Emotion bubbling over into anger, spewing words reeking of bitterness. Blood pulsing, heat rising, heart racing. Hands fluttering over countertops, wiping at invisible stains. I scrub the same spot distractedly, then pace the kitchen, a million things to do and I cannot think of a single one of them right now. Frustration is the feeling, and this is what it looks like at this moment in time. I come to the figurative pen and paper, and I wait for words to write. I am trying my best to channel this frustration into a venue that is least likely to do me or others harm, and I need a word with God. God, why do I feel so abandoned right now? Where are you? And where are friends when you need them? Why is it that we let the people down whom we love the most? I am alone, an island of despair. Abandoned.
I think hard because I am guilty of doing the very things of which I now accuse others. I inadvertently wound, seeking forgiveness when I have wronged or hurt those whom I hold dearest to my heart. I have abandoned my closest at one time or the other. I have forgotten God; oh, how many times I have let God down. This is pause for reflection if ever there was one. To be sure, I do not live up to others expectations of me. Do I not seek mercy and grace? Can I not do the same for those who from now I feel the sting of slight and indifference? I need a self-check before I proceed.
My husband, sensing my need, puts kind hands on my shoulders, kneading the tensed sinew and muscles. He loves me, and I am calmed by his touch. So therefore, how much more does HE love me. HIS touch a balm for tender emotions, easily bruised. HIS love a salve for my soul. HIS love an endless supply, restoring my joy so that I may remain in Him. As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15: 9-10, NKJV) Abiding. A continual, conscious act. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. (The Celebration Hymnal, Songs and Hymns for Worship, Abide With Me, Henry F. Lyte and William H. Monk)
We leave the house, all six of us, and head for the river. I have been housebound for the majority of the morning baking cakes for an upcoming family gathering this evening, and I need some open space wherein to release this pent up frustration. We take the motor boat out into the water and put the anchor down. We are floating on overlapping ripples, the water gently slapping the boat as we sit back and feel the sun. I take the yellow tube attached to a rope and push it into the water. As I thrust out, I check behind me to make certain I will not float too far from the safety of the diving platform on the back of the boat. I lie back and look up into the blue of the sky decorated by cloud upon cloud as far as the eye can see. I feel God’s peace calling me to rest in His love, let go of the anger. I choose to abide.
I will abide for today, but what of tomorrow?
Days elude my quest for understanding of and ability to continuously abide. The ebb and flow of the daily walk proves to be a challenge. Learning to lean back and rest in the arms of His love is not easy, we want to struggle free and handle life our way. We take our eyes off the One who sustains and keeps us in His tender care. We forget the necessity it is to abide in Him. If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.( John 8:31b, NKJV) We are set free from the bondage of unmet expectations, broken relationships and emotional breakdowns when we abide in the Word. We are loosed from the chains that bind us to our fleshly self and are free to be filled with the Spirit showing love to those that hate us, joy in the midst of suffering, peace when life is tumultuous, longsuffering with those that rub us the wrong way. (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV) Replacing bitterness with kindness, goodness for anger. Always proving to be a good and faithful follower of Christ, a faithful friend to the friendless, a loyal defender of the household of faith. Exercising gentleness at all times for there is great force hidden in a gentle command. (George Herbert) Underlying all these actions is the work of the Holy Spirit enabling us to be self-controlled even when we are pushed beyond our breaking points, driven to anger and despair. If we abide in Him, we will know truth, and we will be set free. We lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV) When I fix my eyes on Jesus, earthly things fade into the background. I can with God’s strength abide in Him, and so I choose to abide. And with the words of that beloved old hymn, I choose today to turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
We head out to the shelter of the veranda after supper has been cleaned up, and table and chairs wiped with a damp rag, taking with us the crowning glory of the evening: a beautiful cherry almond cheesecake graciously made for us that morning by my husband’s sister and placed in our refrigerator while I was out running errands. I prepare the coffee and set the old wooden tray with silver and stoneware. We gingerly carry our dessert out to little ones waiting at the front of the house for an evening snack. My husband cuts generous slices and we sit back to enjoy. The entertainment for our viewing pleasure is a series of foot races. We cheer the children on, and give thumbs up to the daughter that always lets the youngest win. Compelled, I enter the competition. The racers are given the countdown, the children and I wait on the mark ready for the signal to go. And then, we are off and running. Muscles unfurl, arms moving in steady rhythm with the stride of legs beneath us. We run to the tree and back, laughing and calling out to one another encouragement to stay the course. Those who fall back are swept up in the swell of support from the bystanders. We reach the finish line and declare the winners, and a new race begins. As I run, it is as if I am carried on the wind, buoyed by the very essence of being alive. I breathe in the evening air heavy with dew. I run as if I am free.