10 May 2010
Oh, Papa! I just can’t go on like this!
I feel like somehow I’m getting way too far from where You want me.
Or maybe I’m just getting into deep water and fear that I’m going to be swept away.
I remember when I was a child, maybe 9 years old or so, and my family and a lot of friends were at the park at Woods Lake, where the creek emptied into the lake. The children were playing in the water close to shore, the dad’s were playing softball in the nearby field, the mom’s were setting up lunch on the picnic tables, and the older kids were playing water volleyball out in the deeper water next to the drop-off.
There really weren’t many kids around my age. I didn’t want to play with the little ones by the shore, and the water where the older ones were playing was too deep for me. Still, I tried to swim out their way, hoping they’d notice me and let me join in. They didn’t.
So I was paddling around by myself, until suddenly I noticed that I was way out past the big kids – and being swept by a strong current farther and farther out. I was terrified. I was not a strong swimmer, and could not break free from the current. I realized I was just a little kid, myself. I started to yell for help, but everybody back there were having fun, and they were making a lot of noise of their own, so they didn’t hear me.
I was splashing wildly, but only getting weaker and farther from shore. All I could see before me was a seemingly never-ending stretch of water, with waves that seemed to be getting larger and larger. And the safe shoreline was getting farther away and smaller by the moment. By now I was sobbing and hopeless.
And then, unexpectedly, a strong pair of arms encircled my shoulders, and a young man, whom I had never seen before, was pulling me out of the current with sure, strong strokes. He held onto me until I was safely close to the shore, and could stand up. He asked me if I was alright, and then swam off. Somewhere. I didn’t see him again.
Father, right now I feel like I did back then, when the current was pulling me out. I feel as though I am caught in a great current and am being swept from the safety of the shoreline. From the safety of friends and family. I have wanted to be “grown up.” I have wanted to follow You out to where the “big kids” play. But it seems as though, somehow, You’ve drawn me past the drop-off, and into the deeps. I’ve sensed it beginning to happen, but have always felt, perhaps, that not only are the big kids nearby, even if they don’t really want me around, but that I can always retreat to the safety of the shallows, and safely into the arms of family and friends.
And suddenly, I realize that You are calling me farther on. And all I can see is the vastness of the open water, and the height of the larger waves, away from the quiet of the bay. And I am panicking. I am thinking, “Oh no! I’m really just a little mama. It’s all I’ve ever really been good at, and I haven’t been that great even doing that. And now I’m really getting too old to even do that; my own children are mamas now… I have no strength. I’m too old for this. I have to get back to shore where it’s safe. Maybe I can just help set the tables for others.”
And yet. I am pretty sure that You are out here with me. In front of me, actually, in the depths, calling me to follow.
Still, the waters out there look so wide and far away and lonely. And I’m not a good swimmer. And everybody else is back there on the shoreline, safely splashing and playing in the shallows and setting up picnic lunches. Oh, Father! They don’t even seem to see me being swept away. They don’t seem to notice that I’m missing, at all. I want them to see me, to care, to rescue me, bring me back to safety and security.
And yet, again. You are out there, beyond me, way out in the wide waters. Calling me to look forward, to You. Not back to the beach. And I do want to trust You. Obey You. Follow You.
Only, Papa, I feel like I have no strength, no plan, no energy. (And hardest of all, no companionship).
Yet I do know, in my heart of hearts, that I can trust You, You alone, always, to fulfill all those needs for me.
But I also can’t see anything out there at all except water. I can’t even see where the current itself is heading. So I have no idea of even what general idea I might be swept.
And Papa – oh Papa. Do You have any idea how it feels when all the people I love, all the people who’ve been the core, the center of my life, just don’t even seem to see what’s happening?
(Maybe this is just part of yesterday’s “mother’s day” feeling? When my own mama was gone. And my children are mamas themselves now, and the special day is about them now! And even my baby, who really did spoil me lavishly, hug me wonderfully, is a man now himself, and I know he is already moving on….) (And for various reasons, it seems, I’ve pretty much lost contact, lost the security of, my “church friends” and my “work friends” too… )
Papa… I feel so alone. So way out in the water. I hear You calling. But it’s hard to really let go of all that “security” back there.
Is this what it means when You spoke of how we have to be prepared to leave everything, everyone, to follow You?
It seems like, in Your word, that people in Your family, in Your church, back in the day, were close together, meeting daily, visiting house-to-house, eating together, learning together, working together, travelling together to spread Your good news. (But sometimes You did send them out, alone, didn’t You?). And now – now I feel like we live such fractured lives. So many people, but everyone so busy. Nobody really knows anyone….
