It’s time to face them.”

As He takes me back into the darkness where it began, the familiar tears burn in my throat and the dreaded panic presses down over me. I feel like I’m drowning. I can’t swim. I can’t breathe. I can’t do this!

“Yes, you can.

You’re not under the Curse anyone.

Look at those old trolls – take a good look at them. What’s the worst they can do to you?”

They can… they can strangle all life and beauty from my life and rip from me everyone I love. Right?

“No, they cannot. You’re not under the Curse anymore, remember! They are just shadows with no substance. You are in My Light now. I in you and you in Me, and you will never, ever be alone again. No one can snatch you from Me.”

But what if …?

“I will be with you!”

But then what if …?

“I will be with you!”

“I will give you the treasures of this darkness…” (Isaiah 45:3)

Clearly in no rush, He just relaxes next to me. So I let out my breath and begin to relax a little with Him in this setting I’ve dreaded for so long. I still don’t like it, but it doesn’t torture me like I feared it would.

Time passes.

He searches my face and there’s tender kindness in His eyes. “How are you doing now?”

He knows, of course, but I need to speak it:

He didn’t bring me here to subject me to the trolls, but to teach me to subject them to Him. I’m not under the Curse anymore, so they can’t overpower me like they once did.

But I had to face them, and linger in their company long enough for them to shrink down to the size of truth.

And truth begins to rob their darkness, slowly, systematically.

From the darkness of the cursed He brings blessing.

From the darkness of rejection He brings adoption.

And from the hell of feeling utterly alone He fuses a fierce togetherness.

As my voice speaks what my mind has come to accept, glorious sunlight bursts into hidden crevices in my heart. Light and lightness. The nightmare is broken, the shadows retreat, and I stand free in this land now redeemed.

Never Again


(Photo credit: Alex Perez, Unsplash)

Never again will the waves of destruction rip me into their swirling tides of terror. Chaos. Fear. Confusion.

Alone.

Clinging to driftwood that falls apart in my hands, being pulled deeper into the dark, further from land. Nothing solid. Up / down blurred. Gasping for air.

Merciless torrents whacking me hard, blow upon blow upon bloody blow. Can’t hold on. What’s the point? I let go….

“When I awake, I am still with You.”

(Psalm 139:18)

A warm breeze caressing my face, I awake in the sand. My eyes are closed, but I know I’m not alone. Saltwater stings my wounds, but I can breathe. The ground beneath me is solid. It doesn’t budge under my full weight.

I am not too much.

I just am.

And I feel You. You feel safe. But I don’t know what safe is.

I open my eyes. And Love looks at me, no judgment. No fear. You are not afraid of me. You are not ashamed of me. I am not too much for You. You are solid.

I look back at You, and streams of knowing affection caress me. Unblinking, unashamed, unreserved affection. You always knew me. You see right through me, but Your light isn’t harsh, it’s healing. It is real.

I didn’t know I was holding my breath until now, but I let it go.

I am loved. You are Love.

Ever so gently, You show me Your hand, before it touches my hair, caressing. I don’t flinch. Kindness itself, so slowly, so carefully, brushes the sand from my face.

And then You kiss my nose and smile. Your nose wrinkles, You’re eyes twinkle, and You invite me to dare to smile to You.

Did I ever smile before? And then a cautious grin and golden bubbles of joy explode inside me.

You take my hand, and with no rush, You help me stand on wobbly legs, and as time becomes Your tool, You teach me to walk on Your chosen paths, sometimes just with You, sometimes with others.

Months and years and decades mature Your seed inside me, and we walk together every day. A daughter eager to learn her Father’s trade, I imitate Your moves, Your touches, and impatiently try to grow my little heart into the size of Yours. You laugh and correct me, as together we find soul after shipwrecked soul on the shore, and I love watching them open their eyes to You.

But I’m still scared of that treacherous sea that sucked me into its destructive deception. Sometimes I still hear the sirens that seduced me out there, and though they no longer sound sweet, though I can hear the poison and remember the forces that shredded me, I’m afraid.

