Nate gathered boxes while I was gone last weekend. I taped them together and stacked them in the side room yesterday. Weren't we just doing this a year ago? I finished my day job last weekend and have one month ahead of me here, packing, saying goodbye to DC. I confess, it feels like we're looking at the light at the end of a very long tunnel. We know going back to Texas won't be our saving grace and perfection doesn't await us there. We've lived there, lived some hard years through hard things there. And it wasn't until my last year living there that I came to love it enough to call it home. And not until the past few months Nate could envision living there again. I know. We take a while.
Less than a year ago we were staring down the barrel of foreclosure, after six months of unemployment and and having to move quickly. We tried to talk about God's faithfulness and the difficulty of the season at the same time, and it often times felt a strangulating sense of surety: I would believe God's goodness if it killed me. If I'm honest, friends, this whole year has felt like that. I stand on the character of God more than ever before because I know my humanity more than ever before. I think sometimes our suffering is severe, not because God is, but because his love and mercy is more severe and somehow we have to clear out the clutter to see our way to the bottom. Doing hard things might make us stronger, but I just feel weaker. Doing hard things, though, makes Him seem stronger to me.
I fly out in the morning to try and find us a home in Texas, near our church family and friends there. We're a lot poorer than we were when we got married, but we're a lot richer in other ways. I think of John's words: "He must increase. I must decrease." How does one decrease? In incremental, sometimes severe ways, always whittling down, until we bear on our bodies the marks of Christ and our only boast is Him.
I'm grateful—more than I can say—that we're headed back to Texas. I'm grateful God provided work for me this year that will help us buy a house (something we never imagined possible again seven months ago). I'm grateful I know the grocery stores there I like. I'm grateful friends like family await us there. I'm grateful to begin counseling to process these two years with a long-term counselor I trust. I'm grateful my church home is a place where it's okay to not be okay—and that they'll be patient with us on our journey back to okay. I'm grateful for the emails, phone calls, texts, and cards we've gotten from friends who are so excited we're coming back. I'm grateful we won't have to use GPS to learn yet another new city—learning two new ones in less than a year has taken seven years off my life. I'm grateful Nate was able to transfer his job to DFW with hardly a hitch. I'm grateful for all the things that have seemed impossible this year, because I don't know if I would be quite so grateful if they hadn't seemed once impossible.
I listened to an episode of Cultivated on the plane last weekend and then again yesterday. In it (or them, since there's a Part I and Part II), Andy Crouch and Mike Cosper talk about the difference between openness and vulnerability, and the relationship of vulnerability to authority. I was flying away from teaching women for a weekend in Spokane, WA, and what I had said to them—through tears at one point—was along the lines of, "If we cannot be honest about our sin, shame, and struggles to one another, what makes us think we'll be able to be honest about them to God?" We often think vulnerability starts with being so with God, but I argue true vulnerability involves risk, and there is no risk with God—even if it feels desperately like there is. But with other humans?
It has felt risky to be vulnerable with you during this process of refinement, friends. I know there isn't any real risk in it. We like to give people more power than they actually have. But the truth is, we've been told to sit down and shut up, to stop talking about hard things in the midst of them. But God, in His grace, has assured us again and again and again, that talking about hard things in the midst of them means we can approach his throne of grace with confidence because Jesus didn't come for the well. He came for the sick and every one of us, without exception, belongs in the grave but for Him. So we'll keep walking around in our grave-clothes but ALIVE IN HIM. It's the stench of death that makes life so miraculous at all.