Not long ago, Daron and I were out doing chores. It was after dark on a cold wintry night. We were out in the back pasture - where the hill settles into a gully near our creek. There were only a couple of cows hanging out near the hay feeders - the rest were up in the warmth of the barn. We unloaded the first round bale and turned the tractor to head up for the second. Something in me wanted to conquer my fear of the dark, so I asked to be left behind. After assuring Daron that I really did want to wait, he headed back up the hill. As the Putt-Putt of the engine faded farther and farther away, and the last twinkle of tractor lights rounded the bend into the laneway leading to the barn, panic tried to settle into my chest. I had commanded Molly, are golden retriever, to stay with me; other than that I was alone... In the dark... With only my imagination (which we've already established as "vivid") and a cell phone - dead from the cold. It would be several minutes before Daron would be back with me. And so I did the only reasonable thing there was to do: I talked to my self. "I might be afraid, but think how empowering this is?! Look at me out here. All alone and not being mauled, stalked, or headbutted by the bull." That went on for a few seconds until I realized something. I wasn't actually alone. I could sense it. A certain "knowing" when there is another presence close by.
There it was...just over the darkened ridge - lined with dormant apple trees; in the chill of the biting breeze nipping at bits of my uncovered face; and even where the snow-laden pine trees creaked along the fence row behind me. I wasn't alone because He was with me. Just as I knew Molly was nearby even when I couldn't see her in the dark, so the quiet peace could be felt of a God not so distant. I reveled for a few moments in the Majesty of God so creative and powerful, yet so gracious and personal. For me this idea of relationship is new. I came from a saturated history of Christianity - from missionary grandparents, Bible College stomping grounds for my childhood, and a preacher father. But, for me, I'd always understood that if I followed the right rules then I would be good enough to be loved by Jesus. Problem was, I was never quite good enough. Thus, much of my life has had the tone of one who - as Brene Brown, a social researcher, puts it - is "hustling" for self-worth. It has just been in the last year or so, that God has gently brought me into a better understanding of Himself...of His character as a God of Justice, but also a God of unconditional love. One Who Delights in His children; and also One Who sits with His children and their personal darkness - whether that be depression, addiction, grief, or anything else. As I stood out in the valley with only the light of a partial moon and a billion stars to brighten the scary corners of my imagination, I realized the power of the "and" statement (also from Brene Brown). My erratic heartbeat assured me that I was still feeling crazy yet decidedly courageous; AND, I also felt at peace. Having a protector or a friend gives security, yet we still have the humanity of emotions. I had the fear of stretching outside of my comfort zone, AND, I had the reassurance of a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
How much more, then, when so much in the world around us is uncertain, unknown, and in upheaval... How much more must I have the reassuring presence of the One Who sees the bigger picture and purpose for my life? The One Who brings meaning by His very breath (Acts 17:25-27). One Who is not threatened by our humanity. Rather, embraces us as He draws us into Himself. There is a Netflix movie that graphically portrays this concept called "The Heart of Man". It shows in a raw, dramatically-visual way a Father Who seeks out where we are and calls us to Himself. This past week, Dr. Billy Graham passed away. I heard him once in my teens at a stadium crusade...other than that I just knew of him from the bits and pieces of news stories over the years. The grieving response from a variety of people in a variety of walks of life, speaks to his impact the world over. The greatest of which is his message of a personal God. Perhaps it is the reflection of this great man's legacy that prompts this more serious blog post. Or perhaps it is the pondering of the year of unfortunate events in the world around us; or, unexpected twists and turns in my own life which have led to unexpected blessings. No matter the catalyst, these were the thoughts that filled my mind as I put pen-to-paper.
For those of you who enjoy the farm stories, no worries. They will be here again! But, in a very real sense, the beauty of lessons learned on the farm; the humor that brings a smile; the amusing antics of animals; or, the delight of imagery that takes us to a place so real we almost feel the breeze on our face as we read...this beauty is inexplicably tied to the connection we have with its Creator. A connection that He longs to fill with His peace. If only we will pause long enough to hear Him as He sits here beside us.