Would I ever voluntarily wade into those waters again, perhaps on a quiet day when they reflect the sky so prettily? Would You ever allow me to be gripped by those elements again -or others I’ve yet to encounter and grow immune to?

I stare at the horizon. Trembling.

Then I feel Your warm breath against my skin as You whisper right into my ear,

“Never again, Child. Never again will you face anything or anyone without Me. No one can snatch you out of My hand. Never again. Now and forever, you are safe. Look at the horizon, where the earth and sky kiss.”

I see a rainbow.

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:13-16)

https://youtu.be/Pk5SI-aboiY

Sand

Unlike their Colgate-whitened pictures on postcards, the Mediterranean sands of Malaga are dark. Earthy. Scattered shells and rocks give a much rougher impression to the eye than the softness that greets the hand. Something sweet about the powder-fine texture calls my fingers to caress it, like the cheek of a child. Like the human soul. Aching to be touched under our weathered exterior.

Old and new footprints have left their marks, some easily erased, some deeper than that. Subject to the ever-changing clouds, sun, and wind, held in the predictable pattern of night and day, the temperature of the sand grows hot or cold. And I wish I didn’t so easily lose my peace, wish I wasn’t so affected by the shifting shadows of affection or aggravation.

But deeper than that, deeper than prying eyes and any human experience, the core of the earth is blazing hot. No science can measure the fire burning there, eternity in our hearts, the deep that always calls to Deep. Under all the daily comings and going, my soul just longs for You. The gravity You created continually pulls me towards You, or I would fly apart like a meteor into outer space. Sometimes, it’s close..

I press my back into the warm, dark sand, trying to feel Your heartbeat. Tanned, toned bodies stroll past me, fractured conversations drifting like shadows on the breeze, brushing agains my awareness for a moment or two. Each one a whole life with laundry and worries and secret dreams I’ll never know. But You intimately do. Here today, gone tomorrow; so brief is our existence on these shores….

Psalms 8:3-5

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,

And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

Roaring its ancient song, the cool blue ocean crashes into so many countries and continents, bring tears and prayers from Algeria to Morocco, from Spain to Israel…. and the cries from Syria, I sense them in this spray… Deaths of the people it has swallowed over time, life from the mariscos we gratefully enjoy. Looking deceptively calm, this sea surprises with her insistent suction into her depths, much like the depression I encountered in my beloved. And like I learned then, I’m standing still on the solid ground, not being swept away but rather lifting my eyes to You, who are higher and stronger and constant.

Isaiah 54:10

“For the mountains shall depart

And the hills be removed,

But My kindness shall not depart from you,

Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”

Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”

Generation after generation gazing into this sunlit horizon, until one day, time is no more. My eyes follow theirs as I meditate on that place where heaven kisses earth. Find me here, God, kiss me here where I am a grain of sand on your beach, and Your majestic Love is so evident in all you have made. Find me here, and bring my kiss on Your wind to those I love.

Psalms 85:10

“Mercy and truth have met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed.”

o

Sand


Unlike their Colgate-whitened pictures on postcards, the Mediterranean sands of Malaga are dark. Earthy. Scattered shells and rocks give a much rougher impression to the eye than the softness that greets the hand. Something sweet about the powder-fine texture calls my fingers to caress it, like the cheek of a child. Like the human soul. Aching to be touched under our weathered exterior.

Old and new footprints have left their marks, some easily erased, some deeper than that. Subject to the ever-changing clouds, sun, and wind, held in the predictable pattern of night and day, the temperature of the sand grows hot or cold. And I wish I didn’t so easily lose my peace, wish I wasn’t so affected by the shifting shadows of affection or aggravation.

But deeper than that, deeper than prying eyes and any human experience, the core of the earth is blazing hot. No science can measure the fire burning there, eternity in our hearts, the deep that always calls to Deep. Under all the daily comings and going, my soul just longs for You. The gravity You created continually pulls me towards You, or I would fly apart like a meteor into outer space. Sometimes, it’s close..

I press my back into the warm, dark sand, trying to feel Your heartbeat. Tanned, toned bodies stroll past me, fractured conversations drifting like shadows on the breeze, brushing agains my awareness for a moment or two. Each one a whole life with laundry and worries and secret dreams I’ll never know. But You intimately do. Here today, gone tomorrow; so brief is our existence on these shores….

