how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth

to be a refugee

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61 days ago I came out of six weeks in the mountains in Wyoming.

Yesterday, I went back to the mountains. This time to the Adirondacks – my home mountains in many ways. It was a whirlwind trip – eleven hours of driving to hike for ten, an 18 mile slog up and down Allen Mountain in the rain, another peak checked off.

And while yes, I did need to complete this infamous of the High Peaks at some point on the way to my 46, mostly I went because I needed to escape to the mountains. I went because my time in the Winds of Wyoming began a summer that has profoundly shook and shaped me, and because I am still whirling in it all. Because in three days, on Monday, classes start for my fifth semester of grad school, and I’m not ready. Not that I don’t want to be here, that I don’t love what I’m studying, that I don’t feel profoundly privileged, but I’m weary. Emotionally, physically, spiritually bone-deep-weary, and I’m not ready for the pace and the demand and the discipline and the focus. I feel very weak, and very broken, and very much not enough.

So I ran away to the mountains for space and time. For that strange truth of how pushing my body beyond comfort, drinking in ordinary beauty, having silence and no screens and it not mattering if the rain ran down my face in sheets: how all that can be needed, healing, and re-setting. So I went, and most of the time I didn’t even know what I was thinking or praying, but I just walked in the realness of my heart and life with the Lord, and pleaded for Him to walk with me.

This morning I opened up a book I am working through called Habakkuk Before Breakfast, and read this portion of liturgy:

So why are you here?
Every heart, every heart to love will come,
but like a refugee.

Then come, dear friends,
come as refugees to love,
come and bring your broken offerings,
                your broken hearts,
                your broken bodies,
                your broken spirits,
                your broken lives.

What time is it?
It is time to tell the truth.

Come as refugees to love. Such an interesting phrase, and I am caught in it. To be a refugee is to have abandoned all else, to come with everything I have, to have no backup plan, to have reserved nothing, to be utterly at the mercy of the place to which I have come. To bring it all, and trust it all, to Love. No story unexplored, no pain unseen, no shaping unsurrendered. (It is time to tell the truth.) Reading and reflecting on these words felt like naming a known and current place. This is the moment I am in: that of being invited to bring all that I have, leave nothing back, and realizing the truth is that what I have to bring is so very broken.  All of it. Even some of the Lord’s gifts that I have run away with I have broken and now I bring them back, humble like the prodigal, having no next step from this, no back up plan, but knowing – in the deep parts of me that actually know the truth of the Father’s love – that I won’t need one. That love always accepts the refugee. The pilgrim, you could say.

For 61 days I’ve been searching for the next step. Fighting for it. Built on beliefs which are true – that I should be always striving to discern in my journey with the Lord what is next; what He is saying and how He asking me to follow, how this new learning or space reshapes my life once again. This is the journey of spiritual formation, over and over and over again. But also this fight is built on the oh-so-deeply rooted fear that maybe what is next is not an end of being weak. A fear of being empty, and being led, like Elijah, out of the provision of the wilderness anyway, and into all that is being asked of me. Not being ready for it. Not having wrapped up this wilderness portion of the journey or the questions and stories it has unearthed. Feeling like some long-shut doors of my heart and life have blown open and now everything behind them is just sitting there, painfully revealed but with no sense of how I go about sorting and building. What goes on display, and what gets thrown on the fire? How do all these pieces get reassembled and what kind of wonder may there be when they do?

See, I’m a sorter. Part of it is necessitated by the incessant temporary feeling of my life; of thirteen moves in ten years and more than 100 days a year on the road. And so I sort: quickly. Everything has a place and within a few hours of returning from somewhere, it is in place. Because then I can move forward, be back “home” as quickly as possible, because the next departure is probably coming fast. Physical or emotional or spiritual, the ability to sort is a crucial part of feeling in control. So I want to sort this. I want to make note of the feeling, the realization, the uncovering, offer a prayer (legitimate!) of gratitude, then carefully build this piece of learning into place and start moving toward the next five steps.

(Also, when I’m trying to sort life through writing, I pile metaphors on top of each other…so let me go back to the original…)

The problem is that inherent in being a refugee is to come not knowing the next step. I have to know I bring nothing, but also all of me. I have to bring everything broken, understanding nothing is valuable in itself, but knowing that being met by love imparts value to even what seems like the most impossible places. So as I hiked yesterday, I think this was the shift that began. The shift to stop trying to fight the emptiness, the weakness, the weariness; to stop trying to “sort” it and therefore, by default, move on from it…the shift to instead just bring it. Surrender it. But not because in doing that it will be magically transformed into a felt strength and fullness, but because I will be transformed when Love accepts the broken, passionate gift (as He always does), and turns and looks at me.

So in that space on the mountain, the Lord promised nothing, in a sense, except that He sees me. He didn’t even whisper, “my grace is sufficient,” though that’s true, but not in the way we often say it that twists the measurement of sufficiency to really mean self-sufficiency again. I’m pretty sure that’s not what He meant. In one sense, I don’t bring the empty cup to be filled. Definitely not so I can feel sufficient to dole it out again. Fullness is a promise of relationship with the Lord, I just don’t think it looks like we think it looks. A lot of times it looks like still longing. The point right now isn’t to be filled, the point is the cup is empty, and that’s alright. There are a lot of holes in the bottom of my life right now. I hope they can let the water seep through to the ground so that things can grow all the same, though I am in much less control of that process than I would like. Though the growth may be much more wild than I would have sorted my own life to yield. But in the wildness there is wonder and mystery and beauty, and more than control, I want to live a life of wonder, even if this is what that means.

I hope I have courage to plant the seeds I have been given right now; seeds of weakness, and weariness, and emptiness. I hope I have courage to sit amidst the scattered and broken pieces of a refugee life and just let it be. Just lament, be seen, and be loved.

Monday will come, and I will be fine. But not because I have figured it out, or know how to take the next step. Not because I am enough. I am just a refugee at the mercy of Love, leaning on His enough-ness for sustaining in my brokenness. Knowing nothing may change about what I have to offer for a long while now. I am not enough.

But I am also not alone.

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