I’ve felt eerily like Henry David Thoreau lately; I’ve spent the last couple months quite deliberately alienating myself. I’ve stopped talking; not only about important things but about trivial things, too. There are the reasons why but, ultimately, it was the earth crumbling realization that I’m not completely sure I have ever really been loved unconditionally.
That idea brings up a lot of deeply buried fears. If love is conditional, if it comes with rules, then does who I am really even matter? I don’t see how it can; what’s the point, then, of saying, well, anything? Rules are familiar; I know how to follow them. I can do it…but it’s painful believing I have to.
I exchanged the country music I’ve always loved for the contemporary Christian music I’ve missed. I spent a few days re-reading fictional books– some of which I wrote and some of which I’ve just always loved. I’ve doubled down my focus on my girls, eliminating any other distractions. I’ve worked, prayed, written and stared at darkened ceilings (mine is smooth; I find that unfamiliar and disconcerting. The ceilings with the bumpy plaster is easier to create alternate worlds).
My suburban Thoreau forest of monotony has been interrupted a time or two. The most notable interruption started a few days ago.
I heard a song called Confidence. It talks about the Biblical prophets whose stories I grew up knowing by heart. Daniel, Moses and, especially, David, that flawed but passionate friend of God. The song says, “Give me faith like Daniel in the lions den, give me hope like Moses in the wilderness, give me heart like David, Lord, be my defense so I can face my giants with confidence.”
That chorus rang in my head at the oddest times. It made me want to study David again and Abraham, whose faith was so strong he was prepared to kill his own son, for whom he had longed. It made me think of my faith and the giants in my life that have been conquered through it.
A day or so later, I heard this song, Fear is a liar and pretty much instantly turned into a pile of emotional blob. I listened to it three times before I could resurrect the walls around my heart. These two songs have been like a broken record in my head for days.
Today, I was driving home. When I’d left the house, I’d noted how many miles the gas gauge told me I had before hitting empty: 64. My round trip was to be 62 miles. Since that meant I had enough, I didn’t stop to fill up. The day happened and suddenly we’re headed home and I notice the traffic up ahead is stopped. It stays stopped: not slow, stopped. My thoughts turn to gas; looking down, I see I have 13 miles.
Slowly, that 13 dwindles to 5, 4, 3. Panic starts to crowd the corners of my mind. I can’t get off the interstate because we’ve been pushed into one lane. As I finally ease onto my exit, which is totally jammed, I start praying, mainly to calm my anxiety.
First, I sing the chorus of Confidence. Then I think of the number of times Scripture says that God will provide (Psalm 81:10, Genesis 3:21, Matthew 21:22 and about a dozen others). So I started repeating out loud, “God will provide. God will provide. God will provide.” Interspersed with this litany, my heart was begging Him to show up, to remind me He hadn’t disappeared. As soon as that thought would enter my head, though, I’d repeat, ‘God will provide.’
The gas gauge went from 2 to 1 mile remaining. Still stuck on the exit ramp. 1 to 0. As I watched the mileage drop to 0, the treacherous, defeating thought, I’m not going to make it crossed my mind. But instead of giving up the prayer, I leaned back in the seat, thought of Moses, who had to have seriously wondered about God’s plan at least a couple times in 40 years, and revamped the short prayer.
I literally had 0 gas for a full ten minutes or longer before gravity allowed the car to roll into a gas station.
It was not life or death. It was gas. And if the car had died, I still would believe God provides. But I needed the reminder that He hears me, that I am not unseen and that, even if I remain mute for the rest of my life, I am known.
Love is a messy thing, it’s not smooth like my ceiling. It has dips, ditches even, as well as the mountainous tops. Because we’re loving humans, who are as flawed as David was when he ordered a man murdered so he could have his wife. Chasing dreams and freedom that others don’t always understand is messy because our lives are entangled with others, whether we think they are or not.
After his stint of isolation where sheer boredom gave him the time and inkling to write an entire, very dry chapter of the measurements of a pond, Thoreau decided that everyone probably needed alone time sometimes, but that human contact was also important. Tomorrow is a new day and, with it, comes an endless horizon of opportunities. Opportunities—and light.