The sun was sinking low, and the birds were quieting their songs as cicadas picked up the chorus. The river moved quietly along, flowing- always flowing on. I stood by the bank, sheltered by silver maple branches hanging low, and gazed at the campfire sparking into the dusky twilight. The hum of voices and laughter swept across the clearing, and stars appeared, winking in the deepening sky.
This trip wasn’t planned months in advance. It was an idea thrown out like a lazy fishing line, one that was immediately hooked by willing minds ready for adventure.
“Let’s go on a canoeing trip!” suggested a sister.
“Sure, let’s go!” said the other with a laugh.
“Seriously?!” said the third, and from there the adventure was reeled in like a prize fish.
So we set out with our husbands, and loaded our canoes to the gills with food and shelter and clothes, tightly waterproofed and strapped down.
The weather was perfect. Well, except for the heavy rain at 3:30 A.M. the first morning. We had no tarps and there were some wet sleeping bags and a few puddles in the tents.
And there was a headwind most of the second day, which meant lots of rowing and sore muscles. Plus, we had trouble finding a designated campsite, which meant some stress for the leaders, wondering if we would find something before it got too late.
We also had some difficulty getting a nice campfire started the second night, because everything had been soaked the night before.
So, why do I look back and see only the fun, the adventure, the peacefulness?
It was all in my mindset. I was prepared, before the trip even began, to be uncomfortable. I planned to wear mostly the same clothes, and sit in a canoe for hours at a time, and encounter mosquitoes and quite possibly, rain.
And I had a grand time. There’s something about the beauty of summertime from a canoe- the majestic flight of a bald eagle, the whir and plunk of a fishing line, the rippling water, and the green shoreline slipping by.
And standing by the campfire, the smoky tang filling the air, I felt peace. This was a brief escape from reality and busy life.
There’s nothing quite like sitting in a canoe for hours to quiet your mind. Finally, God had a chance to speak- away from the noise of work and social media and people.
I kept thinking of a verse I’d read in Isaiah 42:3. “A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.” My mind latched on the word justice and I felt a thrill of delight knowing my Father is a just God. But I also thought of a book I’d just finished. The main character lost two family members in a terrible accident, and was consumed with anger and hatred at the drunk driver and at God. It was easy for me to judge her reaction and see where she crossed the line. But if I’m completely honest, there were times where I identified with her line of thinking- and it scared me. At the end of the book, there is a sentencing- judgment for the drunk driver. When he received maximum prison time, the woman expected to finally feel peace. But she didn’t. She felt empty, hollow, desperate.
And sitting in that canoe, or gazing at the fire, or laying in the tent listening to the cicadas’ songs- God kept nudging me. I couldn’t get that book or that verse out of my mind.
And the truth stopped me. I’ve been desiring justice more than God. I think if this whole legal mess would go away, I would have peace. But I would still have the memories. I would still have shattered dreams. I would still have a life that isn’t perfect and a heart that’s bruised.
I need Jesus. I need Him more than anything else in the world. I need Him more than vindication, more than children, more than friends or family, or even Jay. He’s stronger than my fears, mightier than my battles, and has a love deeper than the deepest spot in the ocean.
I’ve been fighting for a long time against God, struggling to understand why He would allow life to be so hard, why He would allow a false accusation to drag us through the mud.
I’ve lost sight of Him. I’ve become so focused on the little square of appeal and court and this black mark against us, and what it hinders. But I’m missing the big picture. I’m missing life.
I’ve been sitting in prison, scratching at the walls and crying in frustration- when all along, He’s been standing by the open door, pleading for me to see, to notice.
There is complete and total freedom in Jesus. Not in justice, or overcoming infertility, or in getting what I want. No, there’s freedom and true joy in surrendering my entire heart and life to Him.
I still have aching questions and burning disappointments that I bring to my Father. I still don’t understand so much. Our future is still mysteriously cloudy, with no end to this stage being over. There will always, for the rest of my life, be imperfectness.
But that doesn’t have to hold me back. When I have faith that Jesus is working, even now, I have peace. It’s out of my hands and it’s in the Hands that were pierced through for me.
In the midst of a downpour in a tent, in the midst of a frightening legal mess, in the midst of life- EVEN NOW- my Jesus is working. He’s focused on the end result. He’s focused on the big picture, and it is going to be glorious.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11: 25-26
*artwork by the talented God’s Fingerprints