when madeleine l’engle kicked my ass
after i hung up the phone and told joshua what i’d just learned, we knew that our tiny church plant was done. there had been signs leading to that moment in our kitchen. but this was it. the final nail.
he leaned over onto the counter and put his head down.
and that was a while ago now. almost two years.
two years of trying.
two years of getting over it.
i’ve never had words to talk about the whole experience. i’ve only had the wanting to get away from the one word that spoke most loudly.
there is the quick looking away and ending up just saying, “i don’t know” when i am asked why did we do this thing.
did god really tell us to move to detroit and start a church and we failed?
i don’t know.
did we want to move to the city and convinced ourselves that it was god calling us?
i do not know.
i don’t know. i just don’t. the roots of certain choices we make are buried deep and even when i dig them up and slice them looking for the answer in the cross-sections – even then it’s not that simple.
so i sat down and talked with madeleine l’engle. sort of. i’m reading her book. books really. just finished wrinkle in time and am now reading walking on water.
she saw me coming, i think. she’s very personable, mild-mannered even and all friendly like – until.
until she isn’t.
until she pulled back and hit me dead in the face.
“One time I was talking to my spiritual director and I was deeply grieved about something I had woefully failed at. Finally he looked at me and said calmly, “Who are you to think you are better than our Lord? After all, he was singularly unsuccessful.”
That remark has stood me in good stead, time and again. I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success.
It has to do with love.”
i reeled backward at the force of the punch.
i have to try.
but i do not have to succeed.
following christ has to do with love.
the penny dropped and i have my answer now.
we moved to detroit to try and start a church because we wanted to say i love you to jesus christ. that’s why.
and did we do that?
we totally did that.
i didn’t fail at that.
the why and the unearthing at the root for the reasoning behind it – it’s still important. it’s right and good to learn from what we did and what went into the choices we made.
but the waste was never waste.
we told him as loudly as we could manage at the time.
so let this be a lesson to you.
when approached by a gentle choir director or a helpful volunteer librarian, someone who looks as though they would not hurt a fly, you may want to keep your eyes on their hands and look close on which foot they are placing their weight.
because there is power in lives well-lived and written down.
there is strength in years closely maintained with the fine-toothed comb of truth.
beware the left hook of madeleine l’engle.