Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Unwelcome Fellow Traveller

I mentioned earlier that we listened to the CD dramatized version of C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy on our journey... and what a perfect story to accompany such a trip too... through mountains and across deserts and over rivers. I felt like we were travelling with Bree, Hwin, Aravis, and Shasta, and I half expected to see lions around any curve.

The day after the Grand Tetons, we drove through the mountains in Wyoming - winding roads around tall pines and high rocks - and as we did we listened to "The Unwelcome Fellow Traveller," one of the most haunting and beautiful chapters, I believe, in all the Chronicles of Narnia. It's when Shasta is lost in the mountains alone, and then he feels the presence of someone else with him. He is afraid, and begs to be left alone, and claims he is the unluckiest person in the world. After he tells all his sorrows to the Someone, this is what happens:

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice. 
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.
"There was only one lion," said the Voice. 
"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and-"
"There was only one: but he was swift of foot." 
"How do you know?"
"I was the lion."

I sank into the deeper corners of my heart then, and prayed silently for a while. I thought of my own sorrows, the parts of my own life that I consider unfortunate and tragic. Fears and tears, physical weakness, relational brokenness, and changes and disappointments that have wrenched my heart. And I realized Jesus has been in them all... As Aslan did for Shasta, Jesus has protected me, comforted me, pushed me to develop new strength, and forced me to move in order to live more deeply in Him. He doesn't view my misfortunes as such; He knows the purpose each circumstance has served in my relationship with Him, and He sees them as good. What I see as horrible and hopeless, He sees as opportunities of hope.

Knowing that makes me want to trust Him more and fight against him less. I'm learning that when He promises that His plans for me are good, that doesn't mean everything He allows to happen in my life will feel good or even look good, but the end result, if I choose to trust Him, is very good. He desires to know me and to be known by me, and His plans for me are leading me deeper and deeper into that relationship that brings glory and honor to Him.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Free, Lifelong Access

When we were in the Badlands, I was given a free lifetime access pass to all the national parks in the country. When the realization hit me, I literally started hyperventilating and sobbing. Hannah and Brie laughed for about 30 seconds and then started trying to calm me down, "Breathe, girl, just breathe!" It was kind of a weird, out-of-character natural reaction for me to have, and as I reflected on it today, I tried to figure out what made it such a big deal, to elicit such emotion.

It all happened so fast - the lady in the booth at the entrance of the park asked me if my disability was permanent, and I said yes. She handed Hannah a paper and told her I needed to sign it, or have Hannah sign it for me. With a nod of permission from me, Hannah scribbled both of our names down and handed it back. In exchange, the lady gave her a little plastic card, face down, and told her to sign it as well. Why do we sign things without knowing what they are? After a second double-signature, the woman declared what it was, and told us to "have a nice trip." Hannah flipped the card over to show me the front: 

We quickly flipped it over again and read the fine print under which she had just signed both of our names in permanent blue ink: "Lifetime Pass for U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, medically determined to have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities." And it was free. My brain wanted to try to calculate how much a regular pass would have been for one year, much less a lifetime, but I could do nothing but stare at the card shaking in my hands. 

Two things about this... 

1) I got this pass because of my disability. Every day I live with my disability, and deal with the reality of its limitations. Outwardly, I try to emphasize all that I can do. But here's a secret: not an hour goes by when I don't have to mentally consider what I cannot do. I can't reach the cabinets for a snack, I can't lay down on my bed for a spontaneous nap, I can't open the door when I have visitors, and I can't make them a cup of tea; I can't pick up the pen I just dropped on the floor, or turn on the light when it gets too dark, or clean up the messes my clumsy hands cause. I can't get into just anyone's house, or take just any sidewalk, or check out just any privately run shop or business, or ride in just anyone's car that I want. My creative mind works hard constantly to compensate for these things, but frankly it gets exhausting. The Disability Act has done a lot of good to provide access to a lot of places, but the truth is there are still many places in Fort Wayne, the US, and the world that are off limits. And even the term "disabled" declares inability and limit. So when 59 of the most beautiful and wild places in our country suddenly become accessible and open to me, without cost or limit... yes, now you can go!... you might as well hand me the world on a silver platter. 

