Saturday morning and this is what he says, when I am struggling to wake up, when I am trying to remember how to think.
How many miles today? You should go. Enjoy it.
Enjoy it? Really? Weary growls through my bones.
I switch on the lamp beside the bed. Let there be light. He has been downstairs already. Steam curls from a mug of cinnamon tea on the bedside table, and he moves around the room, shedding sleepy clothes for active ones. Something happens to my husband on Saturdays.
You should go now, he says, before the day gets on.
But see, I really prefer to stay. I like here, where I’m comfortable.
I see now that it’s this thought that so often bitterly roots my grumbling. It’s this thought that makes me reach for no. It’s this thought that sends me far off the course He’s chosen, looking for a way that seems better to me, a land that looks more fertile from where I stand. It’s funny that He chose the words home and a place for there, the words dwell and abide for in Him, and words like journey, pilgrimage, wander, and race for here. Isn’t it? For here, He chose the word go. But see, I really prefer stay. I like here, where I’m comfortable. So much of what I strive for is the preservation of my own comfort.
I throw a leg out from under the covers, testing the chilly, newborn air, stifling a groan. I push a hand flat against the mattress, gathering myself to sit up.
Always that word–go, go, go.
Sometimes I feel like my life is a relief of that word, the big letters built of a thousand tiny snapshots of our day suspended. G. O. It makes me cringe. But even this the Spirit breaks apart, reassembling the pieces a better way.
I like home. I like being home. I like building home. I like to savor the moments I can find just to be with God right here–the planting time that requires more listening with a yielded heart than hard core faith. I like being quiet and alone and setting things in order, shaping them well, making a place my family can return to, a hideaway from the brokenness of living. I sit with God and we share conversation that is less about words than the impression of His hands on my soul, and He shows me that He created me this way, that these parts of me deserve their own recognition, their own season. These loves of mine are His loves too: Yes, He loves His family. Enough to die for them. He likes home—a home with us. He likes building home so much He built one right on the cornerstone of His own son. He likes setting things in order, creating beauty, making a place where He can tuck us safely away from brokenness and pain and despair once and for all. He wants to see us safe and well-provisioned; blessed and warm and satisfied. He longs for our comfort maybe even more than we do. But His is the better, surer, safer home; His is the comfort that lasts; His is stay forever. The place He prepares will never spoil or fade. He cares about this so much He left his own home to see us safely returned.
And so for a breath of journeying on this earth, His children now must go. Our lives are a sending forth to gather in, but where we go, He goes too.
I strip away the warmth of the covers and pajamas in favor of my running gear, lacing up my shoes and strapping a watch on my wrist. In between things, I take sweet gulps of tea and close my eyes, tasting the cinnamon warm on my tongue. I am a runner who often struggles just to go. The irony makes me smile, beginning a litany of humorous truths that stretch my sleepy grin at the edges: I am a pilgrim who doesn’t like to travel; a speaker who doesn’t like to talk; an introvert who has been reshaped as a vessel for loving people. The humor isn’t lost on me, nor is the power of the way God does things. “But I chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; He says, “I chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. I chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before me (1 Cor. 1: 27-29).”
And most assuredly, I can’t boast before you, I whisper into the morning, smiling, acknowledging that He is all and in all (Ephesians 4:6).
In the kitchen, I fill my water bottles half full of coconut water before I top them off with filtered water from the tap, absorbing the dark quiet of the kitchen before the day spins fast and away. It strikes me that we all still struggle with the greatest single consequence of the first step we took away from God, the first time when, as immature children, we forgot the supreme gift of home and the guidance of a wise hand, the benefit of eyes who see everything and watch on our behalf. We walked away, determined to do things on our own, and we have all been trying to get home and stay ever since.
