Where I Abide in the Vine

It’s May, and this month does something to me. I think it’s tied to the change of seasons, saying hello to summer and goodbye to a school year. It’s tied to the Graduations that come with that. It’s not like it used to be when I had a full-time classroom, but the season still gets to me.  All the “lasts” for the year, the deadlines, the goodbyes for the summer,  celebrations, plans for the future—all day long, everything means everything. 
And I am already a meaning junkie—already  driven by passion and curiosity and affection and hunger—surfing my highs and lows is not for amateurs. I am the North Shore of Oahu, and in May, we’re Big Wave Surfing.   
Sometimes I make it through the tunnel.
Sometimes I don’t. The growling white foam drags me in and has its way with me.
When that happens, my closest friends are like lifeguards—they pull up on their yellow jet skis and tow me in to shore. Back on the beach, some of them hand me a towel, some of them point at the sign that said “No Surfing. Dangerous Swells.”
It doesn’t matter. We all know I was made for this beach.
It feels like I can’t do this anymore, Jesus.  I can’t keep hunting  for communion there and coming up empty. Each failure rouses the monsters who roar terrible things. I’m tired and discouraged, and I thought we were on to something here.  Something different. Something better.
Like Annie Dillard, I’ve “reeled out love’s long line alone, stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, like a live wire loosed in space to longing…”
I feel the need to wind “love’s long line” back up. That much I know.
But I don’t know if it is You telling me to do this, or if I am letting the fear win again.
If I let the fear win, I become my own worst enemy. By yielding to the insecurities,  I’ll miss the chance to love and bless and I might miss the chance to be loved and be blessed. And that will hurt, too.
Maybe you are pulling me back into safe territory. Maybe you are going to work on stuff I can’t even see.
Maybe the kind of work you’re doing depends just as much on absence as it once did on presence. Maybe You are winding me back in, if I participate, so We can reach out elsewhere and truly connect this time.
Jesus, all I know is that I’m doing my best to listen to you. I’ll do what I need to make space for that. I will try to obey. I’ll try to be honest with my motivations. I admit I still probably have a lot of this wrong, and that I’m screwed up in ways I don’t even know about yet, but I trust You. I trust Your grace. And I trust that it’s enough to cover all the ways I have messed up and will mess up.
Psalm 16
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I have been riding a particular wave for the last few months that was probably too big to take—which makes no difference now. You can’t change your mind about it when you’re already sliding down the inside wall. You just fight to maintain your balance and focus. You fight the fear.
I just about made it through the tunnel, but on Sunday, I wasn’t fast enough. One minute I’m fine. I see it all narrowing, but I’m not worried.   A  split-second later, I’m pummeled and reeling and dragged under and the water doesn’t have a surface any more.
The growling is now roaring in my ears—roaring a dissonant chorus in 4 nasty parts that I know all too well: “You don’t belong here. Your work doesn’t matter. That love and celebration you experienced wasn’t real—you imagined it.  You will always be this lost and alone.”
Stay calm. Hold your breath. I know what to do here.
The reality is that even the biggest wave doesn’t hold you under longer than you can hold your breath.
The reality is that God knows me and knows my heart. He knows what I want even more than I do. When that doesn’t show up or drifts out of reach, He is still Lord. And He loves me. He who didn’t spare His own Son promises to give me Good things. And a glorious future.  This day is His. This LIFE is His. And that roaring is not God’s voice.
I tell all this to a friend who pulled up on her jet ski: “Want to go run some errands with me?”
There are no answers. There is only my friend. I’m choking and sputtering, but I’ve found the surface. We make a plan for the rest of my day.
The wave is a Gift.
So is the wipeout.

I couldn’t have made a more perfect Sunday afternoon. If I had fashioned each minute myself, they would have all gone as they did.
It turns out that I needed to go “home” more than I needed anything else. Home to my people. Home to (some) of my local family I already know beyond all doubt love me.
And they love me well:  Brothers who have Ritual coffee, guitars, laughter, and theology at the ready. Brothers who play my favorite songs (which are favorites because the Brothers play them). Their parents who offer me a deck for reading, a big table to study, and encouraging talk that brings hope and a future. And a family dinner.  And great leftovers.
I also needed to study. A lot. I needed to prepare for an exam and write some position papers. I have been like a racquet ball this week—each new thing a backhand that sent me bouncing off walls and the time was up. I needed to land these ideas about God and the Church. I got nearly all the writing done.
These are my people. This is my work.
This is today’s cup, which has been filling for more than two years, and it overflows.

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