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

Stuck (July 29, 2010)

“And they lived happily ever after....” I’m beginning with the glimpse of an ending, as recommended to me recently by a website I found while suffering from writer’s block. It didn’t help much, and the malady remains. 

The problem with writer’s block is that it leaves you vulnerable to temptations you never thought you’d face (as temptations, anyway) - laundry, dishes, cleaning out the refrigerator. The temporary allure of housework is just a smokescreen, however. The real temptation is to give up. Blank white screens are intimidating. Words that won’t behave are asking to be abandoned. Phrases and intentions may chase each other through my brain, but when I command them to stop, they threaten cliche and refuse to align themselves into any cohesive conclusions. I’m at the end of my rope with them. A need to write presses hard on my spirit, but any actual point remains elusive. Walking away seems easier. Writer’s block is a devil.

Potential writing subjects lay like so many cut calico pieces, feigning the harmony of a quilt. I know better. No common thread stitches them together and as colorful as each of them is, it makes no difference how I turn them - the edges won’t line up. 

I could write about beauty I have found in the corners of the day, when the sun rises fresh and sets sweet, gilding the tips of leaves like pirate’s treasure. Even at mid-afternoon, there’s a blue true dream of sky and a thousand shades of green kissing the rim of it. Vivid pinks and yellows drip from trees whose names I’ve never known. It’s as if Monet himself crested the hill, gazed over suburban America and pulled out his brush. If you asked me in the blush of morning, when each petal and blade is strung with dew and every field yields a crop of diamonds, I would say I liked morning best. Ask me in the evening, when breezes blow golden, drawing out the colors of earth and tree and sky with stark authenticity - I would deny a time more lovely. The sun must move in a million angled increments throughout the day, but try as I might, I cannot pick a favorite. I recognize the priceless elegance of such moments only when they’re upon me, breathing back in the life I so often forget I am granted. The corners of day possess a beauty which incapacitates me to all else but worship; hallelujahs echo in my ears. The King of Heaven walks beside me and every step is praise.

I could write about the lifespan of the moon - how I once saw its birth and death in a single hour. It was on a night slung low and black over pounding surf. The playground of Taurus and Orion lay empty - even the stars flee North Carolina humidity in July. At first, there was nothing but shadowy expanse hovering over the waters. The tide rushed in and out like breathing, clearing away the sand’s remnants of day. I was resigned to the thick unlit swelter, but presently, a delicate rip in the darkness spilled drops of amber where a moon ought to be. The rest of the birth followed slow and easy, without pain or contraction. Whisps of crimson clouds stretched and crowned, teasing the light out of hiding. When the moon finally hung voluminous and round, the full force of sunlight beyond the horizon caught it and all below became visible. Fairy footprints appeared in the sea, glittering from shore to skyline; they flashed and ducked along the warm salty currents. For a few magical moments the world glowed. Then, the fairy path dimmed, the night clouds swelled, and all was swallowed up again by darkness. Hidden waves crashed. They pounded their sobs upon the land, mourning the moon and drawing the sand into wistful upheaval with the rhythm of their dirge. It was as if the moon had never been born.

I could write about the shadows of butterflies on the stones outside my window, or the deer that pauses by our crabapple tree at dusk. I could write about green Romanian roosters or the simple way of dirt roads or the sweat burning my eyes when I run in summer. I could write about how hard it is to hold onto a faith that sometimes seems to make no sense, how wearying it is to love, how futile it often feels to fight for what’s right. I could write about being painfully human, being made of nitrogen and melanin and tears, choking on temptations and on the scars earned battling them. I could write about the lifespan of holiness in me and how often I have seen its birth and death in a single hour. Writing is not easy. Loving is not easy. Living is not easy. 

The inclination is to give up. To throw in the towel. To ignore the blinking cursor and go shopping. To stop caring about people, to stop investing in other lives, to stop trying to carve out a difference in the world. To halt the birth of holiness because its death is so distressing. As if hope had never been born.

When I am tempted to resign myself to such a thick swelter of despair, the only place to find asylum is in a truth which rises fresh and sets sweet and catches me up in the corners of it every time: God is the God Who Doesn’t Give Up.

Ask Adam who still fathered mankind after bringing its downfall into the world; ask Abraham who held his infant son with arthritic hands even after trying to bypass God’s promise. Ask Moses the murderer, David the adulterer, Peter the unfaithful friend who was faithful to them. Ask the Hebrews who were without a homeland for nearly two thousand years if God keeps His word. 

The problem with giving in and giving up is that blissful surrender to mediocrity is not an option I have been given. God has earned my trust - earned it, for trust is not something I give lightly. And if He, the God Who Doesn’t Give Up, has asked me to carry on, have I any choice but to persevere? Can I give the One who sets beauty in the corners of day any less? Whatever He asks of me I know He asks in love and though I may not feel aglow, the actual movements of obedience seeming less magical than mundane, I know I must carry on. Someday I will see the purposes behind what seems purposeless now - the quilt will be flipped and I will see the vast masterpiece my random calico offerings lined up with all along. 

Peter knows. He learned. He quit once - threw in the towel on a friendship that was too difficult to maintain. Three times he swore he didn’t even know Jesus - three times Jesus reminded him that was no reason for giving up. The message stuck and Peter passed it down to those he loved: 

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.... And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.... I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” (1 Peter 5:7,10,12)

He will make you strong, firm and steadfast. You may suffer a little while, but that’s all right. That’s the way of life. He cares for you - this is the true grace of God. Stand in it. Cast all your frustrations on the God Who Doesn’t Give Up and follow Him - no matter how many times holiness has been stillborn in you, no matter how many battle scars line your soul, no matter how intimidating an empty screen or empty future may appear. Live, Love, Write. Speak, Give, Embrace. Serve, Suffer, Stand Fast. For the King of Heaven walks beside us and we will, in fact, live happily ever after....

What else is there to write about?

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