Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When The Journey Is Hard

I'm just driving down the road when I see Him there on a street corner.

It's a Japanese maple tree all aflame with Autumn's glory, but there's no denying the glimpse of God right there for everyone to see.  I can hardly bear to pass by and I raise one hand to the sky with a heart aching for Him and a soul murmuring praise.

In my mind, I'm reaching for a journal full of thanks--because isn't this what it's all about?  Finding God in the smallest moments of a life, counting every last piece of Grace until there's no doubt about His love, His goodness, Him running through all our days?

But the journal's out of reach, buried somewhere in a drawer back at home.  It's been too many weeks to number since I've recorded God in those pages and now I'm driving right by Him and I'm nearly beside myself with longing.

He hasn't been absent these last months and I haven't been blind.  I've pressed my face against the glass when the sky's all lit up with His beauty and I've closed my eyes to listen to His breath rushing through the trees and I've whispered thanks for all the ordinary moments full of an extraordinary God.

But there's been no strength to pick up the pen and etch His Grace into memory.

Life's been heavy for weeks now, responsibility and expectation pressing in.  And me, I've been giving it my all just to keep breathing in and out.  But some days, most days, today--it feels like more than I can do.

I watch Him in the rear-view mirror and it's then that I hear Him speak and I know what has to be done.

Because vulnerability might come naturally for me but it doesn't come without a price.  And it takes every last bit of courage and strength I've got to write my soul on a page of the world, let all the cracked and wounded places unveil His glory.

And sometimes I have to pull the curtains closed, let it be just Him and me for a while.

So I drive home that night and I stop reading other people's words and I stop writing words of my own and I let the whole world fall quiet.  I turn my attention to long-neglected things and I rest and I breathe and I find a way to just be.

But it's seven days later when I sit down to gather words and thoughts and I find what I feared the most.  The words are gone and I can't speak and suddenly there's no rest in all this silence anymore, only a loneliness that leaves me grasping about.

I might wish I could fill up all the emptiness with other people's words, but I've been here enough times to know it can't be done.  I'll just be drowning out my fears, drowning out His whispers, drowning out everything that matters most.

So the days of October slip quietly away and I wonder if anyone notices the void I've left.  And maybe I'm afraid that it doesn't matter if I've lost my voice but maybe I'm more afraid that it really does matter.  And maybe I don't know how to be who I am when a piece of my soul seems to have dropped clean out of me.

But somewhere in the midst of all the silent days, I feel Him nudging.  And I open up a book that's sat on the shelf for two years and I turn on the audio recording and I listen to the words of a woman who loves God with her whole life.  I'm not sure if I've the strength to take it all in but it's only a matter of minutes before the loneliness fades and I hear her talking straight to me.

When we're overworked, over stressed, and under rested, we're left with a heaviness of spirit.  We're left feeling down and we're not even sure why.

And then she asks this:  How many of us just want an invitation to go up?  Up to the next level with God, up to His temple to worship, up out of the pit we find ourselves in?

Maybe I'm not raising my hand but I'm saying Yes! with my whole being and it's in this moment that my gratitude overflows for all the silence and the loneliness and the fear that's found me here.  Because God's been here, too, and I've heard Him and He's extended the invitation to go up and, oh, how I want to go there with Him.

The first days of November arrive quiet and cold, and my mind's still wrestling through this verse from the Psalms:  Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage {Psalm 84:5}.

And this word blessed it really means "happy" and I keep saying it over and over in my head.  Happy are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

This whole life is a journey to some place we've never been.  And it's a long, hard climb to grow and heal and become.  And God, He wants more for us than we've ever dared to want for ourselves.

These last months and years of a life, I've been a pilgrim pressing on to find God in all the places I didn't expect Him to be, to understand once and for all that He loves me and who I am is enough and nothing will ever be the same again.  I've traveled a long road and the burdens have grown heavy and my strength has drained right into the soil of this path.

But He showed up in a maple tree beside the road, whispered for me to let it all go and just be.  And I might've thought it was my body that needed rest but I know it now that it was my heart in need of being renewed.

Happy are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

My heart, it's set on pilgrimage again.  I'm choosing to grow and heal and become.  I'm choosing to take hold of Him with every bit of strength I have and move forward.

And it's 19 days since the silence began when I pick up a pen and etch His Grace back into the pages of my story....

