Wouldn't it be fun to throw a Paradox Party? When it came time to tell our paradox tales, here would be mine:
"Last Sunday, I led our Home Group in a study of James:
'Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. For the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.'
Monday through Wednesday I was gliding on Holy Spirit spirits-----Doing radio interviews (one on parenting), writing articles about Faith, making food for hungry people, pouring love and sweat into my first webinar (on forgiveness), visiting the sick and being such an obsessive, overscheduled sleepless frantic little Church-girl that I woke up this morning grumpy, exhausted, in angry meltdown mode with a Mt. Sinai sized headache, and proceeded to carp at my teenage sons all morning, through the breakfast I didn't fix, and all the way to school, issuing decrees and making the morning just as miserable as possible for everyone. I didn't kick the dog, but I thought of it.
Yep. That's me. Holy Bible teacher and Mother extraordinaire!!
My only defense is that as soon as I drove home, ate something, took a long nap, woke up, wandered around in my Bible---I felt immediately guilty. Deeply guilty. So guilty I drove to Walmart and bought one son the new underwear he needed and the other his favorite juice (100% cranberry) in the gallon size. AND that night I made their favorite dinner (halibut enchiladas). Thank the God of grace for guilt!!
This is my lifelong struggle, and I cannot quite seem to land on the right spot. It seems I have to careen from an all-in heart-bursting ache to spend every muscle of strength for the half-the-world in so much need (though, God knows, I don't always do this well), to ------Leave-me-alone hibernation. Silence. Retreat.
We need both, of course. We cannot dwell for long in one without the other. Maybe today you need what I have craved, and what I have allowed myself these three successive Saturdays, and this next one too, I hope. I want to take you into the mountains, where God has met me and fed my soul such rest . . ..
These Saturdays, I traveled through these Kodiak mountains my favorite way:
One day I hiked 10 miles into the mountains. Another eight miles. Another nine. These are my prayer walks. I have needed rest that much . . .
But even here, there in this spectacular land and snowscape, I find it:
(And a pair of ducks)
Massive mountains scaled by tiny people, small bundles of bones,
who are yet unafraid to climb an hour to the summit,
for an hour of snow-stomping, heart-pounding bushwhacking----an hour of sweat for ten minutes of slide.
Look how we all seek the mountains, their size, that we may disappear into our own insignificance. (Ahhhhh! how mighty it feels to be small!!)
Here is what I am slowly earning from all those miles.
I'm giving up on the ideal of of a steady, balanced life, a life-on-the-plains kind of life. You know, a life that is regular, orderly, without mountains and valleys, without the high peaks of ecstatic servanthood and the plunging valleys of exhaustion. A life of perfect consistency and regular order. A life without risk. A life without paradox.
I wonder if that "regular life" is possible. Or even desirable?
Paul described himself as "sorrowful yet ever rejoicing;" He was "more than a conquerer" who was often imprisoned. He boasted in God's strength made perfect in his weakness. He led thousands to freedom while he remained a "slave." He preached light in the darkness, love in persecution, grace rather than law. Always, he struggled to serve a mighty God out of a frail human body.
Isn't this us?? I'll take it ALL, then. The mountain peaks of grace and the pits of my own guilt. The ecstasy of serving God and the agony of my own frailties. I'll take it all. It's hard, this Narrow-gated trail through high mountains, but is there any other path?
Yes. There is another way. The path I dread: the wide open gate and the gentle even path
before we know it,
(softly and surely)
which is to say,
(LORD, let it never be!!)