when feelings threaten the feast
Morning comes and we hear the sound of the ocean, the crash of waves.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that sound,” Kevin says, fresh from sleep. Almost all week, we’ve kept the door open to hear the sea, and I keep listening to the Spirit reminding me that the voice of the Almighty sounds like rushing water (Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2; Revelation 1:15). My voice will sound that way too, one eternal day, because the sound belongs to heaven and all who live there (Revelation 14:2, 19:6). Creation mimics and testifies to the Glory that was, is, and will be (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19). He’s so obvious everywhere, if we have the eyes to see Him.
Catching a glimpse of first light in the hall, we gladly leave our sleep behind and wander toward the open door and the ocean. Kevin stops in the kitchen to brew our coffee. Thanks to Kevin’s dad, we managed to carve out space this week for rest, which for me means an uncluttered place to open my eyes and really see, to stop and listen, to spend time with God gathering grace-gifts in my arms, too many really to hold, enough to give away.
I grab my camera on the way out the door. The high tide washes in so close that we feel like we’re floating above it. I collect pictures of the ocean, the clouds, the light, the way a child gathers bits of broken shell in a bag. I feel like I’m seeing a thousand faces of God up close, and the slightest change in His expression captivates me. He is stunning to behold just in reflection (1 Cor.13:12). He takes my breath away. I pick up a thought glistening, a perfect thing He wraps around my shoulders in the cool, morning air: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me (Job 19: 25-27)!” The old words rest on my skin like fine linen, like a sliver of silver light. What will it be to fully see the One who wears the light like a garment (Psalm 104:2), the One who is more than all of the beautiful we know? This is the yearning of abundance, the yearning born of richness savored, the wanting that grows while His sweetness melts all over my tongue. Hunger is good if it is the hunger for Him, the hunger He gave me as a gift (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Kevin puts a mug in my hands, and I watch the steam curl over the top. “Thank you,” I offer, as together we turn our attention back to the sea and the light and this morning, all new. Sometimes we lose track of the simplest gifts—the joy of side by side, the time to see together, deep breaths. Thank you, LORD, I breathe, for the way you always know just what we need.
“It’s hard to believe that Friday night we just wanted to go home,” Kevin says, and this truth makes us smile. Our feelings can so easily betray us, and disappointment and lack suffocate, slick like a snake.
Friday just the leaving left us out of breath. I wrote lists for the kids, made notes for Opa, piled clothes in the suitcase. I checked blood sugar records and made adjustments, grabbed the stack of magazines I’d been longing to read, slid my laptop and my Bible in a tote. Kevin gathered and packed and checked and prepared too, the two of us bumping into each other in the kitchen, weaving past the kids, looking at the clock. We had anticipated the time away for weeks, and Friday it felt just out of reach and sliding back with every remembered responsibility.
I had been so busy making ready for the kids and Opa that I hadn’t thought much about what Kevin and I would eat, so when we got the beach we stopped at the grocery store. We both felt a little lost and not much in the mood to think about ingredients and staples. We walked back and forth all over the store, forgetting and remembering and listing while other shoppers hurried around and past and through us. Finally, we looked at each other, and one of us said, “enough,” and we pushed our cart to the check out.
When at last we arrived at our condo, the light was dying in the sky, and we were hungry, too hungry to recognize the feast prepared for us. Dinner can be simmering and all that gnawing empty makes us grab for things that can never quite satisfy, and we don’t even smell the meal He offers. Sometimes, we can be so caught up in temporary feelings that we’re willing forfeit the lasting gifts (Genesis 25: 29-34).
First, I noticed the four ocean blue buildings crammed together, the way they seemed too big for the space. We drove around the tiny parking lot squinting, scanning the doors for numbers. We couldn’t seem to find the one meant to be ours for the week. The place felt like a tiny maze and we were the mice, searching for the cheese in front of a full audience. Lost. We found our parking space before we found the unit, and I read aloud from the notes something about parking across the street instead of here. We got out and wandered. A man passed us in the parking lot and scowled. “Worst three days of my life,” he muttered. Kevin nodded toward him in greeting. We looked at each other but said nothing out loud. Our words are lenses, filters through which others see, and sometimes they just stain the view.
