To Love the Shape of Your Life
Connecting the dots on the time-line of my life between my birth and this very moment, I could make you a multi-dimentional map. I could code it and show you a topography reminiscent of Tennessee: a long state, fertile bottom land, rich hills, the white water, mountains, deep V riverbeds, and the low, connecting black caves. Hear bass, blues, and banjo. My dimensions, the borderlines, the aquifers beneath, and the soundtrack, those were set in advance. Even in my youth, snorting powder off a stranger’s bathroom sink through a rolled-up dollar bill, I knew even then that God was about shaping me. I knew He would eventually make me His friend.
My younger years were full of parties, going from arm to arm in love, holding to skin, all the friends, as best I could, but these last few years, I’ve touched only the skin of my babies and my husband, and even then, I can seem so far away: other side of the river. I’ve turned inside myself, sorting within, the Spirit with me in stop and go. Hospitals, the grief of losing family members, and shifting in and out of community can let you know quickly where your identity stands, and I’ve learned the hard way that my identity has rested too much on the companionship of others. As I have lost my ground in processing things like adoption and the slow healing of my son, I have watched my friends struggle more and more to know me.
This isn’t to say that it’s all been negative, because it sure hasn’t. I am no less in transformation now than ever before. Through this season I am learning a good bit about my giftings and how to obey as a steward of the mystery. I’ve always had the heart of a teacher, and if I’m learning something and digesting at all, then I’m also simultaneously working it out with other people. I’m a go-to-tell-it-on-the-mountain sort of gal. If I find myself in the sun and look back at the valley below, if I’m breathing, I’m also saying, “let me tell you what I just learned.” During this time, I have had seasons of great boldness. I have been surrounded by ears and a cloud of witnesses in mountaintop experiences. But we can’t all stay there, can we?
Life looses its shape when you plant yourself on one dot on the time-line. You have to keep journeying and sometimes right into despair, which is actually the only place to find divine comfort, even when your mind seems to be slipping, even when you think you’re losing yourself altogether. In trying to keep my head above water, I have tip-toed around becoming one of those needy friends who has a hard time seeing above the minutia of my own circumstance. I have tended toward self-preservation and hiding, and I have felt that I have had little to offer. The heightened awkwardness of conversation has held me captive in the middle of the night, stuck in angst and worry. I look back on episodes of conversation and see someone I don’t recognize. I’d like a redo on some scenes.
Normal is relative, but it’s coming back to me in spurts. It’s not the Valley of the Shadow anymore, and I have a few friends who walk with me, and I can tell you that they aren’t ever waiting for the normal to come back. They’re looking at the landscape and calling the beauty. They love my whole life and me in the stage that I’m in. The ones who wait with you through the awkward and the unknowing are a handful at best.
The ones who won’t give up and let you off into the silence and who won’t overly kiss you or hold back the trusted wounds are truest rarities. Those are the ones who look like Jesus.
Let us be friends who stand on mountains and friends who crawl in caves. Let us smack each other in the metaphorical face when it’s time to move on, and let your identity be in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only one we can trust with the landscape of our lives. He always loves you before you love him back. He knows more than you do about caves. He stood on the mountain first, and he’ll be making all our ground level very soon, old and young, rich and poor, crazy house and think tank.
“Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened. Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain” (Isaiah 40:4).
Kingdom Comes, my friends. Be real.
So tell me now about the friendships in your lives. Also what kind of friend are you? I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately as we pray for community.