The storm is on the horizon. I see it coming, but from far away it doesn’t seem so violent. It doesn’t seem like something that really needs attention. Not a big deal. It was only a little side step off the path, just a tiny compromise, a quick detour. Surely this other, smoother way will lead to the same destination? I didn’t care for the rocky terrain up ahead or the steep ascent I’d be required to make further along. This approaching storm will blow over; it will pass to the left or the right of me; maybe bring a touch of rain, a bit of thunder; but manageable, definitely manageable. I will ride it out like I always do. In fact, this will be fun, exciting, an adventure! Permission is given and Rebellion takes a deeper hold with a sibilant slither. It invites some friends to come with it. This gives me a delicious feeling of strength and confidence. I will manage. I’m in control.
The storm is here. It begins as a stiff breeze, bringing a noticeable change to the air around me. Pin prick feelings of edginess. “Silliness,” I say. “There’s nothing to get all worked up over. It will pass right by me.” Won’t it?
The storm is here. It does not pass me by. It does not veer off to the right or to the left. It comes straight to me. The stiff breeze turns to wind; a rising, howling, screeching wind. Pounding and scouring; it rages. The rains pelt, sting and bruise. Thunder deafens and lightening blinds. All my protective armor of misunderstood self-reliance is violently shorn away. Rebellion is brought low. There is nothing left of my well insulated life that I padded with denial, supported with beams of pride and girded up with planks of lukewarm complacency. The storm takes my painstakingly fretted over structure and has swept it away. I suppose at the very back of my mind I always knew it would. But self-reliance is addicting. Rebellion masks itself as a unique strength of character, which ushers in Pride and Arrogance and an entitled sense of self-righteousness. I feel the vulnerability of having nothing to cling to, of nakedness and unworthiness. I sit in deep silence. It is deafening. “What do I have left?” I softly cry. You have removed all of it in one fell swoop. “Nothing left,” I think. This is just barren ruins of what used to be; of the things and accomplishments that I thought I had brought about and earned from all of my hard work for You. Wasn’t I entitled to it? Silence. “Where are You then?” I shout out. Silence. “Where were You when I made these poor choices? Why weren’t You shouting at me to stop, to change direction, to wait? Why were You silent? Haven’t You seen all I’ve been doing, all the hard work and tireless effort? All I have accomplished for You has worn me out. I am closed off, fearful and competitive. I feel like I will never be enough!” Silence. “Do I even matter?”
What was that? Was that a voice in the silence? My ears have become accustomed to hearing only my own voice and words that I want to hear; other voices that knew where the less traveled path would lead me and were deeply afraid I might choose it. How hard they worked to seduce me with visions of recognition, accomplishment, and worth! How well they convinced me that I was doing it all for You. Self-reliance, Idolatry and Pride merrily hissed and whispered in my ears exactly what I wanted to hear, which effectively drowned out that one Voice I so desperately needed to hear. Yours.
In the silence of the storm’s aftermath, as Your whispered words reverberate in the stillness, I do remember the other path; the one from which I was so easily lured away. It seemed less traveled, a little lonely even. There were definitely a few boulders and rocky terrain; a few very steep and narrow parts that looked daunting and difficult. It looked too hard and I was tired. Surely the comfortable looking, wide path was good enough. Lovely trees, flowering bushes, gentle slopes. Peaceful easiness that required little, but cost a lot. I see that now. I close my eyes and I remember the little frisson of cold, creeping along my spine, as I turned away and headed along the wide, lovely path; the small Voice was quickly drowned out by singing birds and the sly smile of Rebellion. Idolatry and Arrogance beckoned and I hurried to them. Traveling along day after day, the calm routine of the well- traveled path began to numb the Voice into a breathy Whisper, barely noticeable, but still there. I knew it was there. I didn’t want it to be there. What a conundrum! I started out wanting to hear from You and seek You with all my heart, yet I didn’t want You here, on this easy, well-traveled path, filled with so many others who welcomed me and congratulated me and told me You were here, because I knew this wasn’t where I would truly, honestly, completely find You. I was deceived and had no idea how to get back to you. Hopelessness told me it was too late; that You would be so very disappointed. Fear declared that it would be too hard to go back and that at least I was comfortable on this path. It was at least predictable.
“What now, Father?” I ask, “What now?” “Follow My voice,” You say. “I’m just over here, keep coming, keep walking, look straight ahead. You will know what to do.” I stand and look straight ahead. There is a small clearing just beyond the wreckage the storm produced. I have to clamber over strewn debris, broken idols, vestiges of what used to be and navigate some ruts and gouges in the ground, but I get to the clearing. It is bright here. There is fresh air. Floating feathers; this is Holy ground. There is a pool that is deep, clear and lovely in the clearing, being fed by a bubbling stream. I walk to the edge of it. I see my reflection. I’m dismayed. I’m dirty. I’m covered in debris and mud and my hair is tangled up with sticks and things I’ve collected along the way. The water looks so refreshing and inviting! Cool and pure. Am I brave enough to step in? Am I willing to be cleansed? The stench of all I have believed and rejected, attempted and failed, attracted and repulsed is overwhelming. I want to live again, fully live, so I take the plunge and enter this pool of living water. As I go deeper in, I sense such peace. Here is undeserved mercy. Here is deep love and compassion. Here is being fully known. There is healing happening here; rejuvenation, rebirth, new life. The striving, searching, desperation and fear are being washed away. Their voices are fading to nothing. I hear Your voice now. I hear singing and prophesy. I hear joy and acceptance. You tell me I am enough.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17