This is long overdue. Too long. I've had topics on my heart, and things to share, but I've found myself stunted by everything going on this year. We've all been bombarded with heaviness on a global, national, local, and personal level. It's hard to think of a time when we've been hit from so many different angles. But the hard is good in some ways.
As a fairly well-off white woman, I've invited the heaviness of this year because I don't want to sit by and live in my own little world. It would be very easy for me to stay in my own world. For sixty days, during the worst of the quarantine, I didn't leave Camp Tadmor, where my husband and I live. I went on a lot of hikes around camp, and spent a lot of time outside, but I never left the mountain. It wouldn't have been hard to continue that lifestyle. Instead, I've chosen to dive in to the suffering, though I can always do better.
I've chosen to follow certain COVID-19 guidelines, despite how I feel about them, to ensure others feel safe around me. I've chosen to care about what people of color are experiencing now, and have experienced throughout history, choosing not to stay ignorant. I've chosen to not turn a blind eye to my neighbors who have lost everything from the fires raging through Oregon.
The hardness is good because it means we care. It means we're growing and stretching. We're enlarging our understanding and our empathy, and that usually hurts. If you have engaged with the difficulties of 2020, well done. I can't say I've embraced any of this with much dignity or grace. From this vantage point I can see when the ugliest parts of me have come out. Often. Next level of hard is to face that ugliness in yourself and work to correct it.
But none of that is the point either, though it's very important. Early in July, we had an outdoor time of worship through singing with our small summer staff. About forty of us (down from the usual seventy) stood up at Old Horse Corral as the sun set and we sang praises to our King, Jesus. It had been several months since I had worshiped with other people like that. Hopefully by now, you know the feeling of coming back into your community after many months apart.The experience is hard to describe.
Before we even began singing, people around me talked quietly and I gazed around at the beauty of the forest. On three sides of me were lush, healthy evergreen trees, fallen logs, soft undergrowth. Just ahead of me, the landscape gave way abruptly to bow before the golden setting sun (pictured above). The view was spectacular, and usually when I'm up there, I can't take my eyes off it. On this occasion, however, my eyes roved over the individual blades of vibrant, green grass and the tiny needles of the fir trees. Every little detail stood out to me, every vivid color brought the foliage to life. It was like being in a dream when the atmosphere is too alive, nothing feels quite real.
This moment was very real, however, and as if the experience wasn't powerful enough already, God spoke these words quite clearly into my mind and heart, "I know every single blade of grass, even though it is here today and gone tomorrow. I care about every tender, little thing in your life."
Then I was aware of God's real presence inside me, and all around me. A soft, precious, unmatched love.
I have carried those words close ever since. I have spoken those words over friends. I hope you hear them now. The hope, the light in all this darkness is that God cares about every tender, little thing in our lives. God cares deeply about your grief over losing a loved one. God is heartbroken over the ways in which people of color have been treated throughout history, and today. God mourns with you as you learn to let go of every earthly possession you had.
All this suffering is not what God desired for His masterpiece. Thankfully, there is a plan in motion to redeem and restore every blade of grass and every broken heart. Love already came down to fix the messes we face today. Jesus came and sacrificed Himself so that we may have a place at the table in God's own household. This doesn't diminish the pain we face through these trials, but it's the hope I cling to.
One day, I will receive a perfect, healthy body and I will FEAST at the union of Christ and His bride. One day there will be no pain or illness or loss. In the meantime, we can be vessels to bring that perfect Kingdom here, now. We can extend this hope. We can enter into the suffering and the conversations with grace and love.
AND we don't have to carry all this by ourselves. We can surrender and release every little thing to Christ who alone has the strength to stand in power under these burdens. As a friend reminded me last night with her glowing face and radiant smile: real growth and maturity is choosing joy no matter your circumstances, because you know where your True Joy comes from.
No disease, or prejudice, or hate, or fire can take that joy away from you.