When I was a child, when Keith Green's "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt" (1980) was familiar background music, I did not understand why the Israelites of Numbers 13-14 refused God's direction to leave the desert and move into the Promised Land. They saw that Canaan was full of Canaanites who would have to be moved out by force, and they were afraid.
The child I was who was reading a children's Bible full of exciting stories remembered the miracles of Exodus only a few pages previous and was puzzled and scornful of a people who forgot God's faithfulness so quickly. I must have thought, God said he would help you. Why won't you move?
Ah, the innocence and inexperience of youth. When everything seems easy, your parents know everything, and every decision is yes or no. I miss the certainty I had as a child. It helped that I rarely had to make my own decisions about the future; I just followed my parents and trusted they would take care of me. And they did. They had a Vision of where we were going and I was happy to tag along, even though, at the time, I was highly suspicious of the two younger brothers they provided me with for the journey.
My pastor at Hope Church spoke eloquently about Vision last Sunday (you can hear the message here). He defined Vision as "a picture of a future possibility that can only be realized through effort and determination, a blueprint and fuel for decision making." And as he continued to talk about what Vision is and how it influences your life, I realized, sadly, that I don't have a Vision for my life right now. All I have is the day to day existence of survival. And I feel that lack of Vision keenly.
Friday marks the one year anniversary of the death of my father-in-law. And I thought, after all these months, that I was done with my grief. (I associate this Jars of Clay song with grief since I first heard it at my cousin's funeral in 2003.) I guess I thought a year was enough time to be reconciled to the loss of a parent, but it's still there.
I am reminded of my favorite quote from Everwood, from S02E01:
"After my mom died, everybody told me I was going to be okay, that it would take a little time, but I'd heal. That didn't ever happen, not really. What you're feeling right now, ... it doesn't ever really go away, not completely. It's not like you're going to go back to being the person you were before they died. That person's gone. It's more like . . . something inside your body breaks and your body finds a way to compensate for it. Like if you busted your right hand, you figure out how to use the left one. And, sure, you might resist for a while 'cause you get pissed off that you have to learn all this stuff again that nobody else does. Eventually, your body takes over for you and figures it out because if it was up to you, you'd just . . . look at your busted hand forever and try to figure out what it was like before."
I think grief has cooperated with my constant depression to act as a blindfold that prevents me from seeing an adequate, supernatural Vision. I have been able, in this past year, to walk in the familiar footsteps. I'm still the mom of two special needs kids, the household manager, my husband's lover and confidant. I participate in the church functions already on the calendar, see my doctor, see my shrink. But I always feel weighed down. All those things that previously energized me--prayer ministry, youth ministry, Bible study--I still do, but automatically. The good news is that when you invite the Holy Spirit into your activities, he still shows up, even if only half of you is there. But you remember how it felt before, when your heart was lightened by the process of sharing God's grace with others. And the absence echoes all around you.
Perhaps I am still trying to reach backwards, to the child who saw the world as black and white and found God's commandments easy to follow (or thought she did). Or to the 21 year old bride who was delighted by the kindness of her new father-in-law. Or even to five years ago when death didn't hang over my husband's family. I had a different Vision then. The way through seemed clear. I could see the Vision. But then life shifted and I lost my sight.
But, here, now, as August is falling away and September, the time of new beginnings, is nearly here, I can almost feel the hope of change. The boy will start 8th grade, happy in his school and friends. The girl will start fifth in a new school but with old friends and the promise of new ones. The husband now understands the new job he took in January and will have to decide how to fit the rest of life around it. And I, I can ask for a new Vision. A new pathway. A new hope for this future that is now, here, in my 42nd year. Altered by grief but refusing to let sorrow have the last word. I'm tired of wandering around in the desert. I want to walk in the Promised Land.