I can just barely admit this, but I have finally hauled all the cassette tapes — John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Billy Joel — out from under my bed.
And I’m going to throw them away.
Letting go of this one thing may not free my hands to grab hold of an entire universe, but who knows?
This unloading is initiated, I think, by my oldest son’s purchase of a house: endless boxes and piles of belongings, so overwhelming, and yet minor, inconsequential compared with my extensively curated mess.
Then, there’s the presence of teen sons still in the nest, their growing competence a continual reminder of my slippage toward obsolescence. The prayer of my heart as I fill the waste basket with relics from the 1980’s is this:
“Oh, Lord, please keep my heart from becoming brittle and plastic,
Unconsciously stuck in rigid notions of my own right-ness.”
Trusting that the body and the soul are somehow linked in their flexibility, I’m exercising these days. Like a teetotaling mama sneaking her basement brandy flask, I creep off to the furnace room, knock off my little jumping jacks and squats, approximate a push up, and tremble through a thirty-second plank. The fear of looking ridiculous is banished by the greater fear of weakness — of outliving my ability to rise from a chair unaided.
Lilias Trotter, English missionary to Algeria (and brightly shimmering droplet in my cloud of witnesses) prods me to look beneath the surface of this middle-aged Christian life with her searing question:
“There may be much of usefulness
And of outward self-denial, and yet . . .
There may remain a clinging to our own judgment,
A confidence in our own resources,
An unconscious taking of our own way, even in God’s service . . .
Are we following His steps?
If the Proverb is to be trusted, and my mostly silver hair is to be seen as a crown of glory and wisdom, don’t let me be guilty of false advertising — like Jude’s waterless clouds, carried about by the wind, promising rain, but yielding nothing; like those fruitless trees in late autumn, not only barren, but uprooted. Twice dead.
We speak (disparagingly at times) of Israel’s wandering a circuitous route through a howling wilderness, but there is no inefficiency or waste in God’s methods:
The record shows that they were being led.
In cloud by day, in fire by night, God went before them, never leaving His place in front of His people, and so I join Lilias in asking a few questions of my own:
Is my following marked by an ever-enlarging faith that sustains forward and God-focused momentum?
Will the stumbling footprints of past failures lead to fear-based caution or to greater courage — founded in a memory of seas that split and sustenance that fell from Mercy?
Can my heart find grace enough to view, in retrospect, my own wasteland trails as a following that became the exact price for becoming who I am today?
Cloud of My Soul,
Light of My Soul:
Lead me forward.
Through shadow and shade,
When your presence is veiled and in mist;
Through blazing Words and bright Truth,
When the next step is clear and urgent.
Strengthen my soul for the wondering and for the wandering
That are part of my journey forward.
(Proverbs 16:31; Jude 12; Exodus 13:21,22)
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