If I could only make use of one word to describe my feelings and thoughts over the past few months, it would be hungry. Like the kind of hungry you get when you’ve skipped lunch and now can’t decide what you want for dinner because each idea sounds more enticing than the last.
It started back in April, when my husband announced that he wanted to begin looking for a new place to live. In the beginning, I tried to shake the nagging thought that if I just had enough faith, a door would open for us to return to the town where we lived in college — where we still have close friends and faithfully attend church. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an unlikely scenario, but I hoped for it anyway, in spite of the overwhelming odds. Eventually, I even became frustrated with God, who seemed to hide away in silent ignorance of my longing.
At the same time as we were searching for a new place to live, I was reading Shauna Niequist’s book Bittersweet. Its the kind of book that you could easily devour in a single lazy afternoon, but it is so good that you would never want to. I made her words last for three whole weeks, carefully counting each one and considering the lesson it wanted to teach me. I turned the words over like stones, feeling their weight in my palms.
I’ve never been good at living in the bittersweet tension of right here and right now. I live in haste — craving God’s plan for tomorrow, and ignoring the plan that he has for today.
The summer of 2011, I fell and broke my leg while working at a camp at college. I knew the instant it happened that it was bad, and I remember the doctor telling me, with shockingly poor bedside manner, just how bad it was. The bone was broken clean through just above my ankle, which had been dislocated, and I had fractured a bone in my foot.
The group of fellow leaders prayed for healing, softly laying hands on my pitifully casted limb. But there was no instantaneous healing. Instead, there was surgery and physical therapy. As painful as the physical injury was, some instances of vulnerability were even more so. And I remember the day when a friend nervously told me that he questioned whether or not the lack of healing was due to his own lack of faith.
When I was preparing to graduate from college, I had this fear that the school would find a reason to withhold my diploma. I imagined them combing my academic file with a fine toothed comb, in search of even the smallest setback. I’m sorry, we cannot let you graduate, they would say. You have a seven cent fine in the library. Or worse, we recalculated the points for your statistics final, and you did not pass the course. I was considering all the scenarios, even as my class practiced entering the chapel, rising and being seated on cue. My gut lurched at the thought of the past four years of blood, sweat, and tears being for naught.
And now, looking back, I wonder. Is this really how I view God? Like some distant registrar, combing through a file in search of failure? Waiting until the last possible moment, when all my hopes are up, to let me know I still owe him?
When I finally took the moon boot off of my newly healed leg, half of my calf muscle had all but disappeared. I think it was Danielle LaPorte who talked about how the desire muscle can atrophy. It was one of those concepts that left me short of breath, realizing that my dreams are chilling out on the back burner, their consistency being morphed into that of day old oatmeal.
I’ve talked a lot about my dreams lately, but I haven’t been terribly specific. I’m also not very explicit about my goals — mostly because accountability makes me squeamish, and the last thing I want to do is disappoint. I’m afraid of what will happen if the engine stalls. So for the most part, I settle for simply wishing things were different.
I do this with God, too. I want him, but at the same time, I’m afraid to want him. I echo Flannery O’Connor’s prayer, dear God, I cannot love thee the way I want.
Recently, I threw my prayer journal across my bedroom in a fit of frustration. I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible after coming to the incredibly painful realization that I have been holding back. There were so many things I was unable to scribble out onto the pages that night. But how on earth do I even begin to explain to God just how hungry I am — and how I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve asked him just to throw me a bone instead of going hard after the whole harvest?
I want to know his wild thoughts, to walk in ways that are higher than my own. I want the green pastures.
I’ve always been mesmerized by other people’s pastures. The days and weeks have quickly turned into months and years as I have fought to contort myself, make myself look more like them so maybe I could snatch a piece of their harvest. I’m always forgetting the truth: my failed attempts to be other people are of no use; he just wants me: my dreams, my wrecks, my fears of being small, my willfulness, my heart.
All this time, I’ve feared specificity. I’ve always thought that if I’m too specific, I probably won’t find exactly what I want. But James says that we do not have because we do not ask. The simplicity of grace always leaves me breathless, wanting more.
So I prepare to break up the hardened ground, in hopes that the seeds find good soil.