2) It was a gift that I didn't deserve, and I didn't even ask for or seek because I didn't know it was possible. First, I had to speak a fact that is hard for me to admit even to myself: that my disability is permanent (at least in this world).  But when I said it, I didn't find doors slammed in my face - I found them flung open wide to new adventures and deeper life. And it felt a lot like the grace of God. It is so hard to bring myself to admit that I am weak and sinful, prideful and selfish and desperate, such a mess. I feel like, if I become too vulnerable or I surrender too much, I'll lose everything. But the more I realize and confess my need for him in every area of my life, the sweeter and more powerful his grace becomes. He fills the emptiness of my soul with his own love and peace, and He upholds me in all my weakness with the strength of his joy and hope. The access pass He gives me is not just a free ticket into heaven - it is so much more... it is an open door to enter a lifelong-and-then-eternity-long adventure of walking, running, and soaring with him, stepping in His shadow, hearing His heartbeat, seeing the world the way He sees it... And all the endless beautiful and wild places of his heart suddenly become accessible and open to me, without cost or limit - yes, now you can go! 

Monday, September 9, 2013


Remember when I said I had lots more to say about The Great Adventure? Well, I decided that during these Days of Awe, maybe I should go back and share some of here you go!

We did a double-take into the sunset as we sped by, then slowed down and pulled off on the side of the road and squinted back at the sight. Even at this distance of probably a quarter mile, and in this dim light, there was no doubt about it. Brie and Hannah got a couple of pictures, and it was definitely a scene to capture: the Grand Tetons, back-lit by the golden glow of a setting sun, and a flat green plain providing dinner for a herd of wild buffalo. But we just had to get closer. So we got back in the car and drove back to where we first spotted them.

The gravel crunched under Hannah and Brie's feet and my wheels as we unloaded from the car again. Unlike most roadside pull-offs, this one had a smooth, level transition from the gravel to the prairie grass... another reason to love Wyoming. Brie and Hannah both went to work, taking pictures like crazy while I just sat and gawked. My nerves, from the tip of my nose to the tip of my toes, were tingling with excitement. I'd never seen anything like this, and certainly not this close up... and I just had to get closer.

I moved forward - two wheels, four, then six wheels onto the prairie grass. We all did, and inch by inch, the details got clearer - their fur, their snouts, their eyes... We got so close we could hear their tails swishing flies and their teeth chomping grass. The thought crossed my mind that they were wild and though they looked passive at the moment, they could quickly shift from lazy grazers to crazed chargers... which terrified and thrilled me. Death by buffalo stampede would trump a hospital bed any day. 

And then one made eye contact with Hannah. Brie noticed and stopped clicking her camera, but Hannah kept going, like she was on safari in the Wild West. "Hannah!" Brie said in a low, steady, but urgent voice. The buffalo took a step forward, and Brie started to backpedal toward the gravel. "Hannah, we should go..." My heart rate picked up as he took two more steps toward his photographer. ", go now... like NOW!" All three of us ran and dove in the van. The buffalo was still just walking but his gaze and direction were toward us, and the crawling pace of the ramp closing into the van kept us nervous until the door finally closed and we drove away. 

Of course, we were perfectly safe, and we laughed a lot as our pulses slowed back down to a normal speed. But just getting that close to something so big and wild and dangerous made me feel more alive. It reminded me that that's how life with Jesus can be, and even should be. After all, "it's not as if he were a tame lion." His power and size and wrath and holiness should terrify us, while also drawing us ever closer through his profound love, mercy, and grace. It compels us to cling to him even though one look at his face could kill us. 

In C.S. Lewis' book, The Horse and His Boy, one of my favorite lines is spoken by Hwin the Horse to Aslan when she comes face to face with his awesome beauty and power: "You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else." In essence, I'd rather die for You than live without You. Oh God, make my desire for you and submission to you be that consuming, that deep, that wild.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Days of Awe

This week we got to share the celebration of Rosh Hashanah with some friends of ours at our house. This is the second time we've celebrated this holiday, and I really love it... But I just learned that the ten days between Rosh Hashanah (The New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) are called "The Days of Awe," or "Days of Repentance." These are days when the Jewish people reflect and prepare their hearts for the Atonement.

The thing that is so beautiful to me in this is, as we focus more and more on God - Almighty God! - and who He is, how holy He is, and all that He has done, we become more and more aware of how unworthy we are to be able to stand in his presence and be called his sons and daughters... which gives way to another wave of awe - that we can enter his presence, and not just that, but be ushered into that presence by Jesus, presented without fault and with great joy (Jude 1:24)! And that God has lavished so much of his love on us that we are his children (1 John 3:1)! Which takes us right back into who He is, His holiness, and His great and marvelous deeds... and the awe just goes on and on...

Words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God (Ecclesiastes 5:7).