Tuesday, September 30, 2014

redeemed from the rocks

Living in these parts of Texas, I don't see a lot any of these signs:
photo cred
These cautionary placards are generally reserved for terrain that boasts a higher elevation than 50 miles above sea level.  Having lived in the Rocky Mountain state for quite some time, I had become accustomed to the warning that, at any given moment, a rock could come crashing onto the road ahead or {worse} into my car.  The odds were pretty much in my favor that I'd navigate the area without so much as a few pebbles kicking back from the 18-wheeler ahead of me, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a chance that my day could have ended a bit differently.  But still, these signs became such a familiar sight while travelling through the mountains that I stopped looking up.  I neglected to keep alert to my surroundings, to communicate my observations, to acknowledge my weaknesses and fears.

Just because there's a warning sign doesn't mean you're safe from harm.

This past summer has been a rough one.  My inconsistent lack of posting is one of the many repercussions of the challenges that struck home over the past few months.  Not only had I stepped away from my writing, but my world of social media came to a standstill.  I found myself in the pitfalls of a downward spiral of which I was the root cause.  Sure, there may have been warning signs, but as time ticked on, I guess I had become accustomed to the way in which my little world operated, and never truly looked up or ahead to see if anything out of the ordinary was heading in my direction.  My communication waned to a point of almost nonexistence, especially when it focused around issues that should have been addressed and shared without fear and trepidation.

Along the craggy parts of the Rocky Mountains where I-70 cuts right through the rock, you'll often see a wire mesh, of sorts.  This mesh serves as a barrier between the potential falling rocks ahead, and the oblivious drivers below.  It's a safety net, if you will, for the enormous rocks that could really, really ruin your day if they broke loose.  

But what happens when the not-so-enormous rocks come crashing down?  The ones that are small enough to fit through the open squares of the mesh, but large enough to still be a complete nuisance or even have dangerous consequences should they make their way to the human-and-car-filled ground below.  Even though they may be small, they {can be} fierce.  

My failure came in thinking that my hole-filled wire mesh barrier would keep those precious parts of my life protected from the falling rocks.  My failure came in thinking I could travel along in life and marriage and parenting without checking in on the status of my travel partners.  I didn't stop to ask how they were, how things were going.  I didn't share my feelings of insecurity about the bumpy and curved road upon which we found ourselves.  I opted to keep blinders on, and misdirected my communication to others who have no business traversing the path upon which God has planned for my family, my marriage, and me.  Small pebbles turned into fist-sized rocks, turned into cantaloupe-sized cobbles.  The trouble with my flimsy barrier was that it prevented me from a true connection with my travel partners.  The barrier held a few things back, but after awhile, the structure had withstood more than it could handle.  

The boulders came crashing down.  Hitting with such force, they made craters in the ground.  They severed the roadway in two.  My travel partners and I were disoriented, affected in many ways from the aftermath. Fear, trepidation, mistrust, anger, brokenhearted, disappointment.  Because we live in a broken world, these feelings infiltrate the daily lives of humans in some form or another; but when your world is rocked by what seems like insurmountable boulders, these feelings don't just sting like a mosquito; they fester.  They burrow deep into hearts and souls and minds, gobbling up any goodness they can find in order to leave the host feeling hollow, broken, and lost.  The devil's work in true form.  Hit 'em where they least expect it.  Hit 'em where they feel most secure.

My husband and I have traveled along for a while now.  We've known each other about 12 years, and are working toward reaching the milestone of a decade of marriage next year {and I don't use that term working loosely, y'all.  it.  is.  work.}.  In all those years, our lives have been pelted with little pebbles, and peppered by a few rocks and cobbles here and there.  Thankfully, our pebbles came in the form of squishy, sweet-smelling babies, and squishy, not-so-sweet-smelling pugs.  Our pebbles gave us a few dings; sleepless nights, pee {or puke} covered clothes, a few gray hairs, a cluttered house, and a lot less money in our savings account.  But overall, the dings have been good.  They've added character, richness, and enlarged our hearts to capacities we never knew were humanly possible.  

When we encountered the rocks, we found ourselves making decisions about large purchases.  Homes, cars, appliances, extraneous items we don't really need {but man, no home is complete without a kegerator, no closet complete without over-priced clothing and purses}.  A few potholes came in the form of overwhelming work schedules, potential job changes, actual job changes, and a long-distance move.  Still, despite these aspects of life, we found ourselves, for the most part, travelling along at the same speed, at the same time, in the same car, in the same direction.  

But then came the boulder{s}.  Large, craggy, unwelcomed masses of hard, dense, disruptive material came crashing down right into the pathway upon which we were heading.  They ricocheted around for longer than we would have liked; damaging and crumbling and rolling over pretty much anything in their path.  The wreckage left behind was disheartening.  Even the sounds of the fall echoed in the ears and minds of those most directly involved.

A rescue mission was deployed.  I'll be honest.  At times, it felt as though it was more of a recovery effort than a rescue effort.  It felt empty.  Desolate.  Dead.  

But it was right there, right in the midst of the hard, right in the midst of the seemingly impossible, right in the midst of the unforgiving minds, the broken hearts, the discouraged souls, that God stepped in.  God brought us the people we needed to begin reconstructing what had been demolished beyond recognition.  People who serve as His hands and feet here on earth.  People in whom we found loving and caring confidants, and honest, loyal, very dear friends.  God performed a miracle on our behalf.  A miracle, right there in the middle of the mess.  He does His best work in that space.  His miracles shine brightest in the darkest night sky.  

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.
~Psalm 77:14

From the perspective of a more pragmatic person, one could say that in wasn't miraculous, but that the first thing we did was to just restore the lines of communication.  Even on days when they connection was weak and crackly, an effort was made to maintain an open pathway for messages to be sent and received.  A pragmatic person could say we simply decided to keep it together, to keep talking it through, to keep on keepin' on, regardless of how hard it became.

However, from a Godly perspective, one could say that hearts began softening, empathizing, mending.  The seeds of eventual forgiveness had been sowed, and the slow-growing process of a reconciliation was beginning to sprout.  Tiny at first, crippled at times, but still sprouting.  Still reaching up through the mess of boulders and broken rock and dust and debris toward the light.  Toward the brightness of hope, the outstretched hand of a God who loves us, whose plans for us are to prosper us, not to harm us; to give us hope and a future. {Jerimiah 29:11}.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, 
that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
~1 John 1:5 

A future.  The very thing that we have been working to build despite the pebbles and rocks and cobbles along the way.  We've been travelling along our path together, heading toward places unknown, save for the God of the Universe, and we're simultaneously creating a past, living a present, and imagining a future.  The trouble with that future is that until it becomes present, you don't know what roadblocks or forks or boulders are heading your way.  You don't even know which travel partners you will find yourself beside, if any.  What we do know is that in the past we've created we found wisdom, in the present we found each other, and in the future we find hope.

Who, but God, knew this summer of boulders would be the catalyst for so many ways to praise Him, so many {more} reasons to hope, so much wisdom, and an even deeper love.  The sprouts of reconciliation are still seedlings, still tender and vulnerable, reaching tall and hopefully toward the unending source of light and love and hope that we find in the One who planted those seeds to begin with.  But we're growing together, we're travelling on the same path again, and this time, we're making sure that regardless of how many times we see warning signs, we refuse to be passive, we will always look up.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; 
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
~Deuteronomy 31:8

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant
 of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion for you.
~Isaiah 54:10