Friday, November 16, 2007
Garden of Words, Part 4 - (the final one)
In desperation I cried out to God, “Show me something, Lord.” I continued through sobs, “Please show me something to hang on to.”
Two hours earlier my friend Desha had gently said, “Of course,” when I called and asked her if I could stay the night. She knew something was up. My voice possessed no joy and I offered no wit when I phoned. Just one simple plea.
“Is Noah coming?” she asked.
“No. Just me.”
I needed time alone. I didn’t want my four-year-old to see Mommy’s tears. So I dropped him off at Gamma’s and drove to my friend’s condo.
Looking back at that night, one of the worst in my life, I love that Desha gave me space. She asked no questions, just offered me a hug and a place to sleep. I sat in front of her TV, completely numb for a while and then I excused myself to the bathroom. I took my Bible.
Lying down prostrate seemed the perfect thing to do. So in Desha’s bathroom, on a Wednesday night in February, I laid down and fell apart.
In the midst of my wailing I implored the King of all situations, “God, show me what You want me to remember.”
I took my Bible and let it open where it might. Now I don’t usually do this and I don’t believe the open-your-Bible-and-point-at-a-verse method works ordinarily, but I was desperate. And I knew that God shows up in special ways in desperate moments. He just does.
My Bible opened to Psalm 84. My eyes fell on this passage:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7
I took some deep breaths and let David’s words sink in. Set their hearts on pilgrimage. Set their hearts on pilgrimage.
Perseverance is not my strong suit. I get bored easily. So easily that completion is something I have to pray for daily. I have several projects unfinished at all times.
But this verse calls me to keep going. It is a call for me to commit, to set my heart on the journey. Not necessarily the end line or the finished project. But I am to commit, set my entire heart, on the pilgrimage.
I have never taken a vacation that I cut short because I was tired of traveling. The thought has crossed my mind, of course. But I’ve always finished my trips. It would take heaven and earth to get me to quit the pilgrimage of mothering. The journey is tough at times, but my heart is set on going all the way.
So why not my marriage? The reason I went to Desha’s was to get away from my husband. I had decided to leave him. In that bathroom, God called me to keep going. To set my heart on the pilgrimage that is marriage.
At first I just told God, “No!” like a little three-year-old who doesn’t want to go to bed. But His Words, the lovely garden He walked me through that evening, promised that I would be blessed. It didn’t promise constant joy and it didn’t promise reconciliation. In that garden there was no guarantee that I wasn’t going to get divorced. But there was a sweet, quiet assurance that God would be with me and that I would be blessed. I would walk through the Valley of Baca, (which is a dismal desert) but springs would come with autumn rains and moments of refreshment.
But I must set my heart on the journey. God whispered to me to not give up on the pilgrimage, even if all I saw around me was a lifeless and barren desert.
The lesson God taught me in Desha’s bathroom has grown into a call of my heart, not just in my marriage but also in my spirituality, in my relationships and in my writing. So many times I want to give up on scribbling. It is a solitary life, sitting at the computer pecking away. When the rejection letters come I often wonder what is the point of this? I will never be a Francine Rivers or a Jan Karon or an Anne Lamott.
But then that moment in the bathroom comes back to me. I recall that walk through God’s garden of words and I am reminded me that publication, fame or money – they are not the point. The call is not to be published. The call is to set my heart on the pilgrimage. To keep obeying God even if my writing world seems at times, the Valley of Baca.
Six months after the night in Desha’s bathroom, my husband John and I stood on a beach in San Diego, surrounded by friends (including Desha), and proclaimed our vows anew. It was a moment of restoration that only God, in His infinite power, could produce. Now, almost five years later, our marriage is better than ever.
On the invitation to our marriage renewal ceremony, I put Psalm 84:5. God’s promise to me was fulfilled. I am blessed beyond measure. The rains fall, the springs come up, I am refreshed. I go from strength to strength. The pilgrimage is filled with joy.