I am sort of amazed at how two books, one I just finished and the other I am half-way through, have sort of intersected and complimented one another. The first is Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection which I have written about a couple of other times and the second is Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees. These are two of my favorite writers and I rarely have anything but praise for either of them.
Anyhow, as part of my practice to create space to write each day (so that my skills and passion do not fade) I will be reviving a blog habit I started when I wrote for the blog Prophets, Priests and Poets called Thought for the Day. Today’s thought is from Dillard’s book The Maytrees. When I read this paragraph I was struck by the similarities between the way Lou (a female character in the book who has been deserted by her husband Toby) and I seem to have a kindred heart. She has been deserted by her husband Toby and is trying to come to grips with it each day, little by little. I, on the other hand, have been left out to dry by a church and have had to find ways each day to come to grips with that reality.
Here are Lou’s thoughts:
If she, Lou, had known how long her first half-inch beginning to let go would take–and how long her noticing and renouncing owning and her turning her habits, and beginning the slimmest self-mastery whose end was nowhere in sight–would she have begun? Would she have turned herself over like a row of salt hay? Tossed herself to loose her own chaff? It took her months to learn that she could get clean for more than a minute at a time. Consciously she looked out for resentment, self-cherishing, and envy. Over years she formed the habit of deflecting them before they dug in. But she lived through those years in any case, and now she lived from that steady ground she won. More distances opened as she opened. Not that town, national, and world life as it was going did not give her fits. (p 93)
The transitions we have to make in life are difficult and, sometimes, Lord only knows the beginnings and the ends and the means in between. I like the idea of tossing oneself to loose our own chaff. My wife said to me tonight “I know what God is doing to you right now.” She said it with more enthusiasm than I could have conjured up for such a statement, but she was claiming God’s wisdom so I listened as she replied to my “what’s that?” with a rather anticlimactic, “He’s smoothing out your rough edges!” I didn’t know I had any (*smile*).
I’m not strong enough to loose my own chaff so for now the Lord has taken hold this pile of wheat and tossed it in the air. A strong wind has blown away a lot of chaff, but I suspect for now there is more yet to be loosed.
So we are tossed–a salad, a ball, a small boat out on the rough sea. But a large part of the tossing, we learn in Ephesians, is that we might be able to stand firm and, thus, no longer be tossed about. He tosses us so that no one else can. Here’s where part of what Peterson wrote compliments this short passage from Peterson:
Christians who let themselves be seduced into taking promised shortcuts of instant gratification that bypass the way of the Cross eventually find that the so-called gratification turns into addictions, incapacitating them for mature relationships in household, workplace, and congregation. (Practice Resurrection, 252).
I remember praying the prayer. Indeed. If there are rough edges they prevented me from standing firm and balanced. If there are smooth edges they have nothing to do with my own strength. If there is a resurrection, there must be a death. So we wait, patiently, not-so-silently, while the Father moves. His movement is the firmness under our feet. Because he moves, we won’t. Because he shakes, we will not be shaken.