“God told Abram, “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land I will show you.
I’ll make you a great nation and bless you… All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3
The creek that runs through Crazy Woman Canyon winds down from the mountain and into the town of Buffalo, Wyoming. We made our way deep into the canyon, following the Clear Creek the entire way. The road is narrow, forced to follow the path of the rushing water along the way. But there are several pull offs, because it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll want to get out and explore. We crossed the rushing water, Peter in the lead, testing out the rocks first before he’d let us step on them. We had to shout in order to be heard above the roaring water. Even in the middle of summer, it was icy cold and the kids had a contest to see who could leave their bare feet in the longest.
When we returned to town later, we went to the city park, where Clear Creek ran right through the middle. It was the same mountain stream, but everything about it was different than in the canyon. We were able to let the kids explore on their own, the current slowly meandering and pooling. We sat on the shore while they played, the gentle sound of running water relaxing us.
Wendell Barry writes,
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
God called Abraham to leave all that he knew. He stripped away the familiar— his home, his country, his family— and called him to a life of utter dependence and obedience. And Abraham took the risk and said yes. He dared to give up the calm waters for the white waters. The unknown obstacles must have been enormous. The fear must have been overwhelming. But he did it anyway. At 75 years of age, he took his wife, his nephew, his livestock and his family, stepping into the unknown.
D.L. Moody, a theologian, wrote, “Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breath it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water, but you have to drink it.”
God has given you the gift of this Advent. He has promised to bless you. But you must open your eyes to the blessing. You must dare to live with your heart and hands open to receive, even when your heart has been broken into pieces. We hear the whispers to huddle in, to protect ourselves and live closed. The grief is too much. The anger is too real. The stronghold is too big. But it isn’t true. Jesus came to heal, to bring peace. His life is a gift to you. You can let go of it all, because He has come.
The rocks in the stream— the obstacles in your life—might threaten to overtake you, but they are the very thing that allows your soul to sing.
When Eliza was born, I would get up to feed her in the wee morning hours. I’d drag myself out of bed and bring her out to the couch. It was dark and quiet. Suddenly I would hear it— the first chirp of a bird, calling all the other birds to wake up. Immediately, the air would be filled with all of these beautiful songs. Have you ever heard it? Every morning I would wait in expectation for the first brave bird. In those days, just eighteen months after Annie died, my heart still felt ripped to shreds. The full force of the loneliness of grief was still hitting me. In spite of the fact that we had three healthy, living children, we were still so sad. So I would sit on the couch, listening to the birds, crying for the baby who had been taken from me. In many ways, I felt like I was in the middle of a never ending dark night. But I also knew that God was calling me to rebuild, to catch the song of the birds and to welcome a new day.
I had spent a lot of time surviving, collapsing into bed each night simply thankful I was one day closer to heaven. And while surviving is a natural response to grief, and is necessary, there was a day when I knew that I didn’t want to simply survive for the rest of my life. I was aware of the fact that I have been given this one life to live and I didn’t want to waste my years by only surviving.
So we live in this delicate tension of life and loss, where no one quite knows the rules. The amazing thing about our heartache is that when we allow Jesus to heal us and bless us, we suddenly open our eyes to the hurt in the world. We realize that we ourselves can be the blessing to others.
Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a book called Lament for a Son, which he wrote when he lost his grown son in a mountain climbing accident. He says, “And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith. In that radiance we see best what humanity was meant to be… In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there also character is made. The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making.”
God blessed Abraham and in turn, Abraham was a blessing to others. He does the same for you. It’s the strangest thing, but to the tip of my toes I know it to be true. When you allow God to use your heartache, you will bless others. Sit with a piece of paper and test it out yourself— how have others blessed you? A kind word, a note, a gift? Pass it on to someone else, even when your heart is heavy. When we live as blessed people, we can freely give blessings to others.
This blog series will only highlight a few days of the Jesse Tree, but if you’re looking for something a little more family friendly to read daily, I’ve also written a printable devotional. For $4.99, you’ll get 25 days of devotionals to correspond with this series. Why not begin a new spiritual rhythm this season? Go here find out more or here to get your download.