Still, I sit. My socks are resting on my shoes, removed; wet from the fields I just walked through. I hear wind blowing through the grove of silver birches above me. Their trunks are tall and straight; their leaves rustle golden and birds are singing. Not just the sweet morning whistles of Khancoban, but a sole cranky sounding rumbling from a bird I cannot see.
Behind me the town is awake; quietly going about its business. I expect drivers-by to look at me and wonder who this rugged up stranger is, walking the outskirts of town with coffee in hand, stopping every few meters to take a photo of a scarlet leaf or a swooping hill. Instead, they continue about their day: there are locals to be fed; travelers' cars to be filled with petrol; many more important things to do than to trouble themselves with the affairs of a tourist. The snowy hydro is just up Alpine Way; I’ve never known much of these matters other than that certain seasons double the towns population of 200 when workers come through.
My sister-in-law lives here with her husband and four children. Her husband works in town while Jasmine has her finger in many quietly baking pies. She writes a monthly town newsletter and works in the op-shop and the post office. By night she’s an avid reader and political researcher; a hugger of children and chef of strange and interesting delights. She builds fires at 5am. My admiration for my sister-in-law runs deep. I find myself boasting of her accomplishments to friends. I don’t know how she does it. Out here in this town of towns; with no supermarket in sight.
It’s a glorious place, but it takes a special acceptance to live in a town like Khancoban. This dot on the map; plonk bang in the center of a thatch of God’s most creative moment.
There’s colour everywhere this time of year; so bright I can almost taste it. (A beautiful friend once described her passion for colour: with a glowing face she told me how it stirred her so much that she wanted to eat it! I think of her here as I sit in the yellow, the amber, the green. The blue hills beyond and the fire of red maples dotted throughout the landscape.)
I expect to feel still here, but there’s a vague un-settledness within. Away from my usual life I’m able to sit with myself. And the questions emerge. I feel like a child standing in Father's presence asking, ‘What is the point again, Lord? Who have you created me to be? When will it start to work?’
It’s with discomfort that I write these words; to share my secrets breaks the illusion of a stability I have worked hard to maintain. It’s one of the reasons I have run from writing; like any art, it exposes the soul and opens it up to the critic. But like lovers we always find ourselves back together; hearts entwined. How can you run from who you’ve been created to be?
It’s a relationship, this life thing. Relation to Father, to eachother, to self. Much of it is a reconciliation of the things that trouble us, shake us, stir us. I find myself, on shadowy days, wondering at the point of it all; this broken-world existence. It has to be about more than myself; my journey to realisation. I wince as I write, at the ego-centrism of my younger views.
Timothy Keller has written a book on prayer. I’m four pages in and I’m speaking differently to God. Stirred already as I recognise man’s struggle to connect to God. I think of my husband; stoic, sensible, logical and clear. He says he can count on one hand the number of times he has heard Father speak.
I hear volumes regularly and run; uncertain how to decipher what’s Him and me; where the two meet. We each engage differently. Perhaps my husband lives closer to the plumb line between self and God.
I keep trying to write a novel. But too often I find my problems on the pages before me. My indecision, my poor self-view; the need to be rescued. I’m embarrassed that the lines of my story blur between something real and powerful and the hidden longings of a little girl wanting to be whisked away by the prince. Staci Eldredge describes this inner conflict so well in her book, Captivating. Why do I feel such shame at my smallness, my weakness, that which feels afraid within me? I continue to see it as a deep flaw to be overcome and so I inject myself into my protagonist and his girl alike. I am both of them. The courage and the fear, the brokenness and the redemption. I’m neither one nor the other and neither are my characters yet how my soul wants to keep them apart! How I want to box up those parts of myself that shame me and present those more noble and glorious aspects.
How writing shakes those two worlds until they are indistinguishable and all that can be seen is the 'hot mess', as Emily P. Freeman would describe it* I’ve heard it called a beautiful mess, but I still can’t get my head around the beauty of what I deem my own failures. In that, my iron rod appears and I realise that the grace I think I’ve entered into doesn’t run as deep as I had thought.
Are you the same?
Are you a Christ-purchased one who sweeps away their dirty messes with shame?
Social media is a wonderful platform for an edited life. The more we create, the more pleasure we may feel at our online creation and the more alienation we feel from those we seek to please. We know our secrets. The human heart is not easily deceived and how can we truly break bread with those who don’t know us?
But deeper and more scary still, how do we break bread with those who do?
As the leaves rustle in Khancoban and birds sing; the sky has become bright and Autumn-clear. There’s an invitation, my friends, not just for me, but for each of us.
Deeper, deeper I go; into the unknown depths of this life-experience. He’s there, I feel Him, quietly waiting. Ready to unfold his secrets, to release His wisdom, small morsel by morsel at a time lest we break down. Man cannot look on God and live. It was in a cleft that Elijah saw Him. In a bush for Moses. In the trees and the wind so many of us catch him; a reflection; a secret in the trees.
May we remember to be still, brothers and sisters. To sit. To let ourselves be alone with the questions, the wondering, the pain, the fear. The sun shines on Khancoban. A dog barks in the distance and the day goes on.
My socks are still wet. I put them in my pocket, slide my bare feet into my shoes and head for home. Hot coffee, a fire and bacon await me.
* Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways; Uncover the Art you were Made to Live.