I began to trust the world again, not to give me what I wanted, for I saw that it could not be trusted to do that, but to give unforeseen goods and pleasures I had not thought to want. ~ "Hannah Coulter" by Wendell Berry
Running at 30 weeks pregnant is no small pleasure for me. Though nearly the entire distance I am fighting with every muscle from the waist down to keep from wetting my pants, the lifting of my somewhat disproportionate body gives me a sense of lightness, mobility, strength, and release-- all of which are rapidly decreasing sensations for most of the day. I feel very much like a ball of rubber bands wound tightly around a watermelon, that slowly elongate themselves as I move down the street. I like to imagine I look like Wonder Woman, sleek and strong in full body spandex with her long hair flowing behind her and maybe a few gold cuffs to impress the bystanders. I know in reality what people see is a tall woman lumbering at a snails pace, often against the flow of pedi-cabs and scooters, wincing as though she wished a bathroom of any kind was near, but with a hint of a smile on her face.
It is funny, the things we find relief in, even joy. The uneven spacing between my children's teeth, seen when they smile or squint their eyes with belly giggles, the look of a newly washed floor and coming home to the scent of lemon and pine as I unload groceries. "What kind of meat is that?" the driver asked me, likely astounded at what looked like enough pounds of chicken to feed a large crowd for a week. It must seem strange to a man who lives in a place where you buy enough meat- if any at all- to supply the meal you are about to prepare, and that is it. He doesn't know the satisfactory feeling of comfort and pleasure it gives me to fill my small freezer, knowing I have prepared adequately for yet another week of meals.
He, the one who made me, who knows my name and walks with me the day long, always giving or taking away, leading or pulling or waiting, is present among all these griefs or joys of mine. There are times when that knowledge is barely a comfort, and I know that this is a fault that lies fully in me. Lately though, I am increasingly open, wide and accepting to His presence, and even purpose in these sorrows of mine-- and the joys he gives with grace, with patient knowing.
A sorrow too-- a world closed off to you, or one that disappoints-- is the surest way to open you up to all that is living outside of you. It is not guaranteed to do this. It can cripple you or shrink you deeper within your own cares and needs and hurts. But if you open yourself up to your sorrow, your disappointment, if you lay it before you like a bruised, even bleeding offering, and if you offer it to someone, to the Only One who can hold it and bear it and ultimately transform it or you, then you can begin to grow into the world that is outside of yourself.
Sometimes, especially of late, it has become so disturbingly clear that I shrink from living for others. I think it will be a life of losing-- what I want, what I hope for, what I simply like, what I believe will make me happy. And when I am faced with a life I think I don't want, it becomes all the more painfully obvious that I am tempted to be unwilling to live with a life I didn't ask for.
But He thunders into that kind of living. Sometimes it is a story, a small pleasure I didn't expect, a powerful word spoken from His Words, or in the quiet of my spirit. I am not sure how He is able to do it at times, those times when I feel so folded into my unwillingness. But He does it. And I find no small joy in the letting go, in the glimpse of the horizon that comes after a long climb up the ridge.
"Not where the flesh delighteth, the feet of Jesus trod." was something Amy Carmichael once wrote, and it seems like a hard word. It is funny to me, hard to understand, how that hard word can be so sweetly releasing. Like a woman running, tightly wound and wincing, yet full of joy.