We came home last Saturday from family camp in the Adirondacks. This is the fourth year that we’ve spent a week of vacation there with two other families. Inevitably, it is one of the best weeks of the year. Continue Reading
One and a half months—
Till my guts get sold on Amazon. (I remember Emily Freeman blogging about this idea when her first book, Grace for the Good Girl, hit store shelves. I’ve completely stolen the “guts” language from her.)
Incidentally, you can’t sell your guts without pain. First, there is the splaying open of your insides, then the wringing of blood from your laptop. You remember that you’re donating words to the cause, but it makes you feel faint, this endless sitting and staring, the bleeding and the pages you can’t cauterize.
I traveled to Delaware this past weekend to speak at the church where my college friend’s husband serves as pastor.
And it was this weekend that I had my first awkward moments as a blogger.
On the night I arrived, after our conversation had stretched close to midnight around their long kitchen table, my friend began giving me instructions for using her Keurig the next morning.
“No, no, hun,” her husband quickly interrupted. “Don’t you remember she likes the French press?”
I was left only momentarily wondering how they knew this little factoid.
And it was the next morning that a tall, pretty young woman introduced herself to me before the tea. She’s shaking my hand and smiling, telling me that she’d been reading my blog and enjoying it.
There are facts she cites to establish the intimacy she has with the mechanics of my life.
I feel awkward. My life is no paragon of virtue.
In fact, in the week leading up to the event, I am conscious of how irritable I’m acting. Hustled by deadlines, I am quick to snap at the kids, quick to wish away my responsibilities as wife and mother, quick to hope for some quiet, permanent corner of the world into which I can withdraw and work without interruption.
And all week long, I sit down with the Bible in the morning. And I feel nothing. And I hear nothing. And sooner rather than later, I bring to an end what feels to be nothing more than a rote exercise – one I’d hardly constitute as faith.
Do you go speak for God when you fail to hear Him speaking?
Do you go claiming to serve God when it’s your family’s needs you’ve been willfully ignoring?
All this incongruence – between the life of my words and the life of my skin – it heaps up like one big heap of accusation.
And that’s why I wake with the pit in my stomach on Saturday morning. It’s early and dark. I lie there sleepily and feel the familiar knot of anxiety tug, churn, and settle deeper.
Somehow, this passage rises to conscious thought, and I’m out of bed, slipping noiselessly into the kitchen to make the coffee. (Yes, French press.)
And I begin reading Isaiah 6, and it’s as if finally, I can hear more than the leaden silence of the past week.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.”
Where am I, Jen?
Seated on a throne. And what would you do or fail to do, what you say or fail to say, that would change my sovereign position of power and authority?
If that were the only reassurance I had had, it would have been enough to calm all the jitters. But I found more, even more.
“Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”
And so, Isaiah had his own mirror? And in it, all his own incongruence stared back at him?
And what was it that stood between the agony of that reflection and the answer to the call? What makes sinners so daring to believe that they could be commissioned for service?
“One of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for.’”
Here was the consoling reminder that God never uses perfect people – or perfectly confident people. It’s not our capacities or confidence that qualify us for ministry.
It’s the blood of Jesus.
I took that with me into the tea. I beat back the torrent of self-doubt with two words.
And the weekend was so NOT about me coming to share some pithy word with that crowded gymnasium full of women. As is typical with God, there was more goodness to be had than I could ever have imagined, goodness that I’ve since been mulling over, goodness that made me cry all the way from the moment I landed in Toronto, walked down the jetbridge, through the airport terminal, and out to meet a silver van packed with eager kids.
But that story, that goodness, will have to kept for another day.
I order my tall vanilla soy latté and begin wondering where my wallet is. I fumble through the pockets of the bag that hangs from my right shoulder and start feeling the panic rise to my cheeks.
Where’s my wallet? And passport and money? All the worst-case scenarios play out in fast forward speed. I am dizzied and feeling slightly faint.
Fumbling furiously now, I rummage through the books and computer chargers. I find my lipstick bag (one small sigh of relief – the lipstick is here) as the customers in front of me pay, then peal off the ever-shrinking line to get their drinks. They are not dummy-heads like me. They manage, like grown-ups do, to keep their wallet in sight.
The line is the only thing shrinking now. The panic has now fully seized my body. And I’m up next.
And it’s then I realize – suddenly – that my wallet is tucked under my left arm. Safe. Right there in my arm pit. I try sidling up to the cash register to play the cucumber cool part of seasoned business traveler, but it’s fairly obvious to anyone who has watched this extemporaneous scene that I am NOT.
I’m feeling jittery, the kind of jittery that makes you all clumsy.
I tried to figure out how to drape my winter coat over – around? – my carry-on. Unsuccesfully.
I tried to maneuver my one tall latte, one cup of ice water, and one yogurt parfait (with the carry-on and shoulder bag and winter coat) back to my gate. Unsuccessfully. (Ok, no spills but visible awkwardness.)
I am feeling the part of old woman whose husband has just died and can’t complete the simplest of tasks without the help on which she’d learned all her life to depend.
I’m alone. In an airport. Flying off to Wilmington, Delaware, to speak on the subject of joy.
And I’m feeling all turned inside out, wondering why did I agree to this?
It may have been years ago that I saw myself doing exactly this. But there’s something beautiful and right and yet hard about time as it marches forward – and erodes all those smug confidences of youth.
You know your own phoniness better when you’re older. You’re a fake, a fraud. The accumulated years: exhibit A.
So, yeah, I’m feeling jittery because it’s been a busy week and I’ve tried to pray and failed and wondered why God feels beyond the next closed door.
They’re boarding now.
I’m boarding now.
And that means a quick, hurried goodbye.
And the only thought with which to leave is this: “Conscious of all that I am not, confident of all that He is: and maybe that’s where real ministry begins.”