The parking lot is disorienting today. Cars surrounding me and my guide-dog, coming and going on the stretch of cement that leads to an imposing curb. And my family is altogether too far away for comfort–too far away to provide directions on this little venture. Contrary to popular belief, guide-dogs cannot follow instructions such as “to Starbucks” or “to the library”l handlers must give more detailed directions. Not knowing whether to turn left, right, or forward once we reach the curb is really unnerving, but it really isn’t practical to wait for my family to catch up. Oh, why am I embarking on this little excursion at all today? Why now, and why am I being left in everyone’s dust?
And then, I remember. I don’t have to be alone–not at all. “Lord Jesus,” I whisper, “please walk with me.” At once, I am t peace. A gentle calm fills my heart and causes me to loosen my plier-hold on the working dog harness. Why, if I listen closely, I can hear the echo of the building to my left, and the automatic doors opening for other customers just ahead of me. My dog, too, knows what she’s doing. Once she feels me relax, she is free to do her job–and so we safely reach the doors. Best of all, the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit has not once left me through all of this. For the hundredth or thousandth or, more likely, the ten thousandth time since I began walking with the Lord when I was four, I understand the truth of Matthew 28:20: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (RSV).
Tucked into a secluded corner of the store are some tables and chairs. I ease myself into one of the whicker seats, which is located at a wobbling little table. A much more solid table is to my left, but I choose to place my coffee on the shakier one because, ten years ago, I sat in a similar grocery store journaling at a terribly rickety table that ought to have crubmled under the weight of a pencil, and certainly my computer.
Officially, we have come to this store to shop. And, technically, I’ve accompanied my family in order to ensure that French bread and aged gourmet cheeses make it into the cart. But–oh!–this little corner of the store is so inviting! Suddenly, it is far more important to sip a peppermint mocha and focus my attention on Isaiah 53 than to roam the isles in search of semi-sweet baking chocolate. And so, knowing that this task can be accomplished without me, I bid farewell to my family and prepare for a half-hour of worship. There will be time enough for me to toss jars of Dejean mustard into an overflowing cart, but right now, “one thing is needful”, and I want to “choose the better part” (see Luke 10:42).
I take my time about setup, relishing the joy of simply being in God’s presence. It’s like Communion: if you’re privileged enough to be setting up Communion elements for yourself and others to partake in, sometimes the mere act of pouring the grape juice and finding the wafers draws you closer to God. And so, with great deliberation, I set my coffee to one side, open my bag, carefully remove my iPod and headphones, just as conscienciously find the playlist entitled “Prayer Closet”, and prepare to immerse my heart in His presence. All the while, I hum that old classic worship chorus, “Bather, I Adore You”. The store proper is so crowded, and this corner so isolated, that I doubt anyone can hear me. Even if they can, I don’t care. Which will matter more in a hundred years–the fact that I worshipped the King on this day, or the fact that others heard me humming a song of praise and wondered what I was doing?
And so the afternoon progresses: Bob Fitts and Don Moen, “Because He Lives” and “God Will Make a Way”, church services I’ve recorded and later transferred to my iPod, passsages of Scripture interwoven with each magnificent song… It makes all that food waiting in the cart seem mundane. You almost want to encourage everyone to put most of it on the shelf so you can all engage in a couple-day fast…
And then, there’s the drive home, the unpacking of groceries, the evening meal. Seeing little glimpses of glory and joy even in these activities. Coming up with ideas for writing and thanking the Lord for them, listening to the chimes outside the window throughout the writing process, singing with all your heart to the King of Kings, noting the fragrance and intricate pattern of the lilies you just received for Resurrection Day…
A friend of mine calls this worship of the heart “the normal Christian life”. If the interpretation of some scholars is correct, Paul might have referred to a day like mine as one on which I “pray[ed] without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). And sometimes, I see this as simply resting in the Lord, trying with every fibre of my being to worship in accordance with the proclamation, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, … Like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Ps. 131:2). In Biblical times, children were weaned between the ages of three and five. Consider children of that age: quite young enough to understand that they don’t know everything and to rest contentedly in the love of their much stronger parents, yet old enough to grasp what love means, to understand their parents’ kindness, to surrender without constant clinging. It’s the beautiful juncture between humility and faith.
What does it mean? That, right now, I am unequivocally free to rest in all the promises of the Lord–to lean, as it were, on His everlasting arms. To cling to Him with all my might, but not to cry out in demanding anger if trials come. To pray fervently about all difficulties, but then to trust Him through them.
I will be the first to proclaim that I’m not perfect in this. I fail and falter and faint more often than I would like to admit. Until 17 February, I had been struggling through a bitter and apparently unrelenting desert–a time that seemed so parched and joyless that I took on the characteristics of an angry and needy infant and a rebellious adolescent, questioning God at every turn.
But–oh, how precious it is to be in His presence once again! “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”… And to know, whatever befalls me, that our Lord really does do all things well. This is the premise and purpose of this blog–to rejoice in the moments of peace, to hold to Him steadfastly through the trials, to write of Him until I begin to see how He worked all things together for good during even my darkest moments.
In other words, to celebrate the Normal Christian Life.