Yesterday I saw some little old ladies here and there. Out walking alone, sitting in the park alone. On Mother’s Day. And I said, “Happy Mother’s Day” to one as she walked past me. But then I wondered if that was the wrong thing to say. Because maybe she was feeling even lonelier than I was. I wanted to run and hug her. But I was afraid. Afraid that perhaps both of us would stand there in the street and hold each other and cry.
I really do want to follow You. Into the depths. No matter what.
(Even though it is awful hard not to keep looking back when you hear everyone back at the shore laughing and calling out to each other, and eating and having fun together.)
But Papa, that’s how it was for little Christian, in that children’s edition of Pilgrim’s Progress. There he was, leaving his home. Alone. To follow the hard path You called him to, in that letter You sent him. And later on, when he passed through that city, and the other children were dressed in bright colors, and having fun, and calling out for him to stay. But he kept on going. For awhile, he had Faithful with him. But Faithful lost his life for You. There were times of rest, when he was cared for and encouraged and nourished by members of Your family. But always, You soon called him to travel on. Alone so often. Still, later, before he crossed to the Celestial City, he did have the joy of seeing some of those he’d left behind, coming after him, following Your road too.
That is the journey You call us to, isn’t it?
…. Later ….
Oh, Papa! You’re speaking to me. Encouraging me. Thank You for that email prayer list: I am reminded once again how very blessed I am! And how much more difficult are the paths You call others to. And thank You for that article a friend posted a link to, on facebook. About the amazing – totally unimaginably awesome and amazing – universe.. You truly are so much greater, so much more in control, than I can possibly imagine!
And thank You for Your words, quoted at the beginning and end of that email prayer list. So encouraging!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thess 2:16-17) (and those words in response, from the prayer-list writer: “we’re all waiting for the Lord. Let’s keep our eyes on Him and our trust in Him. Praise Him for His sufficiency and His goodness.”) And then those other words from You: “God takes the time to do everything right – everything. Those who wait around for Him are the lucky ones.” (Isaiah 30, The Message).
Oh Father! Please forgive me for panicking. You ARE in control. I am not being swept away, alone, in fear of drowning, with no one to notice and care and rescue me.
Instead I am being swept into the immensity and wonder and awesomeness and endless amazing perfect love and care and fulfillment of all my being – indeed, of all that is: You! My Lord, my God, my Creator, my Savior! Almighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! Praise Your Holy Name!
Thank You, Papa. I love You! Amen!
…. Reading Matthew 5 to 7 …
Oh my goodness. These words of You, Jesus, are amazing! Father, You are truly calling us to radical living – living that is only possible, even in the smallest, beginning ways, IN YOU. And yet You are calling us not only to beginning ways – but all the way. To perfection. Just as You are perfect!
So yes, we have to leave the shoreline. And get caught up, swept up, into Your mighty current. Without reservation, without looking back to our old loves, our old safety nets, our old small pleasures, our old dependencies.
And allow You to sweep us forward, out into the depths. Where we can see no hope, no landing spots, no flotation devices even. Nothing except You. Even in (most of all, in) the most stormy moments when we are tossed about in giant waves and are cold and shaking and feel like we are going down with no hope of rescue. And even You don’t “seem” to be there.
And yet. You ARE. And You are teaching us, giving us the space and opportunity we need, to trust fully in You. Alone.
It’s a funny thing. So many times I have stood on the ocean shoreline and looked out toward the great Pacific ocean. And it is gray and misty and wind-blown and stormy. I can see nothing but a hazy distant horizon that I know goes on and on and on…
And yet, I find myself dreaming, longing to set out in a little vessel. Hoist the sails and let the waves and currents sweep me away to wherever they go. To “far Cathay” or “the Bay of Benin, the Bay of Benin” …. Far-off, mysterious, unknown shores, imprinted in my imagination from stories and poetry heard in my childhood.
And that poem calls out to me over and over: “I must go down to the seas again, To the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship, And a star to steer her by”…. (Masefield).
And now, Father, now You are offering me that opportunity, to set sail on uncharted seas, with only a single star to steer by – You!
And after all that dreaming and longing – I find myself panicking. Afraid!
But oh, Father, I do want to leap in, even without a boat beneath me. And get swept into Your mighty current. Into the uncharted adventure of living in Your love. No matter when it takes me, no matter how stormy and cold. Even if no one else goes with me.
“Though none go with me, Still I will follow …. No turning back, no turning back.” (We sing so many songs about You, with such enthusiasm… And then one day You ask us to truly mean, to step out and act upon, what we’ve been singing all along.)
(Hmmm…. I’ve just suddenly gained a much more “sympathetic” viewpoint of Lot’s much-maligned wife.)