“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
I woke up heavy. Like a layer of fat had floated to the surface, clogging my heart. Sometimes you can’t see the way through or the point of it all. My dreams are stirred with thoughts of my friends and the battles we face and my inability to do anything. I hear His whisper before the alarm. I tell Him it’s cold, it’s dark and I want to stay in bed. So He hovers. He waits. He knows my anxious thoughts.
Below the surface is an ocean of calm.
“Come,” He says, “let’s sit for a while.”
How can I resist His voice?
So I throw back the covers and my husband stirs. “Where are you going?” he asks.
“Time to pray,” I say, dragging my body from the bed.
I stare into the dark pot that is my life. It is fragrant still but it is chilled.
“I’m not sure if I can get the warmth back,” I tell Him. “So many sad and difficult stories, will it never end?”
He listens. He is not in a hurry.
I fold my arms. I am not ready for His words. At the moment, none of them make sense.
I’ve been foraging for answers, digging deep in His word, trying to grapple with the concept of preparation. There is something, someone once said, I know not who but it goes like this: “God never wastes a prepared life.” I don’t want to be prepared, or set apart. I no longer want to run with the message or bring hope, or inspire anyone. I just want to be left alone.
“Oh, I see,” He says before I utter a word. He smiles at me like I am a petulant child. Perhaps I am.
“It’s true,” I tell him. “Look at it, it’s revolting in there.”
“Like in the cistern where they threw Jeremiah!” He comments, knowing I’ve been reading the stories of the men who got an audience with their king.
“It’s not fair! Why does the battle always need to be so big?” I honestly don’t get it.
He laughs at me, this time. And I smile and then I frown. I picture Jeremiah. He is doomed. Sinking deep into the mud because he warned the people to leave the city. “It doesn’t pay to help others,” I say. “It just gets you into trouble.”
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous but I will deliver them out of them all.” Psalm 34:9
I know this. I know He is faithful. He is my deliverer. He sends in help every time. It only takes one person “to stand at the junction of two departments, or fill in the gap between departments. Ronald Burt of the University of Chicago has a concept he calls structural holes. In any society there are clumps of people doing certain tasks. But between those clumps there are holes, places in between where there are no people and there is no structure.” (Brooks, p 157, 2011). This book I am reading, The Social Animal, fascinates me.
Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in the holes between two places. I feel like I live my life there these days. I am trying to find my use between existing structures, to find my voice when the door feels closed in my face. I discuss this with Sam’s oncologist.
“There is so much need and no knowledge,” I tell him and he agrees. “It only takes one person, someone like you, to be at the forefront of making things happen. Herein lies the frustration of the rest of your life but you can change things. I can help you with the research,” he says. Turning on his desk chair to face the enormous screen of his Mac, he types something into his wireless keyboard and then tilts his screen to my view. “This is where I would begin.” I copy down the site address. He wishes me all the best and decides to not charge me for today’s appointment.
“He’s so nice,” Sam says as we make our way to the lift for the next specialist.
When you chose to stand in the gap, people always come alongside you. Though your heart is heavy and burdened, though you’d prefer to walk away, though the residue of cold lard has risen to the surface, you know if you remove the excess and keep going, you will find a way through.
Ezekiel 22:30 says it like this: “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” God is in the business of rebuilding walls. He shows His servants how. He connects you, He equips you, He releases you. Sometimes it requires that you say nothing until you fully examine the situation. Nehemiah travelled by night to inspect the walls and gates of Jerusalem that had been broken down, destroyed by fire and found places where there was not even room to get through. People mocked him, he was ridiculed but he knew the gracious hand of his God.
In every season God is faithful. When the time is right, He positions us. On that day, we need to be ready, just as Daniel was when he was called to translate the writing on the wall. I ponder this thought. Am I ready? Do I know what to say?
I feel the warmth of His company; my cold, hard heart begins to melt. He’s taking off the lid, He’s reaching for the large, flat spoon and He scoops the residue off the surface.
“It’s okay,” He tells me. “You are ready, you’ll be fine.” Then he passes me the spoon.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is he who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8
He has gone and it’s time for my shower.