Far From God
I raise the blade and it flashes sharp as the light reflects the strength of the steel, one perfectly pointed knife offering an immense list of options for its use.
With a blade like this I could carve away the bark from a chunk of wood to reveal the beauty of a sculpted piece underneath. I could slowly sculpt a block of ice to create a display of dazzling light refractions. I could skin this weekend’s kill from the hunter husband when he gets home and prepare a hearty stew to warm the bones. And the list goes on.
I know some people who used to use blades to cut their own flesh in an attempt to navigate life in this world and awaken from the numbness that can set in. I know other people who have used them to slice right into the still-warm flesh of their enemies and let the blood drain out. And when it’s life or death, who’s to say I wouldn’t do the same?
I ponder these things for a moment as I prepare to use this unforgiving sliver of steel in my hand. I set the blade aside to prepare the subject of my soon coming cutting.
I flash back to my own reality - it’s snack time around here and I risk real danger if I don’t get these hungry little people something to eat. School makes them extra hungry - they tell me this after their lessons every day. So they have donned their super hero capes and are currently jumping off the sofa saving the world while I get the vittles.
Alone now in the kitchen, my head is swimming, my thoughts run on overload with so many to-do’s, so many opportunities to serve in the aftermath of this Harvey hurricane that submerged over 60% of my community.
Our own house was damaged very minimally, the foundation of our pier and beam home shifting on its foundation being the biggest issue. Since we don’t require immediate repair, Steven has been mucking out friend’s houses while the kids and I have been the cafeteria crew, feeding as many as we can on job sites, and then babysitting for my now homeless friends who are tearing down their houses, throwing every last piece of their lives out on the curb. How will they ever recover from this?
I run through my agenda for the day in my mind. Get a meal on the stove for Scott’s muck out crew, start another load of laundry for Anna, tomorrow I’ll have both a four month old and a five year old in my lil makeshift daycare…
I breathe another Thank you for not letting us flood, Lord as I search through the fridge, only partly focused on what I am doing. My movements are mechanical, habit born from several years of practice as mom-the-snack-maker. I pick up a bunch of carrots and toss them in the sink for washing. Then I reach for the ceramic berry basket overflowing with fresh blueberries and turn to set it on the counter. I move too fast though and one flies out of the basket, objecting to being eaten. It rolls across the floor and I chase after it, recover it and tell myself to slow down.
I scoop handfuls of the berries onto plates and then notice that one has busted somewhere in the midst of them. I look down and my fingers are blue-stained, like a bruise. Reminds me of the abundance of bruised hearts around here. I wish there was an essential oil for that, but helichrysum just won’t do.
And haven’t we all been affected in some way? Different ways sure, but aren't we all wearing bruises from this busted up world right there in the chest cavity - on the heart?
I wash carrots in cool water at the sink,
wishing it was this easy to wash away the grime and grit and the nasty waterlines that crept up in the night, silently sabotaging homes and lives here.
I finish washing and wishing and lay these cleansed carrots on the waiting cutting board. An offering on open alter.
I pick up my knife-weapon, place the tip down on the board, and hover the body of the blade just over these waiting root-vegetables. The muscles in my wrist flex abruptly, bringing the blade down swiftly, severing these lush green tops right off.
This image before me may be only a pile of skinny orange roots to most onlookers, but for the seeing eyes, it is evidence. It’s proof of the months of striving and growth under dark soil, proof of tender tendril roots having to learn to seek the nutrients needed to grow.
I remember digging up my first crop of home grown carrots.
B and I planted them when he was somewhere around 18 months old. I was only a second year gardener then and the yield was such a scrawny one.
Yes, that first year gave us nothing like these leggy beauties I hold today.
And then I think of this - No one taught these virgin voyagers how to have a successful journey. When they set out to gather life-giving goods, they didn’t have an instruction manual. They just knew that no matter how tightly the soil was packed, road-map-less though they were, they must continue to seek in order to survive.
The knowing is built into them - that they must push through the pitch dark places to get at the substance that sustains life.
And I am like this too.
It’s in the cold, lightless places that I seek the Joy Giver the most.
Isn’t it always when I’m on the seemingly impassible pathways when I press in the hardest, when I have to be resourcefully scrappy in order to collect the life-giving food for the heart, for the soul, for spiritual survival?
Isn’t it the exercising and the challenging of the muscles that makes them grow? Muscles are made stronger when they encounter resistance, ya? I know this and nod slow as I continue to chop these orange roots.
But lately, it has been like wading through a swamp, my legs heavy, not getting anywhere. Or like I’m just chilling in a snowstorm with blinders and ear muffs on, trying to hear and understand and seek but there's just too much noise and white and snow. I push and strive and search for that soul food like these roots here in my hand. I press in and find even the smallest crevice in the dark to glean the nutrients from, but my spirit is still feeling skinny and wants fattening.
My prayers seem to just bounce off the wall these days. And Lord, can you even hear me right now? Because I can’t hear a thing and my vision is blurry and is it possible to have a spiritual hangover?
I feel top-heavy, like these carrots here. My head full of knowledge while my heart lies slumbering, malnourished and weak. How can these spindly, slender roots support such luscious tops? They look too small, too anorexic even, to grow such gorgeous greenery.
And I can relate. My mind knows what the Word says, my lips recite scripture, my hands hold the leather-bound Book in the mornings - and still my heart hears only crickets. It’s like a canyon in there - one that wants to be filled and refreshed. But why isn’t the water coming in to quench this thirst?
And too, my knees know the way of bending and my eyes know the dark before the dawn - the time I offer up to the One who offered me life, the time I spend with just Him, this my daily date with the Day Maker.
But even in this, my heart slumbers and I miss the presence of the Ever-present One.
I call the children over and set plates on the wood grain table as I try to ingrain this understanding in me. I eye their orange slices beside the bruising berries and think how I'm the carrot, currently, in this season. This must be where I have hit a tightly packed layer of soil and I’ve got to grapple and search and refuse to relent.
Yes, I know what perseverance is. That too has been born from many a season of life-practice. I sigh heavy and nod some more.
So maybe I’m a root right now, Lord? Surrounded by earth (and maybe a little manure), by this set of circumstances, pressing in and delving deep for the nutrients that nourish the spirit.
Little people plunk down at their places and dig in while I dig with conviction at the soil here, gleaning even this lesson from the dirt - God has not left me here alone, nor abandoned me in a dry place. He is teaching me to dig, to flex my muscles so they’ll grow, to practice the pursuit of Him.
And the good thing about being a carrot? They usually grow in bunches. A few weeks ago, I sat around the table with a few girl friends who each in turn shared how they too were in a bit of a dry valley, feeling far from God. So we, this bunch of us, will grow through this together - this dry patch making us thirsty again, causing us to dig deeper, to seek stronger, to live out this life of faithfulness to the One who gives Life.
Y'all please tell me I'm not the only crazy girl who thinks she's a carrot...?