But He sent Adam and Eve from the garden because they chose it. And then He sent Cain, who refused to wander his way closer to God and instead spiraled into the darkness of the earth. God sent Noah to survive on the ark, and Abraham to “a place I will show you.” He sent Jacob to live with Laban, and He sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave. God sent reluctant Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. He sent the people of Israel out wandering in the desert for 40 years that they might develop their faith. He sent Joshua to trust past fear and conquer kingdoms; He sent Jonah to Ninevah (and everyone knows what happened when Jonah didn’t want to go). God sent Gideon to rescue Israel. He sent Samuel to the temple. He sent David out of the sheep fields to the fields of war and then into the caves to hide and become a king. God sent Ruth far away from her home and family to become a mother for Israel. He sent Hagar away from Sarah. He sent prophets to speak to His people.
For Isaiah, as it has been for us, the sending was more than a command. It was an invitation to sacrifice that went like this:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’
He said, ‘Go and tell this people… (Isaiah 6: 8,9).’
God has been sending us since the garden, again and again whispering real truth: I will send mine.
God sent His own son to die and be the Savior of all, a Redeemer wearing human skin. And what did that Son say to His very own, to those who lived because of Him? Go. More exactly, “Therefore go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).” And before that, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16).” Peter, Ananias, Paul, Philip, all were told, “Go!” Go, go, go.
God has made this life a sending out, a journey, a going to gather in those who belong to Him, a traveling well past fear and discomfort all the way to the establishment of real faith. Not once has He ever said, “No stay. Be comfortable. Take care of yourself now,” because here and now are not for home. For now, there’s work to be done. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field,” He says (Matthew 9:38).”
I gather my keys, thinking as they clink together, that I have still yet been seeing the going all wrong. I don’t know why I still sometimes believe that following Him will have anything at all to do with comfort. It’s a tough truth, and one this home-loving soul likes to avoid. But when one man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go,” His reply wasn’t, “Okay, great. It’ll be fun and we’ll find some great locations to set up camp.” Instead, He said something the selfish part of me finds tragic every time. He said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9: 57,58).” He never shared or supported our confusion about our status as wandering children. Our life here is a sending, a going, a traveling on toward home for the purpose of gathering the others and learning how to live by faith, how to love Him and each other, how to trust.
I open the door, catching sight of a bird in our tree, remembering something God said about provisions for the journey. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they (Matthew 6: 26)?” When the Israelites wandered in the desert, their clothes never wore out, their feet didn’t swell from the walking, and they had food enough to satisfy them–food from God’s own hands (Deuteronomy 8: 4). Despite all his initial reluctance, the one thing all the go, go, go, taught Moses is that it will all happen well as long as God goes too. “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here,” Moses said to Him, and rather emotionally, too (Exodus 33:15).”
So why is that now so often I place more significance on the go itself than on God’s promise to go with with me? When He sent Adam and Eve from the garden, He went too. And from that time, He has sent His own presence right out with His children, where ever our wandering takes us. “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire (Deuteronomy 9:3),” His ancient voice booms, and then reverberates some centuries later, when Jesus himself promises, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).”
So, as I gather my stride, I embrace the difficult truth that going is the cost of following. Until I finally return to the place that is truly my home, it will always be go, go, go, though there is an important difference between being on the go, and being sent. As long as I’m going where and when He sends, as long as the going is about following Him and not about busily moving in my own way, then the only thing that need concern me is that He goes ahead. My feet will not swell, and the robe He’s given will hold up, and the food He offers me will be enough to satisfy my soul. The light by which I see will be His own light. The breath I have will be His own breath, for He who raised me to life will breathe new life right into these dry bones (Ezekiel 37). And finally, I will see His Glory as I go, looking right into His Holy back, as I follow right where He leads.
Just as this settles in, just as I make peace with going forth, with being led away from comfortable, I run right into this:
and all creation does testify, and the sight wraps one more thread of sweet truth around this traveling:
Suddenly I am sure that if I go with Him as He calls me forth and spurs me on and moves my feet of clay with His own hands, I will see majesty I could never have known had I stayed right where I thought I wanted to be. I know it as solidly as I know the feel of the morning sun on my cheeks.
And so, I press into the run, breathing only this:
I am yours. So here I am. Send me.