A meandering two-lane road leads to a small faith community that has come to mean much to me. I’ve served and led and worshiped alongside people I consider stalwart friends, mentors, and partners in life and ministry.
There was a time when I traveled this road three times a week; 45 minutes each way, the drive-time more of a gift than I realized at the time. These days, it’s less frequent, but I still remember the curves and dips. I recognize the scenery.
On a recent trip, I noticed the unfortunate landscape of a clear cut. Ragged edges of raw stumps and branches littered the gentle slope. Piles of dry, mangled timber stretched across a panorama of destruction – it was a distressing sight. Thoughts of eradication, annihilation, and ruin stirred in me as I drove by. I felt sad, bereft – a sort of grief. Something about the desolation of the fractured landscape resonated with the grief I’ve been carrying lately.
I kept driving.
But last weekend, on a brutally cold and windy – but clear – day, I slowed as I came upon this empty field. There was a clearing of sorts, and I nosed my little compact car into towards the crest of the hill. I moved right into the midst of this symbolic grief, surrounded by this mess of broken, jagged, worthless wood. It looked sharp and painful and, to be honest, I felt momentarily right at home.
I stepped into the mud and moved towards the highest point of the property to stand before the saddest scene in the entire tableau: a house. What was once a home, a place that sheltered a family and held the warmth of all that we long for as humans, now empty and broken, sagging, left in ruins.
The wind blew and I was miserably cold. But something about the clear blue of the sky and the bright reflection of the sun said, Stop. Think a minute. There is more here than meets the eye.
So, there I stood, in the middle of five acres of littered land..to see what invitation might be presenting itself. Why was I compelled to stop and stand in the middle of this plot of ravaged terrain?
The word came out of nowhere, a whisper to reconsider.
I’ve named this season, these past two years of heartache and separation, the little losses and the unbearable grief. Compelled to look it in the eye, not to shy away or deny, to be present with what is true; to learn to breathe in the tension of ‘in this world you will have trouble’ and breathe out hope. I’ve not shied away; recently, I scrawled, I am still grieving in my journal, and I knew it was the truest thing I could say.
But coming to a halt on a two-lane country road to stand in front of a fallen down, abandoned house in the middle of a forsaken field, hope stirred ever so slightly. And this new word snuck its way into my throat, where it’s lodged itself for these past five days, whispering that it can be, and is, and will be, just as true as the grief I’ve named. Because grief is routed through all sorts of rubble, parallel with resilience; there is no other way, when we find ourselves still standing.
The gift of a glimpsed landscape, a rich treasure when I stopped to take it in.