We got moved.
All our stuff is pushed back against the walls of a garage. Books stacked atop Christmas ornaments. Couches stacked atop dishes. Mattresses stacked atop paintings.
I only wish I were kidding, but when people unload a U-haul they rarely take the same care that they do loading it. I am fearful of what I will find in the coming weeks, the damage awaiting. Assuming, of course, that the thus far cumbersome paperwork that is real estate will be resolved by then.
Meanwhile, I have been welcomed into the home of a long-time friend. She has been more than gracious and this lull has afforded us the opportunity to talk in ways that we had not since our children were tykes. She’s twice-widowed now my dear friend. The better the spouse you marry, the greater the grief when they are gone. Her’s is Grand Canyon-wide.
It is sobering to get to that point in your marriage when looking forward includes funeral planning. In the meantime, however, there are window treatments to attend to, washer & dryer to be delivered, gas and electricity to be switched over. And don’t forget the mail. Even our mail is in limbus. Not yet burned up, but unsure of where it’s going to land.
We have a tradition we’ve honored in every home we’ve ever owned. I don’t know how the idea came to me but when we sold our first home, we found a secret place to write the new owners a message. It was, I think, our way of blessing the new owners. In that home on Pendleton’s South Hill, we scribbled our messages underneath the steps leading to the laundry room. If the new owner ever found our scribbled messages, she never said.
This time when we left our home, there was only two of us scribbling. Previously, there had been six of us signing secret messages. Tim and I took the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” to heart. It may be the only commandment that we’ve honored with any consistency.
Writing out the blessing was the last thing we did before shutting and locking the front door. I don’t know if the new owners have found the message yet. They haven’t said, but this time I was able to snap a photo of it. IPhones didn’t exist when we sold our previous homes.
It’s going to take time to get used to our new place. Homes are like lovers, there are things you adore about them and things you wished they’d change. It can keep a person awake at night, worrying about whether this is the right choice or not, but at some point, you either have to commit to the relationship or call the whole thing off. I’ve been battling with that relationship issue this past week as I have carved a path in the garage searching for my laptop cords, business cards, and other sundry items.
There was that one moment of grace. It came to me while sitting in a Pho restaurant on the edge of town. (Yes! They have a Pho restaurant!) It was late afternoon and not very busy. There wasn’t any other customer in the place, having been far too late for the lunch crowd and far too early for the supper one. As the waiter prepared my tea, I looked out the window. It was a grey day but off in the not too far distance the snow-packed mountains shone like luminaries against the darkening sky.
There it was right in front of me.
The character of God.
In the background some Christian tune was playing softly. I haven’t liked Christian music since the Christmas season that Mama died. We listened to so much of it then that it pains me to here it most anytime now. But there in that Pho restaurant on the edge of our new community, the tune didn’t bother me. I remembered a time in my life, a time before Mama’s passing, a time before the Evangelicals turned political power-hungry, that I actually played such music in my car, in my home.
All that has been stolen from me over these past few years as I’ve tried to sort out my grief over Mama, and my grief over what is happening to the Church and to America. As a woman of faith it is often difficult to not be angry at the way religious leaders I used to regard with respect betray God and country.Those feelings of betrayal bleed over to my feelings about my own faith. It’s like arguing with your spouse. If you didn’t love them so much, you wouldn’t be so angry with them when they do dumb-ass things.
Disgust can be a natural outflow of one’s love for another.
But there, in that brief moment, waiting for my tea to arrive, there was a moment of clarity. A moment when I realized that God’s goodness has nothing whatsoever to do with our nation’s political state. Or any nation’s political state – no matter how many Evangelicals will proclaim otherwise. The Christian Taliban is making every effort to confuse people about God’s role in our lives. The Christian Taliban wants to control people, control people’s perceptions of God and country, as if the two belong together.
God and country shouldn’t even be a phrase we employ. Our devotion to God (or his to us) should never be mixed up with our devotion to country. They are not one in the same. Nor should they ever be. You can be wholly devoted to God and not love your country. Or its leaders. And God’s devotion to us has nothing whatsoever to do with what our political and/or religious leaders do or don’t do.
God’s devotion to us is best expressed through his sacrifices, not ours.
God’s goodness isn’t dependent upon us at all.
God can’t be anything other than good.
God can’t be anything other than kind.
God can’t be anything other than faithful.
God can’t ever be ugly. It’s not within his character. Don’t allow anyone else to convince you otherwise.
Whenever we happen upon beauty in the natural world, we are having a face-to-face encounter with the Living God.
A Pilgrim Song
121 1-2 I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
Guardian will never doze or sleep.
5-6 God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
7-8 God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel (Mercer Univ. Press).