Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
I’ve had a lot to contemplate in the past few days, and I’ve had some pretty awesome people to help me do so. To help me see things that I couldn’t see by myself. Once again, community forged me into something stronger than before, urged and equipped by the Spirit of the Living God.
What community helped me to realize, better, these past few days was that I live life in a very familiar pattern. It’s familiar because it’s all over the Bible. As a human being, I am… human. I’m limited in my understanding, my perspectives, my definitions of what is good and evil, my grasp of time, and so many other things. This interferes with my relationship with the Everlasting. Let me explain further:
Several years ago, I was working at a resort in the Recreation department. We took weekly rafting trips on a very small, family-friendly river. It was safe and fun and one of our most popular trips. Since my youngest brother was now old enough to go on the trip, I drove the two and a half hours from the resort to my parent’s home late at night, and the next morning woke up my three youngest siblings very early and told them to get in the car. I was taking them somewhere for the day.
Eli, my youngest brother, was still young enough that the state laws required him to be in a car seat. He was just old enough, however, to know that he hated that car seat. He was the only member of the family who had to be in it, and he knew from his older brothers and sisters – such as myself – that there was a time when the older state laws would have allowed him, at his age, to be free of the car seat. But he wasn’t under the old laws, and so in the car seat he was safely buckled.
We drove about thirty minutes and stopped for breakfast, giving Eli a small break from his seat. Then it was back in the car for a straight two-hour stretch to reach the resort in time. No breaks. Eli made it about forty-five minutes before he began complaining. An hour in, he was whining heavily. An hour and a half in, he was literally kicking the back of my seat – he was sitting directly behind me – and squirming and crying. He had reached his breaking point. He was six years old, he had been woken up at 5:00 in the morning, he was packed in a small car with three of his older siblings, none of which had to suffer in a car seat as he did. Life was unfair, he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he was showing that in every way possible for him at the time.
He didn’t trust me anymore when I told him that staying in his seat had a purpose: to transport him somewhere so that he could have a day like none he had ever experienced before. He lost perspective of that promise in his circumstances; the misery he was in washed away the promises I had made that I knew what I was doing. I was going somewhere with this. All would be made well in time.
Of course we eventually made it to our destination, and he had a day full of mini-golf, whitewater rafting, sight-seeing, swimming, and eating all three meals at his favorite restaurants in the world: McDonalds. Such a day for a six year old! He still talks about that day, nearly four years later. And in his re-telling of those events, he doesn’t remember the car ride. He remembers his daring adventures on a whitewater rafting trip. He remembers our neck-and-neck game of mini-golf. He remembers the triumphant joy of me hitting the signal light when he would see those Golden Arches and shout/ask, “ETHAN CAN WE STOP AT MCDONALDS?!”
I have lived the last few weeks as my brother. I forgot that me throwing a tantrum in the car is not the end of the story.
The second part of the story is God showing up and taking me where he promised.
Part I, and Part II.
I just forgot that Part II was coming.
These excerpts from Psalms 88 and 89 not only reflect my point, but they also happen to be from psalms that have expressed the very core of my heart during some of the most meaningful times of my life. These psalms appear back-to-back in the modern versions of the Bible, and the significance is not lost on me. Neither is the author of the second psalm.
Part I: Psalm 88
O LORD, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to hear my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O LORD, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
my companion is darkness.
Part II: Psalm 89 1-8 (a maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite)
I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth will I make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations,'”
The heavens praise your wonders, LORD,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
Amen, brothers and sisters. Amen.