Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Beach Plum Jelly and Spiced Apple Lipstick
The jam jar’s nearly empty and the lipstick’s almost gone…
Sounds like a line you’d hear blasted on the radio in a pickup truck down Tennessee way. But it’s the narrative of my life right now. I thought maybe it might help someone gracious enough to read here to listen in on the struggle, the wheezing, the desperate mantra of this woman who loves Jesus but often acts like she doesn’t; who has had trust issues since she was an embryo; and who knows the truth sets free but hasn’t quite moved it from head to heart.
We love testimonies of people who have “gone through” something. It regularly comes out so neat and clean in the end (though in real life it often doesn’t). I thought perhaps it would be good with my Jesus if I tried, as honestly as possible, to testify in the middle of the storm. To come out on the deck while the rain/tears wash my face and the wind is still blowing my L’Oreal light golden brown hair, and tell the story half way through, without knowing the outcome, without a tidy bow on the package.
I want to acknowledge my tendency to drama. I also want to acknowledge that what my weak frame and immature heart sees as a deep trial pales in comparison to so many millions of those of my brothers and sisters. Some have no idea where the next bowl of rice will come from, or how they will hide from civil war factions indiscriminately roaring through town with AK47’s a blazing. Some are suffering in their bodies and some have afflictions of mind beyond my ken. I say up front that these precious souls need our love and passionate prayers and we need their courage and endurance. Still, pain means something to Jesus in all its colors. James addresses this universal slab from the Christian life so perfectly:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
This applies to all God’s children, short and tall, and all their trials, big and small. Persevere. Endure.
This morning I got down close to the end of my last precious jar of beach plum jelly from Cape Cod. And its figurative meaning wafted down inside of me. The story of Elijah and the widow played deep on the stage of my mind. Not because I’m in any danger of going hungry. But because I am in danger of starving my days, the very gift of my life, with anxiety and unbelief. Nothing in this wide world can steal the salvation purchased for me by the crucified Savior. But the promised peace and contentment for my daily living, that gift Jesus bled so hard to prosper to me, that can be ripped off. Stolen, if I don’t see this thing with eyes that have been mud cleansed by God. Too often I have looked upon the lack, and not what remains. I have missed the grace of what is still in the jar from the fruit of the beach. I have needlessly suffered with past regrets and future fears, instead of rejoicing in the taste of today’s gift. This must change.
It has been a thorny and grace laced two and a half years. A drunk driver plows into sweet daughter and dear husband and changes all my world. Near death and brain injury and broken bodies and souls drop a hydrogen bomb on all that was ever "normal". I feel the alien I have always been. Never again will I be even mildly comfortable with the confines of earth. On January 1 this year, same beloved girl leaves us, running to we know- not- where, broken with we know- not -who…Anguish. Heartbreak. A kind of death. She returns safe, (the mercy), but all are scarred, all scrape under the boils of circumstance. I read the beautiful stories of families and children and I weep for all that was lost. But even there, the spill of hope remains. He remains.
Then, the loss of my dear man’s job…And the security wound is reopened and the fear infection rears up again. The storm rocks so hard and I am easily seasick. “No more”, I plead in my ignorance. I cast around in the book of Job, and a little piece of the sickness finds medicine. I hit the knees hard to the floor, railing, reaching, complaining, whining, struggling, loving, losing, dying… and I sound like Job. And God sounds like God, reminding me:
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
And oh, I am so weak, so fallen, but I am of those who love Him. And I ask for courage while the storm rages. I remember my calling and the brevity of my life and I repent again for bowing down to unbelief.
This lipstick I have been using forever, and it looks like it is finally running out. But it seems to keep covering my quivering lips yet another time. Instead of fearing, I try thanking. It is smooth and soothing. Clinque spiced apple…perfect. Here, in the middle of a story still being written. The Author is the Hero. He decides the outcome. He loves the characters with an everlasting love. Otherwise, would there even be beach plum jelly, or spiced apple lipstick?
Your friend on the pilgrim road,
No tidy endings, only endless merciesJ