Ever since graduation, I’ve tried reading through at least one book a month, just to keep up the mental momentum of university life. Sometimes I choose books I know I’ll love, sometimes ones I know I’ll hate that will be good for me. March’s pick was Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and, looking back, I see now that it really picked me. A few folks you could call role models have referenced the book, so one day it finally found its way into my Amazon cart. I admit, the title’s what hooked me. Instantly, I knew it would be a chilled glass of sweet tea for a dehydrated soul. I love the title because the analogy fits any situation requiring perseverance – including finishing this book. Each time I opened it, the pages seemed to taunt me with the words: finish what you started.
Starting the book was an act of faith. Finishing it, an act of discipline.
Fast forward to last week, where I excitedly decided it was time to share the gems hidden between the covers of these books – ideas and images, passages and principles you might savor enough to then step out on your own and adventure into times of reading. I also want to share other things I’ve learned and enjoyed along the long path of healing and obedience – food dishes that worked (or didn’t), therapies that are helpful (or aren’t), poetry/song and other cathartic art forms, places of travel that inspire, and encounters with people. Encounters with many of you are what inspired this post. As I talk with lady-friend after lady-friend, I hear the weight of your struggles and watch your faithfulness and see how everyone is responsible to bear the burden of their own ring. But we’re also responsible for looking out for each other and offering support in bearing that burden. Every Frodo needs a Sam.
What you need to hear every single dang day is that there’s hope and that you’re not alone. But it is a LONG obedience…
The life-giving jewels we find, in books or outside of them, are all part of God’s good will that we pursue healing in the most holistic, Christ-honoring way possible. Because He who came did so that we might have life and that we might have it abundantly. Sharing is vulnerable – not only because my own handwriting accompanies the passages in some of these photos – but also because these books found me in some pretty darkest, lost, and lonely places. It kind of feels like sharing journal entries. But we’re all in this fellowship together, so here is the first of many weekly writings, which I hope bring light and life.
This highlighted line was like a punch in the gut, but also strangely comforting. I so want that “blessed mark” that comes from years of walking with Jesus.
But there’s no other way to say it: forgoing hurts. It’s counter-intuitive for our bodies, right? How do we respond to this stripped solace; and how can we be sure of trusting “the one who denies” such things to us?
When we forgo joys or meet with obstacle after obstacle, it’s much easier to despair than to hope. I know this first hand. But look at this list of spiritual grandfathers and their journeys of dedication, despite where they were taken. Didn’t they long for things they were denied? We have a lineage of peril, denial, and renewed solace when we look at the lives of David, Jeremiah, Paul, and Christ. In the margin of the page above, I scratched about how we today seem to have even more responsibility to hope than the early fathers because of their examples of deliverance (sometimes earthly, always eternal). But hope takes a lot of strength.
“…The painful memory of exile… the scars of oppression… the deserts of the heart and the nights of weeping.” It sounds like a long obedience in the same direction. It also sounds a lot like yesterday or last week or three months ago, doesn’t it? We meet with exile everywhere, and there are no end to scars or deserts or nights of weeping. Joy does not escape sorrow. Yet sorrow is “unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed.”
When I read books like this one, it helps me realize there’s no standing still in the faith. We either forge forward or we retrace the steps from where we started. And we can’t do that if we hope to accept the challenge to forget what’s behind and run towards what’s ahead. But remember – it won’t always feel like racing. There will be long days and long nights where all we’ll see ahead is a very dusty road covered in potholes, and somehow we’ll need to keep walking even when there’s no good reason to – or when the reason seems ridiculous. Because that’s what obedience does. I guess it comes down to whether or not we trust the one who first carved out the road.
March’s book of the month = CHECK. April got skipped because of too many other projects, but I highly appreciate any suggestions for the month of May. More writings are to come, on this journey of health and healing. Happy Friday, all!