This road trip is wonderfully unsettling. It is every bit at the edge of my comfort zone as I expected, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The stretching is causing me to open myself up to… be more unsettled.
Unsettled is the perfect word because the growing of roots has been suspended. Flight is all I know.
Somehow it breaks open my mind and makes me want to write to the unconventional rhythms spilling out. Therefore, I would like to offer a succession of thoughts that have strung themselves together in my mind:
Photograph: My life feels like this broken-down lumber train. It’s been cleared of most of the things that filled it to the brim. But now it’s not weighed down by the business of life, and it lets the light through. It’s ready for a new destination, but not yet. For now, it will just be. Gentle wind and golden light are its delightful company.
“In Exile” by Thrice
All I’ve seen is just a glimmer in a shadowy mirror,
But I know one day I’ll see face to face.
There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on.
I’m not settling for this unsettling town.
Of a city that endures, where all is made new.
Verses of Old:
Genesis 35:1-3 – “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.'”
Isaiah 30:19-22 – “For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon has He hears it, He answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, ‘Be gone!'”
Jeremiah 29:11-14 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place form which I sent you into exile.”
Psalm 116: 1-2, 7 – “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live. . . Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
Thoughts Strung Along:
[Please note, I may use the words “the Lord” when referring to God, or the Divine, the “Something Behind,” as C.S. Lewis puts it. The Lord, my Sweet Savior, is the God I have come to know and love over the years, and “I must say what I think true” (Lewis, Mere Christianity).]
1. The Lord has proven Himself both good and faithful to me. The Mystery that is His Spirit has occupied my heart since I invited the Savior in when I was six years old. Through it all, He has been there all along, everywhere with me. Many believers have gone through a “dark night of the soul,” and I know their experiences are valid. Many people do not even know what it could mean to experience a God this personal. I can only write what I know, and I believe the God of the universe pursues each of us – to walk with us, to be our Friend, to redeem our lives so that they hold meaning beyond this busy world, this lonely planet.
Jacob didn’t know this God when was fleeing for his life in Bethel. He had hurt others and screwed up his life to the point that he had to get away. He had nothing but a walking stick and a rock for a pillow. Then this “Something Behind” emerged from the starry veil, allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him and demand a blessing. Jacob did not know this Mystery when he first encountered Him, but the story goes on to say that Jacob began to know Him as “the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
2. The Lord heard my cry. This same God has been there in the darkest days of my distress. When my life had been stripped of everything against my will, I cried out to God for help, and He walked with me. It shocks and humbles me to think that as soon as He heard my cry, the Lord was there… and not long after, He “dealt bountifully with me.” I very honestly put this prayer on paper in December of last year:
“Hopes Deferred: Marriage and children, being cherished, honored, and wanted. You want me! Thank You! Please take the pen… write my story… help me fall in love with Your will before I marry someone else. Help me walk secure in the work You have for me to do. But, Sweet Savior, You know the desire of my heart. When will You fulfill my desire? How will You change its shape this year?”
The Author of my story heard my cry and mercifully brought Nate Croft back into my life. Our friendship began nine years ago, but I never knew he would be the man I have been praying for during most of my life. He knows, walks with, and loves the same God Who captivated my heart. Walking on the Ancient Path led my steps to intersect with his, and now we joyfully travel together.
God did not have to answer my cry so wonderfully or so quickly, but He did. The way a loving father gives his children what they want when it it good for them, my God was gracious and generous with me, as soon as He heard my cry.
3. Therefore, clear the mess and return to your rest.
The unsettling nature of this road trip has forced me to clear even more junk out of my life. I’ve already ripped my roots out of Texas, where sweet loved ones and a great job blessed my days with joy. I sold and gave away most of the possessions filling my apartment, but I still drove home to Tennessee with a car stuffed with things. Now, it’s all been left behind. My husband and I are living out of the Runner for the number of weeks that it takes us to see all the places up north and out west. I don’t even know what my next job will be. After a seven-year teaching career, I feel like a true vagabond. But I believe I am supposed to make space in my life and, hard as it may be for me, to not rush to fill it again, a wise admonition from our dear friends Mike and Crissa Boyink, full-time RVers who believe in the value of “ditching suburbia” by trading the accumulation game into quality experiences shared together and with others (ditchingsuburbia.com).
And now, with all the weight of the things I’ve cleared away gone, what else is there to do but rest?
The other night, The Bear and I explored the shoreline of Lake Michigan at Point Betsie. We did the “work” of photographing the beauty around us, then settled in on the concrete ground underneath the lighthouse to watch the sun melt slowly into the lake. It was the perfect moment only because we chose to cease our work and rest. That is what I need to seek passionately, more than any other pursuit in my life right now:
Return to that place where God met with you – the good, wild God who hears your cry and loves you and will write the most beautiful of stories with your life if you will but let Him wrest the pen from your hand. There you will find rest for your soul.
Only then will I be ready to put anything back in to this beautifully empty life.