Looking out the large bay windows, the morning mist covered the hills on the far side of the view. The water was glass, smooth and perfectly still. Wisps of mist hovered over it’s surface, cotton candy tufts reflected in the watery mirror. I watched the sun peek over the farthest hill, it’s soft yellow beams stirring the misty phantoms, making them dance away with the last of the morning darkness.
Sipping my coffee, hot and sweet, I soaked in the lovely scene, knowing that by afternoon the peaceful mist would be long gone and the crystalline waters would be marred by the usual summer coastal winds.
I pondered the past many months. The beginning of 2016 found me hopeful and optimistic. I even had a word for the year though I’d not asked my Father for one. The word was ‘beloved’, and it came up again and again and again, a simple word, filled with promise from my Creator. I was intrigued and excited. Was He going to show me how to love Him better? Would he let me experience in greater depth His love for me? Would I finally feel beloved by the King of the Universe by year’s end?
Turns out, by the end of that year, I was seriously considering walking away from my faith altogether. Beloved? I felt anything but. Bruised and broken, swallowed by the beast of depression, I felt trashed and alone, floating in a spiritual isolation chamber. God and I did some wrestling and I came out of the rabbit hole with a serious emotional limp, but finally at peace after months of darkness. (I wrote a bit about that here.)
I’ve had several revelations in all this time, yet I’ve not been able to write. I wander, mentally stagnant, thoughts all jumbled and begging to be articulated. I’ve been unsure of my calling, my purpose, my worthiness.
Nevertheless, sipping my coffee on this perfect, peaceful morning, I can’t help but notice nature’s lesson. Those moments when God speaks to me, life’s epiphanies, bring a beautiful sense of calm and clarity, my mind and soul serene and smooth, unruffled by the usual inner chatter.
But these moments of clarity are fragile things, mist-like vapors that so easily evaporate in the heat of suffering. The normal gusts of life blow these ethereal gifts away, leaving me wondering if they ever existed at all, whether my Father really did speak or if it’s all just wishful thinking. Doubts howl with hurricane force, creating a mental disarray like the choppy afternoon waters of the bay outside my windows.
I haven’t been writing much this past year because my head is such a mess. But a recent read of Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard reminded me of something important. As I try to walk the path to the High Places, to be more like my Shepherd, bits of me have to die along the way.
These are the painful spots, the altars of self, offered up to a Master Creator who is constantly shaping and molding me in order to bring out the beauty of His image in me. Revelation doesn’t happen for me apart from death of self; clarity only happens when I chip away a bit more of me so I can see around my own ego.
It’s painful and messy. At times the process is flat-out ugly and I wail like a petulant toddler, dig in my heels and refuse to budge for a time. But like the character, Much Afraid, who collects her plain and sometimes ugly little stones at the various altars she builds, so I will continue to do what I started out to do when I began this blog. I will build my standing stones with words, reminders to myself that my Father does care, He is working in me, that I am His beloved and He is mine.
You see, my Father gave me that word, ‘beloved’, knowing I would be heading into a season of darkness where my faith would be rocked. While I was expecting a year of walking hand in hand with my Father in the sunshine, He knew that it’s often in the dark times when the raging waters threaten to swamp you that His love is most clearly seen.
When I landed at the bottom of that rabbit hole, in the morass of doubt and depression He was there, sitting beside me. When I was ready to try slogging out of it, it was His hand that was outstretched, offering to pull me up and when I was simply too weary to walk or think, it was He who carried me further. Though I felt so incredibly alone, I never was because I am His beloved and He is mine.
It is this knowledge that reconciles the light that is in me with the darkness I sometimes have to walk.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)
In the High Places, Much Afraid found that her collection of stones had been transformed into beautiful gems. I trust that mine will become treasures someday as well. There’s beauty in the mess, my friends. This life is raw and real, messy and magnificent. It’s filled with times of clarity and confusion.
May we embrace it all.
Thank you, my gracious Father, for bringing those moments of calm and clarity even as I walk in this fallen world. May I willingly build the altars along the way, sacrificing self with joy, becoming more like you in the process. I’m so grateful that you, my Beloved, can bring beauty from all of it…the sweet and the messy alike. May you be glorified through it all! Amen.