To say part of me is not a little afraid is to whisper loudly in the hush of sacred grace.
To say all of me is not overjoyed is to withhold praise.
My heart holds quiet all dreams and hopes and smiles reserved for tomorrow, for that day has yet to mature, and still it will. The future always houses the hope we struggle to see. We writhe and struggle to be okay, well fit in the burning of today. Our eyes condition to the dimness of today seeing mostly behind, less of now and even less of all ahead.
I woke earlier than the sun shivering cold in single digit temperatures. Overnight the fire had died down to a pile of glowing ash and the small heater built into the cabin wall had reached a limit. In the dark, I finally crawled off of the sofa and stumbled close to the stone fireplace to thaw. Nine degrees read the thermometer. I remember thinking the morning appropriate and just right, the cabin cold and lonely. Realizing the smoldering heap of ash and coal would provide no comfort, I laced up my boots, added another jacket and double checked my pack for paper and pen. Within minutes the forest surrounded me. Each frigid step forward gave cause for worry.
What if I don’t find Him? What if the moment I’ve been seeking is silent and all calms to being unfair still?
I had come to lose all that was already lost. My mind kept bringing me back to why she died, more particularly, why would He let her. Like a child going sick on a spinning merry go round, each day soured my stomach even more. Death overshadowed life, cooled the warmth of love in my heart and smeared goodness with the ashes of life lost. I found the cabin in hopes God would find me. I didn’t feel found waking that cold morning only the lingering sting of death and anxiety of silence.
So much of my life has been redefined these past three years. I’ve lied, hidden my heart, retreated from friends and kept telling myself God is good, all while a heart war between grace and justice, with tomorrow its price, waged on. Anger flashed in moments worn too thin to be okay. Beneath the surface of my heart made up to look healthy, grief boiled and hissed monologues twisted in truth and pain. Deadlier than my wife dying was the dying of my own heart.
Back in the forest nearly lost that frozen morning I medicated my heart with distance. I sewed my wounds together with words and ideas that sounded heroic and safe but didn’t take faith. Those sutures insulated my heart from the reach of hurt as best as possible. On my shoulders I would carry my daughters away from death into a brighter day. I didn’t need love to be happy then, but my parched heart craved it. Careless words jabbed at God like an ant at the universe while He mostly stayed quiet and close.
In each subsequent sinking day, I learned to swim in the current of God’s unquitting grace. Never have I lived a day when all has been lost. That’s the brightness His love conditioned my eyes staring back into the void to see; a grace strong enough to swallow it all, the good and bad.
He knew then, three years ago at the mountaintop, what I know now.
Grace finds us shivering in the cold of life faded and lifts us higher than the tallest mountain. Three years removed from losing myself in the cold shadows of the Ozarks, I live a life undeserving of the feeble strength my quick retreating heart holds. My heart had to die completely in order to belong to any other day than the lost one behind me.
And here I stand, friends, removed and stronger, hand in hand with an amazingly resilient woman whose compassion inspires me and truth challenges me. Just 48 days from marriage, my heart couldn't be happier. Marissa and I come from different lives whose paths have curled and bent around roadblocks but managed to merge, spurred by grace's determined touch. Years from now we may find ourselves thinned by life and struggling to hold on, but grace will not let go. it is with God that I go and full confidence that I rejoice both in now and every day ahead of us.
I could dream of no one better that I'd rather win and lose in life with, love and laugh with and pursue God's dreams with that this woman who loves me so well. I'm reveling in each of the next 48 days, a new start arched and framed in beauty and grace.