Everyone has hundreds, thousands, who knows how many stories. I think it’s why I am drawn to blogging. More than anything, I love to hear someone’s story. I love to hear how you met and married, when you decided to have kids, how the birth went. I love to hear about how in first grade you stuck a cheezball up your nose. Seriously. I think God loves Story. He created the most magnificent one, full of irony, foreshadowing, valiant characters, tragedy, and the most beautiful redemption of all time. I think He dwells in story.
So we all have stories. But then, we all have THE story, too. Our Big Story. The pit we came through and where we are now. And over the next couple days or weeks, I want to share with you my Big Story.
I’m going to start in a strange place: with graham cracker cereal.
When I was a kid, we ate what my parents called graham cracker cereal. It’s just breaking up a stack of graham crackers in a bowl and pouring milk on top. Yes, I realize this is incredibly caloric. But for me, it was … and is … a comfort food.
I’ve only ever met one other person who knew what graham cracker cereal was, so I am guessing this wasn’t a popular breakfast choice around the country. But my sister and I thought it was SO good!
I made myself a bowl of graham cracker cereal tonight. And you know what? The graham crackers just disintegrate into the milk. It’s basically just high-calorie mush. It’s not very filling. It’s just … there.
Sometimes we can see our own life like graham cracker cereal. We think we have it all figured out, and it’s awesome. Nothing could possibly be better than our plan! But really, what we have before is is graham cracker mush when we could be having bacon, eggs, and homemade biscuits. We’re just not willing to let go of the mush to see what the other options are. That mush seems fine. It seems great! It tastes sweet!
You gotta let go of the mush. And if you won’t, God might have to yank it out of your hands.
Back in college, my husband and our friends played hour upon hour of Mario Kart – first for Nintendo 64, then the GameCube once it came out during our junior or senior year. (Yeah, we’re getting old!) I played, too, but not nearly as much as most of my friends, mainly because I was (and am) really, really bad at it. When playing in a big group, the loser of the race had to give up his or her controller to someone else … and I was almost always the loser.
There was a race for the Nintendo 64 version called DK’s Jungle Parkway. In certain parts of the race, when you went off course, monkeys threw coconuts at you, spinning your car out and slowing you down. (This Mario wiki says they are actually “natives” throwing rocks at you … but I’m pretty sure they are coconut-launching monkeys.)
I was praying last night and honestly asking God to give us speedbumps if our family is driving the wrong course. If we aren’t going where He wants us to be, I want to KNOW. And sometimes that knowing can be really painful. But without it, we can be driving off into nowhere, His glory fading into the background as we gun the engine.
It’s silly that this made me think of Mario Kart. But still, sometimes I wish God would just hit me on the head with a coconut rather than let me wander along my own path. I wish the turtle guy would flash the TURN AROUND arrow sign in front of my eyes when I’m aimless.
I’d rather run slowly and deliberately, learning lessons along the way, than be off in the jungle, hanging out with the “natives,” far away from God.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV
All of those times my children’s and youth leaders said Have a Quiet Time. The Read the Bible in a Year plans. The checklists and to-do’s, groaning at the idea of reading Leviticus.
I never got it. Sure, I read sporadically. Sometimes even faithfully. Opening my Bible, finger pointing to a passage, willing God to speak to me.
And then I started doing (and working on!) more in-depth studies. And I began to see the trail, the thread through the Bible. The lasso that ropes all the words from Leviticus and Joshua and those little-read prophets at the Old Testament’s end and throws them all on Christ’s body.
For this lover of words, the beloved of Christ, it is mind-blowingly beautiful.
In Isaiah 49, God tells Zion (Jerusalem and the Israelites), “I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” According to several commentaries, there was a practice among the Israelites of somehow puncturing or burning in the palms of their hands images symbolizing the temple or the city of Jerusalem. Scholars hypothesize that this practice was taken from Exodus 13:9, which reads, “Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the Lord’s instruction may be in your mouth; for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand” (HCSB).
If you’ll allow me to put some words into His holy mouth, in Isaiah God is saying, “I told you to remember Me and how I saved you from Egypt. And just like that, I remember you! You are as close to Me as My hand.”
And that would be enough, wouldn’t it? That God treasured those people, in spite of all their failures and idol worship and sin. But even as He spoke those words, He knew what would happen hundreds of years in the future. Jesus was born in a time where the holy They knew He would suffer on a cross and receive a marking on His own hands.
We know Jesus’ resurrected body has nail prints, as Thomas was able to touch them. (“Then he said to Thomas,’Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe’ ” John 20:27, ESV.) Once again, God related to His people, showing them He knew their ways and their history. Each and every detail was in His mind. And once again, He knew them like He knew His own hand. Now His and His Son’s hands were marked for them. For the past, the release from Egypt. For the present, the salvation of all. And for the future, for all the ones who would think on Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and believe.
There is something about driving through flat land that makes me deep-chest-sad. I’m not used to being able to see for miles; I’ve lived in mountainous parts of Tennessee for nine years now.
I can’t quite explain the sadness, the overwhelming need to spill tears onto dashboard. Memories of childhood, perhaps: the yellow-corn fields so common in northern Indiana. Leaving fields of gold for the wooded acreage of Virginia when I was 8, headaches speaking my pain for me as I wondered what a new third-grade class would bring.
Beauty lies in the ability to see for miles, as much as there is in purple mountains majesty or snow-peaked mountains or a flowing waterfall.
Why the sadness in this delicate beauty? in the beauty of a baby’s brow, wisps of hair scattered on it? in the beauty of an old picture, sepia and frills?
Seeing forward, seeing for miles in advance, is not our right. Baby’s brow: we know she grows. Old picture: we know the end. Miles of flatland: the road will end, hit ocean or mountain, canyon, museum, something to obstruct view.
Great Love doesn’t let us see infinitely because it would overwhelm. Looking forward swells the heart so large it cannot keep inside the body.