As I sit to write, fog blankets the mountain as rain waters the dry earth. We’ve been in one of the longest droughts in the southeast in years. Unusually high temperatures throughout the fall season have not helped. Wildfires have been prevalent in these parts, something we are unaccustomed to. There has been so much damage in East Tennessee through the hands of negligent people playing with fire.
You never know what a year will bring.
We began to wonder if rain would ever return to our state and today it has. Though its chilling to the bone it’s a breath of fresh air to this dry, weary land. There’s something peaceful that emanates out of the sound of the falling rain. It brings a sense of soothing rest as the dry, cracked soil soaks up what’s been desperately needed.
I’m often amazed at how my life correlates with the world around me. To say I have experienced a drought in my life would be an understatement. Things have happened in this last couple of years that left me dry, weary and lost. My response has been to do what I’m prone to do, pull myself up by my bootstraps and push forward.
I am reminded of a picture that illustrates the years of my religious life. Imagine a climbing wall with its hand and foot holds. Soon as the climber grasps one hold he is dependent on finding the next or he will fall to the ground.
Both of my sons enjoy rock climbing. I once went and watched them in a competition. There were 3 walls that graduated with difficulty. The climber would start at the bottom and work his way up. The higher he climbed the more achieved he became. I watched as my sons pushed forward, straining for that next hold. Sometimes they would reach it and other times they would pummel to the ground. The higher they got the more difficult it became.
So it is with the ways of religion, something I’ve been accustomed to, something I’m being weaned of. Religion puts the work on you. That’s not the way of the gospel. You see Jesus offers an elevator with a free ride. He is, after all, the way. There is no self climbing involved, just a ride with Jesus. I have often missed the ride.
I heard it said that to truly be safe in God’s love you have to realize how small you’ve made Him and experience Him in His endless power, strength and glory. It’s part of what has transpired in this year of my drought. I have come face to face with my small belief.
There is a story from a few years back that gives a window into what my world has been. One fall day in 1987, an 18 month old toddler fell into an abandoned well. One hidden step and she was down in a cold, dark hole. Her name was Jessica. It took 58 hours of working day and night to rescue her.
That’s how traps are. One hidden step and you are down. It’s where these hard years had led me. Where was God anyways? Why wasn’t He doing something? Somehow I had to survive this. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and grabbed for the hold to pull myself up. I inadvertently forced myself back on that wall. The climb was arduous. I saw no elevator with Jesus waiting. I was too focused on what was going on around me.
I had no clue what I was doing to myself until one day a song exposed me in my darkness.
“Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you. It is well”. As I listened the tears welled up in my eyes. For the first time in my life I could not say, “it is well” because I knew He had me. I couldn’t say “God is good”..
Suddenly, much like baby Jessica, I became aware of the dark hole that had swallowed me. I was stuck. By my own doing, I was trapped.
In that moment I experienced how small I had made God. When God didn’t perform as I expected I lost sight of His goodness. I took things upon myself. I stopped riding the elevator.
When we expect God to prove our value in the midst of our circumstances we will be sorely disappointed. It’s impossible, for the standard we use is man-made. He failed me because I made up the rules.
I stopped believing and trusting that He was for me. I fell down into the dark, cold well. I made God small. I inadvertently placed myself back on the rock wall of religious striving when I became dependent on myself and my bootstraps.
It’s been a few months now since my rescue. Life has returned to these dry bones. My circumstances haven’t changed much. It’s still a very challenging time of life. But I’ve put down my climbing shoes. I’m riding in the elevator with Jesus. He is the very breath of life that puts my feet in front of the other.
He is the life that swells within me. He is my ride. He is my journey.
It is well with me.
@copyrighted Julie L. Todd