I spotted the number of our condo on an electrical box on the side of the building we would call home for the next week, and we walked around the front, looking for a staircase. Little dogs yapped at us from the balcony of the building right across from ours, and a crowd of people stared, their mouths all thin lines. Unwelcome. We felt like unwanted intruders, winding up the stairs marked with signs that warned Do not stomp, while we listened to a TV mumbling across the way. From the landing outside our front door, I could see the way that TV threw its strange light, too many colors too quickly for dusk. We pressed in a key code and walked inside, and I started fumbling to turn on lamps.
Complaint threatened and covered the rooms in shadow. I felt melancholy. I missed our kids, our home, and this condo just felt dark and empty. “It’s nicely decorated,” I said hopefully. Kevin and I put down what we held in our hands and walked back outside to unpack. We’d brought our bikes, and Kevin started unstrapping them from the bike rack while I carried in groceries. After my second trip, Kevin leaned over and whispered, “There’s a lady staring at us from the window.”
“Where?” I asked, glancing around.
He motioned toward an apartment on the bottom floor of our building, and I saw her, darkly silhoutted. She made no attempt to hide herself, but sat at the window watching us carefully. Strangers.
I filled my arms with more bags and made another trip upstairs. Kevin came behind me with one of our bikes. He meant to stow them in the hallway upstairs for safe keeping. I was on my way back out when I heard him talking to someone in the stairwell. “Do you know of anywhere else I could keep them?” He asked. When I walked outside, I recognized the silhoutte from the window. The lady who had been staring at us while we unpacked now stood at the base of the stairs.
“No, I’m sorry,” she said, “I really wish you had asked me about that. I’ve never had this issue come up before. I’m sorry, I just can’t let you take those up there. They might damage the floor or bring in sand. I was watching. I had a feeling that’s what you planned to do.” Distrust.
She turned out to be the lady who had rented us the unit, and while we understood her protectiveness, our first introduction to her felt like one more warning that our vacation might not be as soothing as we’d hoped. Kevin worried about the safety of the bikes outside, the salt the air would deposit on them, and would there be any good place to ride here anyway? He’s in the midst of some important triathlon training weeks too, and he’d thought at least this week would offer him the chance to train without juggling a demanding schedule. Hungry and doubtful now held us gripped, and at dinner we talked about how we felt, how home felt oddly easier just then than our vacation. Feelings can betray us so easily. It disappointed us to admit that at the start of our longed for getaway, we just felt like packing up and going home. Ironically, we found ourselves longing for the ordinary and routine, the very things from which we had so desperately needed a break. We found our anticipation of God’s blessings and provision quickly dying with the waning daylight. And we would have missed such a grand feast.
It strikes me that spiritual warfare rages strong in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times. It’s so easy for me to get so caught up in my temporary feelings that I am willing to forfeit the lasting gifts. I sometimes miss the fact that He made me hungry so that He could be my satisfying feast. All those horrible specters—-lost, unwelcome, unwanted, disappointed, doubtful—can so easily color the truth and throw it in strange, unnatural light.
Kevin and I reached for each other across the table and our dinner last Friday night and thanked God for food, for each other, for Kevin’s dad and his love for our kids, for the knowledge that while we were away they would be safely and dearly kept. And then we offered Him our feelings and all their heavy shadows, and we asked, as we often do, for eyes that really see Him and ears that really hear Him and hearts He shapes new with His hands.
We drove back to our condo and for the first time, we slid open the door to the deck and the sound of the rushing, crashing, wildly powerful and elegant sea. And we gasped. Kevin wrapped his arms around my shoulders as we looked out over deep, living oceans of grace. The wind blew the hair away from my cheeks, and I smiled.
“This is going to be a great.” I don’t remember which one of us whispered it into the night air, but we both knew it to be the uncluttered, unstained truth, and it wrapped around us together, holding us there, like a sliver of silver light.
And now, as the sweetness still melts on our tongues, we give thanks.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).