When I was training for a marathon, I would fill my pockets with orange slices in Ziploc bags. As weariness snuck up, one or two slices popped in my mouth would push it back and give me strength to press on another few kilometers. God's words and His encouragement sometimes come in bite-sized slices -impressions, experiences, encounters - and are just enough to push weariness back and keep us pressing on a little further...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flying Down the Road (June 18, 2009)

They’ve finished the B8. Several weeks after we arrived in Germany, large trucks and road works crews began congregating and tossing dirt around near the turn off heading towards our tiny village of Angermund. Rumor had it that the T-intersection there had dreams of becoming a real road, leading somewhere other than the deep green field it sat at the bottom of. Seasons came and went, and with them traffic configurations that may or may not have included stoplights, going over a bridge, under a bridge, around a bridge until the sod was laid against the banks of the turn off, growing and matching the green of the field cut by the asphalt of a dream come true.

It’s taken five years, but the road to Dortmund is now a reality. Traffic cones and arrows and transient stoplights have all been removed, replaced by confident yellow signs pointing the way to the airport down sloping cloverleaf exits.

I think there’s something significant about the fact that the span of time we’ve lived here matches the span of time it takes to build a road. In a way, since the moment we arrived, we’ve been building a road. It’s a road with dreams of going somewhere significant, carrying people and their lives safely where they want to go; where they need to go.

Building a road is not an easy task. It takes planning and diligence; it requires the ability to dream where a road could lead when it currently sits at the bottom of a muddy field. Road-builders work for years, seeing little but narrow ruts in that field, gravel, and bulldozers. Although their eyes cannot see the highway they believe will exist some day, they lay the foundations and patiently add the necessary layers knowing that if they carry on, cars will one day fly down what they have built.

I have felt the weight of a road-building heart. I have learned (often without patience) to lay foundations and wait for God to build on them, allowing Him to add the necessary layers, aware that He has dreams for each life (even those that seem muddy). I have known the confusion of continually changing configurations, of varied living spaces and vehicles, of rooms filled with well-loved faces that often shift with the seasons. I have wept with the joy of watching seeds of hope take root and sprout, sweeping up the sides of a heart with the greenness of new life. I have worked hard, attempting to remove any stumbling blocks or bumps in the road, praying the Architect of every road will come along behind me, smoothing the rough patches, and straightening out what I have imperfectly left bent.

Now, I stand at the top of the bridge, knowing that the road is finished. Looking out at the possibilities of those that could fly down it, two things stand out:

1. Although the freshly finished B8 provides new direction to Dortmund, I’ve been going there by other routes for some time. This road is a new way to go to the same old place. The goodness of God is a place I always want to go, and leaving Germany for a new life in the States is just a new way of getting to the same old place. I’ll see different scenery, watch the sun rise and set from other angles, but never fail to arrive at my favorite spot – the heart of my God. He has promised to go before me, and behind me and beside me, and so even though everything will look different, in actuality, I’ll just be coming up on Him from around a different corner. I think King David said it best:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your Presence? If I go up into the heavens, You are there. If I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

As I settle on the far side of the sea, where everything will be like it was when I left, only completely different, I know that the hand of my God will guide me down roads lain with the foundation of His love, layered with His purposes, and smoothed with His grace. How could I not follow Him there?

2. I have a favor to ask of you who already live there. These past five years have taught me that each of us is not a destination unto ourselves, we are only layovers along each other’s journeys. Those whom I dearly love are going out into the world, their roads taking them places I cannot be. Please, if you see them, will you take care of them for me? Will you love them? Encourage them? Remind them how precious they are? It’s what Christ charged the Church with after He left, asking her to care for the ones He loved so deeply, trusting His lambs to the arms of those who loved Him. He would no longer walk physically beside them, and so He appointed the Church to walk in His footsteps. I cannot walk beside my dear ones anymore physically – would you please pick them up and walk with them where I’ve left off?

And if you don’t happen to live in LA or Boston or Oxford or Edinburgh or any of a hundred other places I could mention, or if you don’t recognize them at first, would you please pick up those you don’t know and care for them? Because somewhere, someone calls them “Dear One” and has reluctantly released them out to the world, trusting that somehow someone like you will catch them, and love them as Christ loved you. You and I are layovers on each others’ journeys, and the journeys of a million other people – please be one of the strongest links in the chain. I need you to be, because I need to know that those I reluctantly release into the world will be all right, that loving arms will catch them and that truthful lips will encourage them, reminding them how precious they are.

The road that began five years ago is now finished. Lives fly down it, headed to destinations unknown. Paved with possibility, this road cuts through mud and drives straight into the light of sunset. The section I see is no longer mine; in reality, it never really was. I was just blessed with the opportunity to build. Each of us is blessed with the opportunity to build into the lives of others, to open them up to greater dreams, to plant seeds of new life along the edges of their hearts. It’s hard work, and dirt might get tossed around, but when you’re finished, when the Architect has come behind you to smooth all the rough patches, and straighten what you have imperfectly left bent, then under the fading light of sunset the two of you can stand on the bridge, watching them fly.

Fly on, my dear ones… 

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