Sunday, February 22, 2015

Drives with Jesus: Keep Driving

This time I knew where I was going.


I knew my volunteer shift started at 3:30pm, that the current time was 7:30am, and that it took 2 hours to get to Ft. Collins. I don't know how the phrase "wiggle room" came to be, but I certainly wiggled with anticipatory delight when I calculated all the room in my driving schedule.
As I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, staring off into an imaginary oversized blank Google maps search bar, I sorted through my mental filing cabinet of beautiful places.
Estes Park.
I didn't think I'd ever been there and I've heard lots of people say it's beautiful.

I can't say I remember the ride up much.
I guess I was sad. Melancholy but determined at best.
Hopeful that the mountains would brighten the backdrop to what I couldn't control on stage.

It's a strange thing to expect to be blown away.
Because I was..
But then what emotion does that leave?
Content, I suppose.
I was happy that I could count on God's majesty being God's majesty.
That He can still astound me even when I expected to be astounded.
I drove towards what I saw.
And drove
     and drove
          and drove
John Piper talked and talked.
I waited for the content to last.
I wanted to believe that God's glory was worth everything.
All the hurt.
The melody flowed through my bones before I remembered the lyrics..
"O joy that seekest me through pain,
          I dare not close my heart to Thee."
2:12pm?! Must estimate location.
Down I came from the mountain.
Next stop: The Compassion Experience
It's literally my job to market this thing, so I'll try not to gush...

I sent 6 hours in the World Impact Room - the final room in the tour.
When visitors push back that last curtain, I know what they've seen. Not only because I've been through it, but because I can still see it all over their faces.
It's almost always their first personal-space encounter with poverty or their first time grasping how earth-shattering the power of the gospel is when applied to poverty. Sometimes both. That's a lot to think about. I get it.

It's the best.

The raw emotions, wonderings, and comments immediately following a close brush with extreme poverty and extreme miracles are why I can't stay away. I love their questions. I love that because of Jesus there are answers.

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 22:16)
Jesus re-introduces Himself every time.

A fresh group of changed faces arrives every 9 minutes. Sometimes that leaves time for me to be alone with the child packets. I like that part too. It's hard to look into the eyes of a little one and let the distinct probability that he or she feels unloved sink in. But its encouraging to remember how loved that child really is. Our Father adores every single one.

I was staring at Nataly's picture, praying that her time would come soon when suddenly, a chorus of voices and feet surrounded me.
"Look, Mom!! She's just like Julian! We have to help her!"
"Do you think he wants to be a doctor too?"
"Who's going to write to her? We have to tell her she's beautiful!"
"Can I give him my bed?"
But it was their mom's question back that struck me most:

"Do you want to pick a kid?"

It wasn't the first time I'd heard that question posed.
It's so demeaning.
And yet so life-changing.
To be picked is to be noticed.. to be believed in. Life's not the same once you know you're valuable.

How cool is it that we've all been picked? Hand-picked by the One who determines our value.

None of these kids earn being sponsored. For the most part, they don't even believe they're worth being picked.
God does not pick us because we are the best choice or because He needs help. He picks us because He says we're worth being picked.

Shift ended. 34 sponsored. So happy.
I started towards home, and was just about to get on the highway when I saw a billboard for Wyoming.
Well, now... There's a thought.
Haven't been to Wyoming.
Nothing on the calendar until 4pm tomorrow.
I found a girl on Airbnb with a house just around the corner, called her, and she said I could stay.

Kelsey was just a doll. Fittingly enough, she lived in a dollhouse.
She greeted me on the other side of her bright pastel door with a huge smile and a medium dog.
Such a lovely home. We shot the breeze over a cup of hot tea and a handful of animal crackers, and then I hit the hay, wanting to cross the state line by sunrise.

At 4am I shot up in bed.
Out of pure excitement.
I just get a kick and a half out of new places.
My heart was already a few ounces lighter.

It wasn't long out on the open road before the sun started to stretch its rays. Fortunately there were no observers to my driving choices as I pulled over every 4 minutes to catch the changing horizon. Every time I stopped I thought - now THIS is as beautiful as it will be...

“At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear.” 
Norman Maclean
So through the gleaming vapors, amidst the haze of my own battling thoughts, I crossed the state line.
Now what.
I'd heard rumors of Wyoming's prettiness, but I didn't have any "must-sees" in mind. Visitor center then. I arrived around 8:30am. The sun was surging in from the east, illuminating a sleek and barren lobby. It was a nice place, but there was an astonishing lack of brochures. After testing the perimeter a few times, I finally noticed that a whole wall was pulled across and locked. Ahh. Too early for brochures. Well it wasn't too early for some cold hard truth. I grabbed my Bible from the car and trotted back to find the sunniest corner.  
The sun and the truth were bright, but not necessarily warm. I was led to the Lord's response to Job in chapter 38. That's not a real cozy hug kind of chapter. But it's what I needed in my pit of prideful victim mentality. 
"Have you ever given orders to the morning,
       or shown the dawn its place...?"
With the splendor of the ordered dawn still rising on the back of my eyes, I turned my palms upward in penance and said no. No, I have not.
I heard a clank and the wall rolled back.
I looked over my shoulder, misty-eyed and curious. The kindest old man smiled back.
I rose from my corner, with my thumb still in the call-out.
Don was great. I told him I had 7 hours to see Wyoming. He grinned with the right side of his mouth, pulled out a crinkly paper map, and marked my route with a fat red marker. I left with a promising trail and a Styrofoam cup full of coffee.
Stepping out into the air of possibility, the harsh western wind promptly blew the top half of my coffee on to my promising trail and all over my pants. My cheeks and legs were burning as I stared down at my dripping shoes. I didn't even know that was a thing. Blowing coffee. Hmm.
Enter, silver linings. The bottom half of my coffee was now cooled to sipping perfection and my pants smelled freshly ground. I shook out my map, reached into my car and carefully placed the precious remaining 4 ounces, and then placed myself behind the wheel.
Yes, it was beautiful...
Quite beautiful...

 I wish I had enjoyed it.
Enjoyed it to the extent it was shouting to be enjoyed.
But I was pretty mad.
Mad at God. Mad at sin. Mad at Satan. Mad at myself. Mad at men.
I tried to beauty and sermon my way out of the funk.
No cigar.
"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
      Why so disturbed within me?
            Put your hope in God,
                For I will yet praise him,
                    my Savior and my God?" (Ps. 42:11)
It was kind of like that.
Sometimes you have to sigh, grit your teeth, and choose to praise.
I don't have to pretend to be happy, or muster joy. Heavens, I tried that.
Sometimes when your heart is bruised and exhausted, your head has to carry the hope.
I am assured of my reason to press on.
Though I am still left to feel the grief.
So I keep driving.
"My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." Ps. 119:50

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