Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Held and blessed. And happy Thanksgiving!

When I left for my road trip back in October, I gave God an ultimatum. I was willing to distract myself with travel, but God had three weeks (the length of my jaunt) to zap down a life plan. Answers, of the carved in stone sort, were what I craved. With that presumption cast to the starry heavens, I bundled into Gypsy and drove down the dawn. First came quiet. I had 90 hours of solitary driving time, and to my shock, I managed it largely in silence. My mind had been in a frenzied run of need and confusion before I left. Now, to sit still, no computer, no work, no plan but the road to travel and God for company, calmed me. Silence settled around, and then seeped into my soul until it carved a core, interior place in which I sat, still, waiting.

Then came people. A nonstop round of souls, each with a story told in joy, and also pain. I met new friends and kythed with old ones. Heard of times both hard and blessed, of lives marked by cancer, or conversely, romance. Good and ill, hope and pain, all intertwined in every life. The pain was what I, in my angst, noticed. The late night talks I shared with my friends centered much on what we hoped for, things we prayed God would remember before we choked with waiting. My dilemma in direction, my loneliness, my want for God to give or lead was not, I found, rare. We all want and wait for something. Many go unanswered. A question now filled up that core of quiet in my driving days. How can I be sure of God?

And then one morning, one stark thought brought it all clear. I drove the rollicking hills of Pennsylvania, each tree afire and the sky aglimmer overhead. I prayed hard for an answer to my need and I was abruptly answered with a question. What if there were no God to whom I could pray? What if I bore these needs and could not speak them in prayer or beg for grace? What if there was no Love to bear my whimpers and whines? I saw then what blackness could be. What confusion, the real kind, is. What despair would taste like. And finally I knew that I needed only one surety. God holds me. Love redeems me. And that is enough.

This world is the broken place. Grief pocks our path like a step we did not expect. Pain and frailty patter behind us like hungry dogs. In this life, thieves steal and time leaves us hanging, and even hope can turn to rust. Yet we have one surety that turns this chaos round and makes it a world of grace; God's love. God's holding, world-encompassing grace. God's kindness takes our very need and weaves a road that leads us home to joy. I knew at last that I am held like a babe in her father's arms even as I strive. God soothes me as I scream at his absence, feeds me as I rage my fear. My very trip, my desperate gamble at distraction was, I saw, grace. God filled me with friendship, stilled my heart, and livened my eyes to finally see right in the midst of a time when I thought he had forgotten me. What I saw was Love in unbreakable strength, holding me.

Home now, I am aware as never before, that I am held. Borne in grace I do not deserve and often forget to see. My plans are yet unset while sin and sorrow nettle every hour. I still wish for exact direction and a million dollar check and something written in stone. But nothing on earth has strength enough to shove me out of God's hands. I am able to wait, to take each restless ache to a Father who holds and weaves my life so that no atom of my myself is left unredeemed, no sliver of circumstance untouched by his creative presence. Kindness sustains me, and finally, I know it.

That is what I celebrate this Thanksgiving. I will make my usual list of "things I'm thankful for," because each item shows me the grace in which I stand. That list sings joy alive in my soul. This year though, I'll conquer the urge to set it next to its twin; "things that I lack." This year, instead, I glory in a love that I can trust to make my life exactly what it ought be, even when I am too blind to see. I celebrate a mercy I can hold because it never will let go of me. The quote below is a little strange for a Thanksgiving quote perhaps, but it pictures the sudden awareness of grace that I feel, the knowledge that I have been held and I didn't even know it. I hope love startles you this year as it has me. I hope you know yourself held. Happy Thanksgiving.

He takes his suitcase out of the cab and walks to the house and across the back porch, through the screen door, and into the kitchen, a pretty room, bright and quiet. He loves this quiet and he stands still in it, breathing it in. There is a note to him on the table; after looking at it for a minute or two, he goes over and reads it... With her note in his hand, standing in her place, in her absence, he feels the strong quietness with which she has cared for him and waited for him through all his grief and his anger. He feels her justice, her great dignity in her suffering of him. He feels around him a blessedness that he has live din, in his anger, and did not know. He is walking now, from room to room, breathing in the smell of the life that the two of them have made, and that she has kept. He walks from room to room, entering each as for the first time, leaving it as if forever. And he is saying over and over to himself, "I am blessed. I am blessed." -from Remembering, by Wendell Berry.

Sarah Clarkson7 Comments