Psalms 8:3-5

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,

And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

Roaring its ancient song, the cool blue ocean crashes into so many countries and continents, bring tears and prayers from Algeria to Morocco, from Spain to Israel…. and the cries from Syria, I sense them in this spray… Deaths of the people it has swallowed over time, life from the mariscos we gratefully enjoy. Looking deceptively calm, this sea surprises with her insistent suction into her depths, much like the depression I encountered in my beloved. And like I learned then, I’m standing still on the solid ground, not being swept away but rather lifting my eyes to You, who are higher and stronger and constant.

Isaiah 54:10

“For the mountains shall depart

And the hills be removed,

But My kindness shall not depart from you,

Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”

Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”

Generation after generation gazing into this sunlit horizon, until one day, time is no more. My eyes follow theirs as I meditate on that place where heaven kisses earth. Find me here, God, kiss me here where I am a grain of sand on your beach, and Your majestic Love is so evident in all you have made. Find me here, and bring my kiss on Your wind to those I love.

Psalms 85:10

“Mercy and truth have met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed.”

Love Journey, Departure

Above the clouds the restraints fall away. Gravity seems less oppressive, and I can feel again the kind of air my lungs were meant to breathe, albeit this is actually the cabin-pressured airplane environment. I can see differently from here. I can feel same the freedom I experienced as a child, laying on my back looking up into the clouds.

I lean my head on my man’s shoulder and nestle into that familiar nook by his neck where I am home. His faint body fragrance wraps around my senses like a child’s security blanket, and I relax.

It’s been intense. While battling the classic pastor’s burnout, he was knocked out for a month by a severe flu. Then the hurricanes and the magnitude of need all around us in their aftermath. A wedding. A suicide. Before boarding this plane, both of us have really wrestled with the seemingly selfish decision to go ahead with our planned anniversary trip to Spain, knowing how much needs to done everywhere. Knowing how much our invaluable colleagues carry – How can we just skip out like this?

Resting against his chest, I feel a lightness there I have missed for longer than I can remember. Over coffee today, my dear friend reminded me of the many stories tucked away in that chest; his own complex experiences as well as those of the flock he pastors with more empathy than any of us grasp. Most of his responsibility is invisible to the human eye, and only those in similar shoes know the weight of aching to meet meet every need with tangible compassion, but being unable.

He knows he isn’t God.

He knows God is beautifully at work through His body, arousing action and esprit de corps within our community like never before. Such beauty in response to disaster. Stronger faith and deeper commitment, as together we move into the new normal of being shaken “that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)

All the people we love are in the best of hands. His heart and mind clothed in human skin.

So we feel the lift of eagles’ wings under us and the firm leading of His Spirit to take us higher, above the fray of the daily demands, to see from 30,000 feet the world He so loves. We pray to return with fresh perspective and passion to the call we gratefully embrace.

Till then…

I Would Do It Again

Not that I had slept much, but waking up in the little classroom in the church that housed our missions team, I began to feel joy- bubbles surge through me. Surrounding me on their little air mattresses, my girlfriends on the team began to stir, and in each one’s face, a knowing grin began to dawn: We would have a wedding tonight, and I would be the bride.

Meeting those same girls a year earlier, when on their bunks at night, they would fantasize about their wedding one day, I had been the killjoy of their dreams. “Girls, get a life; don’t wait for a man to make you happy. Be happy now!”

And less than a week later, I was the one smitten so hard, I could neither sleep nor eat. Love sick. In a school that didn’t allow dating and in a heart that had never before loved a man like this, I was a mess. These same girls had talked me through every micro development of our relationship, from the first violent flutter in my stomach to this, my last morning single.

Twenty five years ago today.

None of us knew what we were talking about, as we lay there between toddler sized furniture, planning a wedding with carrot sticks and carrot cake in the classroom across the hall. The sweet simplicity of the wedding itself is still one of my fondest memories, but the complexity of marriage would prove to be an acquired taste.

We had no idea how broken we both were.