1095.  Glimpses of God on the street corner....
1096.  Beauty calling me to worship Him....
1097.  Heart aching for more of God....
1098.  Hearing His whispers....
1099.  Time to rest, breathe, be....
1100.  Silence...
1101.  Emptiness leading me to the Only One Who fills....
1102.  Words of a stranger, speaking Truth I need to hear...
1103.  His invitation to go up...
1104.  Pilgrimage...
1105.  A heart set on Him...


Maybe I'm still finding my voice, but God, He's never lost His and He's the One writing all this into His Glory.  I don't know where this road leads but He's asked me to come and I'm saying yes because He's all I want and I'll go anywhere just to be with Him.

We're all pilgrims in a world that isn't home.  But we're not in this alone and He's taking us to a life more beautiful and glorious and full of God than anything we've ever longed for.

Yes.  Happy are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.


8 comments:

  1. hi Courtney,

    yes, your readers do notice if it's been a while between posts, and yes, your voice does matter to us!! i'm so sorry that responsibility and expectation have been pressing in on you so hard that even breathing is an effort. having to struggle with loneliness and fear of losing your voice, when it feels that your strength has already drained away, must be more difficult than i can imagine. But the Lord would love you every bit as much even if you'd lost your voice forever, and, if we can, we must hold fast to the thought that God works even such things as exhaustion, fear, loneliness, and loss of voice for the good of those who love Him. I'm thankful that your heart is set on pilgrimage, and i'm praying that God will protect you from anxiety and discouragement, redouble your strength, and wrap you up in the peace that the world cannot give--

    chris

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  2. Courtney,

    All God ever asks of us is to say "Yes" in the hard moments. Lest we forget, our growth comes quickest in the hardest times. I know personally how hard it is to let go of the questions, struggles, and pains and just be in His presence, but I know that God gives us the courage to go there. I'm praying for you my sister-in-Christ. Blessings. Daniel

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  3. welcome back, dear sister-mirror of the One True God...so glad you wrote down what He was writing through you...proud of you; thankful for Him.

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  4. "It takes every last bit of courage and strength I've got to write my soul on a page of the world, let all the cracked and wounded places unveil His glory." I'm with you on that. It's not comfortable, but it's the way God glorifies Himself in our weakness.

    I did notice you'd been quiet, but there's nothing wrong with silence. Did you know that the songwriter Stephen Curtis Chapman lost his voice, completely lost his physical voice, for an extended time? His album Speechless arose from that season of losing his work and ministry identity and not knowing whether it would return.

    Your thoughts on pilgrimage bring to mind the faith pilgrims of Hebrews 11. Maybe I need to add that to my reading today.

    May the Lord make His nearness and friendship known to you as your companion on the way today. I would send you a hug if I knew how. :)

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  5. @chris: Thank you for finding significance in my voice here...it's only because of Him and I am so humbled that He continues to speak through me. And you are right--God would love me just as much even if I never wrote again. I'm the one who'd have to learn to accept myself all over again, and it would be hard and painful but I do know that He'd bring me through and He'd give me a new way to tell His story. And for your prayers? Thank you. Just, thank you.

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  6. @Lover of Christ: There can never be enough reminders that growth comes from our hardest days, so thank you for that. Sometimes the "yes" doesn't feel like enough, but you are right--it's all He asks of us. And I am so thankful for the strength He gives to say that one word. Grateful for your prayers, Friend. Grace to you wherever you are on this pilgrimage.

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  7. @Rachel Schober: It's good to be back--I've missed it so much. And for seeing Him in me, in my story? Thank you. More than you know. Thank you. Love to you, dearest one.

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  8. @tinuviel: Your words *did* send me a hug :o). You always bring up the perfect scripture and I am so thankful for that. Hebrews 11:1 is my verse for this year--I should have known "pilgrimage" was coming, but God likes to surprise us with the obvious, doesn't He?

    I had not heard that about Stephen Curtis Chapman, though I heard a similar story about Matthew West. Their voices are so much more public than mine--I can't imagine how painful and scary that must have been for them. But God, He uses all the broken days (months, years) for His glory and I am confident that if I did lose my voice here, He'd teach me how to glorify Him regardless.

    Thank you for your companionship on this pilgrimage. Sending a hug back to you!

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