We are still adventuring, still searching for excitement (and breakfast). But there is a quiet space in my days that is usually filled with laundry and cooking and cleaning. Away from home, it is filled with pondering and searching. I feel I finally began to untangle a very knotted thread that has been occupying my mind of late. And whenever I start to untangle thoughts, I have to write about them.
I want to understand how to draw close to God in the green time. Maybe you’re not familiar with green time. It’s the time in many church’s calendars that is neither celebratory (like Easter) nor penitent (like Lent). It just is. It’s a rather long season, lasting several months, and some find it tedious and boring. I find it to be blessedly reassuring.
Even before the green time started on the calendar, I began to feel green time in my spirit. Over the past three years (has it been that long??) I’ve had a weedy crop of crises sprouting and spreading–a very difficult and scary pregnancy, a premature birth, a baby with health concerns, and then my own chronic autoimmune issues. These physical crises have seeded their own secondary crop of spiritual crises–where is God? Why doesn’t He help me? Doesn’t He care? Some of those crises have either passed and He has faithfully helped me sift and sort through the emotional detritus to find the treasures (Hallelujah!). Some of them are ongoing, but He has shown me how to incorporate them into my daily walk of faith, trusting Him for what I need.
While I rejoice in the passing of trials and the finding of spiritual treasures, I mourn the distance that I feel growing between God and me. But even though I mourn the distance, it doesn’t feel….wrong. Much of my faith was formed in a loving Baptist community that taught me “if I felt far from God, guess who moved?” Shame on me for moving. Given this mentality, I have struggled for weeks to reconcile the idea that distance growing between God and me was not producing a feeling of guilt, but of peace. I didn’t understand what it all meant. But He, ever faithful to explain things in ways I can understand, showed me exactly what the meaning was.
It turns out that I have not run away, and I have not been dropped. He has set me down. In other words, I am not being defiant, and He is not being negligent. Neither of us is “at fault”. This distance between us is intentional and necessary. Like a toddler exploring the world for himself, individuating from his mother, he is no longer carried on the hip but allowed to stand on his own feet and engage with the world around him. Yes, I am that toddler. God has set me on my feet, and He rejoices to see me walking and exploring under His ever-watchful, tender eye.
Over these years of trials I’ve learned to trust the safety of His arms. They have cradled me firmly, gently, lovingly in dark places. I have clung to Him, unable to do otherwise. I know His scent, His touch, the sound of His heartbeat. I know the songs He sings to soothe my fears, and I know the gentle movements of His rocking to calm my anxieties. He has nurtured me, and I have grown, as children will do. And He now deems me ready to stand and walk. He has set me down on my own two feet, leaned over me with encouraging words. He has held my hands and steadied my balance as my feet stumble.
So if this is my situation, and I think it is, what is the appropriate response from me? I could throw a fit, whine and protest the separation, cling to His arms and crawl back into His lap. But I have a feeling that I’d just be set down again, in a gentle but matter-of-fact way, like a mother bird ushering her babies out of the nest. Or I could choose to start walking. And if He has deemed me ready, would it not be dishonoring to Him to at least try a step or two?
Yes, this is what the green time in my soul feels like. This is where my spirit is. I miss the safety and the gentleness of His lap. I miss the sound of His heartbeat as He holds me close. But He is showing me that there is work for me beyond His embrace. Refusing to stand and to walk results in a child who is clingy, whiny, stunted, a mere shadow of what she ought to be. Can I picture a mother carrying around her 7-year-old as she would an infant? Or cuddling and cooing while nursing her 10-year-old? It’s inappropriate. It’s unhealthy.
If I’m to glorify God, to do the work He has chosen for me, I must grow. For a long time growth looked like rest. I was an infant. I ate, I slept, and by default I grew. But He is now asking me to participate in my growth. To enter into the work with Him, taking responsibility for the things that are under my jurisdiction. Do I choose to enter into it? To accept? Or do I choose to stunt my own growth and thwart that which He wants to accomplish in me?
It seems that there is something about being willing to be set down that is, itself, part of the praise. Just like when the rain falls, the grass grows and the flowers bloom and give their praise to Him. They can’t help it. They cooperate with His designs and the praise comes naturally. Just like the grass and the flowers, when I agree with what He whispers and say “Yes” to what He suggests, the praise bubbles and flows. It’s just what happens in the green time.