We had no idea how little we could fix or change the other; and that morning, we had no idea we would even want to.

I was naive and impetuous, and he was jaded and afraid of the commitment we both knew was for life.

We were the least likely to survive it, let alone thrive.

Twenty five years later, I reflect on why and how we arrive at this day, more than ever confident in the endurance of love and the validity of the covenant of marriage.

1. We haven’t done it alone.

Both of us, from the first realization that our interest was serious, invited accountability all the way into our most private thoughts and fears.

Through the most excruciating seasons where we felt desperately trapped with each other, more caged than committed, mature mentors with our best interest at heart, helped us move from our loud personal pain to compassion for the other.

When external pressures like a church split, business collapse, deaths, and more life than we could handle in our toddler caused sleepless nights and anxiety attacks, we could have been ripped apart – but these guides helped us to fuse together instead.

2. They haven’t done it alone.

None of our priceless friends counseled from their own wisdom. Had they merely loved us, they could have chosen sides between us, and trust me, there were times when human wisdom would have told him to run from this crazy, wild woman.

But godly wisdom broke our shells of self-preservation and insisted on death – the laying down of our lives for each other, and these friends reminded us of the highest love, rather than the easiest path. They still do. They draw from the well of eternity, so they water us with effervescent Life, not temporal relief.

3. I haven’t done it alone.

From the collective we, both with each other and our life friends, to the very personal I, this is the deepest source of love and endurance. Very early in our marriage, Robert made the wisest statement, probably the determining two sentences for us:

“Get me off your pedestal. I can’t be your God.”

Uttered in frustration over my expectation that he be emotionally present with me when he was physically near, it nonetheless set us both free.

The only Source for our soul’s deepest need has always been and will only be God Himself. Robert’s exasperation reminded me that, before we ever met, we were each satisfied in God. Jesus had not only changed our lives, but He had saturated them with meaning and purpose and calling, and His was the Spirit that caressed and comforted us in the most intimate corners of our hearts.

From that secure place, we learned to listen to each other without taking offense. Even when it hurt. Even when it shattered our image of ourselves. We have worked hard at understanding, rather than seeking to be understood, and in the process, many lofty ideals have given way to much more substantial realities.

Robert is not who I once wished he would be. I can’t tame him. And I am certainly not what he expected from a wife. But much sweeter, we have learned to discover and appreciate who each other actually is and is becoming, and so living with the real person, not the image in our head. Always a work in progress. Always a poema, a masterpiece in the hands of God. Always needing and therefore tasting deeper Grace.

4. We are not our own

Many have asked me about the sacrifices involved with being this urban visionary pastor’s wife. And truly, most of our life together never resembled anything like what we read in family books that it ought to be. At some point, I realized that every time I read about what a husband and father “should” do or be to measure up to the ideal, the fruit in me was discontentment, because we would never ever get to that point.

So I cut it out.

Rather than the privileged idealism of the west, I began feeding my expectations with stories from the front lines of our faith. Persecuted colleagues, who didn’t agonize over whether their husband met their emotional needs, but whether or not he was still alive. Whether or not he would stand firm under torture. Whether or not he gave his all for The Savor who gave His all for us.

And that made all the difference.

In that light, the deep integrity of my husband far outshines any superficial shortcomings. In that light, my burden has always been light, and I only yearn to be found worthy of my calling.

Yes, I still wrestle to surrender and subdue my fears and hopes to the only Faithful One, not because He hasn’t earned it, not because my man hasn’t earned it, but because I am still a scared little bird sometimes. And I accept that.

I woke up this morning, twenty five years after “I Do”, deeply grateful. The measures of sacrifice and satisfaction are irrelevant.

Marriage so far has neither been a dream nor a nightmare, but an exploration of the most real Love ever. As Robert said to me a few years ago, on another anniversary; “I would do it again.”

In the arms of my man, I have felt the deepest intimacy humanly possible, and in his eyes I have received the deepest forgiveness I have ever needed. He has been to me the experience of Jesus, both in his limitations drawing me to HIS sufficiency, and in his generosity, giving me a foretaste of what’s coming.

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

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