I have to warn you that what you are about to read may be about as welcome as if you had taken a trip to the beach, carefully packed a cooler full of your favorite snacks, tucked away a book you had been dying to read in your adorable tote bag, carefully placed your chair so you were getting just the right amount of sun, just sat down and dug your feet in the sand only to feel a drop of rain on your nose. And then another. And then all its brothers, sisters and friends it has ever known come to join the party. Unfortunately for you, yours is now over.
Rain clouds are funny that way. They don’t dissipate until they are spilled. Consider this a spilling. My spilling.
You may need to take cover.
Your notes of concern and desires to help our town recover from the storms that devastated us on April 27 have been balm to me. I want to mention a particular type of note because it is the wording I’ve struggled with most. They are the ones (this is a representative sample and I’m only quoting here) that read, “I don’t kn0w how you are handling this like you are. You have been so strong, brave, helping others while you are suffering too, blah, blah, blech, etc.” (Emphasis mine.)
I don’t add those end words to disrespect your sentiments. Again, these are appreciated expressions of care for me and mine that have ministered more than you imagine. (Do you know the word “minister” means “to provide, to add to”? Love that. You have added to me.) But the exactness of those perceptions is untrue. Because I’ve not been handling this well. Not when I’m alone with myself.
I’m up at 4:30 a.m. this morning because I awoke from a dead sleep certain I heard someone crying. After checking the kids’ bedrooms, they weren’t. It may have been me. I had been dreaming like I do every night that I am in an unstable environment. The typical nightmare is being in our house and it suddenly collapsing or just falling onto its side. Last night I was at a mountain resort where I was supposed to be teaching. It was snowing and I was crouched down trying to protect myself as people pelted me with enormous snowballs. I don’t know if this was before or after the lesson. Either way, not good. About that time the mountain began to rumble and I knew a landslide was coming. I proceeded to run and trip and fall and get up with snow all in my face and try to run some more as the earth was catching up to me.
It has caught up to me.
I’ve been trying so hard to hear God, to see Him in all this destruction. So many have loved us and made that manifest so please don’t take my melancholy as being unappreciative of the ways He has used you to bless us. I have seen neighbors push pause on their lives to help those who have lost everything. I have seen Him bring to existence a ministry center where our church can meet the needs of those in our community and our people rise up to be Jesus to the hurting. So yes, indeed I have seen Him but I feel like a witness of where He belongs to someone else instead of the God-Presence I take home. I am terrified that somehow these days will pass and I will not have gained the riches of what *I* was intended to find in Him. My mind and heart have been dark from physical and mental exhaustion and I’m frustrated to no end because I know what it feels like to get it, to get Him, to gain some new experiencial, relational knowledge of Him. I feel I’m on the outskirts of His ways, trying to understand the thunder of His power and hearing a very small whisper instead. (Job 26:14)
I’m a voracious reader and sadly do not often take time away from commentaries and study materials for good stories. I decided maybe I just needed a mental break during this time so I went to the library and opted for something light to read before I went to bed at night. Ironically, what I picked up was Mark Twain’s “Roughing It”. I adore Twain and the title spoke to me. Twain’s satire and wit and penchant for exaggeration convinces me we would have been the best of friends save for the fact I find no indication he was more than an observer of the Christian life (of all walks of life actually) rather than a practicer of it. All that said, there is a portion of this memoir in which he details his going to Nevada and later California during the days of the silver and gold rushes.
It’s hard to quote Twain because he uses a great deal of speach to develop a thought rather than wrapping it in a pithy statement. (Did I mention we could have been bff?) With great pains and many adjectives he describes the process of pocket mining as opposed to mining from an underground cave. Think of pocket mining as the stereo-typical movie visual of an old 49’er panning in a mountain creek. The miner would dig and sift until (prayerfully) he found gold flakes and through process of elimination would find where the gold was more concentrated, hence the ‘pocket’. The pocket could yield $50 or $50,000 depending on its depth and the tenacity of the miner. He tells of one who worked a particular area for a very long time and in the evening would sit on a boulder to regroup and decide where he would next search. He eventually moved on only to later learn the boulder itself was a very rich pocket and all along he had been sitting right on top of it.
In another story Twain recounts a time when he and his partner find a silver vein that will make them millionaires. The process of staking the claim as their own required they do a significant amount of work at the site within 10 days of registering it in the claims office or else it would be considered abandoned and released to be claimed by another.
As the story goes, Mark left a note for his partner that he had to go tend to an ailing friend and assumed the partner would do the necessary work. The partner never saw the note and was called away on business assuming Mark would do the work. At the end of the 10 days their tract was considered abandoned and another made a fortune from their neglect. He concludes, “And that is how it came to be that I was once a millionaire for ten days.”
There is a related scripture that captivates me:
“6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested byfire—may be found to result inpraise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him.Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtainingthe outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ! Peter 1:6-9 ESV
If necessary, you are grieved. If necessary. When mining for treasure, it is often necessary to insert a stick of dynamite in invaluable rock to get to what lies beneath. We’ve had our blast and now it’s time to sift through the rubble for that which is priceless. There are the obvious treasures of relationships with people, but God is there too and I’m still searching. Still panning. Still gazing into the swill and praying I find the glory that is certainly there. Lord, do not let it be that I was sitting on You the whole time and didn’t even know it. Let it never be said that I abandoned the work and left the find to another.
Let it never be said that I was a millionaire for ten days.
No, I’ve not handled this well. I’ve been afraid, sad, overwhelmed, ungrateful, self-pitying, and without perspective. But these are a part of my process of elimination and I feel that perhaps now I’m getting closer.
Closer to Eureka.