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Teeming with Life

Terrell leaves for New York today, a trip on which I had hoped to accompany him. His pending departure without me opened the floodgates of tears that have been unintentionally suppressed for a while now. I am tired. We joke about the “few” things we have going on: adopting an orphan from Africa, moving into a neighborhood where we will initially be outsiders, working until our hands are swollen and our backs aching on this house so that it will feel like home sooner than later, and Terrell leading the charge to get a charter school started for the Westside of Atlanta. Oh yeah, and I have two precious munchkins that actually need to be parented today, friends with whom I am privileged to share life through all it’s celebrations and heart breaks and apparently a dog to adopt in the next couple of weeks as we move into our house. (Dogs are more effective than alarms, we’ve been told, in deterring would be assailants.) It all feels absurdly American hyper-active as it certainly must sound in your mind as you read this. Yet, these are also very clearly the things God has called us to at this very time. Even so, I am tired: physically and emotionally. So last night, I cried and cried some of the exhaustion out.

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Is. 40:27-31

What I love about New York, what oddly makes it a place of rest for me, is that it is teeming with life. There is a sense of being “on the verge” as we head out to dinner in Chelsea or to Wednesday Night Song Club (a gathering of local musicians either home from touring or not yet launched in their careers) that now meets in Brooklyn or for a long solo run through the northern part of Central Park. For the few days I am there, much like the beach, I am free of schedules and responsibility for anyone or anything other than my imagination. The restfulness of God being God rather me is so much easier to enjoy when it is so clear that nothing around me is dependent upon me to be accomplished or sustained.

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Is. 40:10-11

The weariness I am feeling, in part, is simply a reality of the “toil” that accompanies labor in a broken world. The work itself brings dignity and life, but the toil is a reminder that I am not the author of life nor can my work ever be a reliable source for my stability or significance. And that is the other part of the weariness: I have forgotten that I am shepherded by One who carries me close to His heart, who gently leads me and gathers me in His arms. I am not the Good Shepherd and much of my toil and weariness results from assuming His absence.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11

Jesus is teeming with life! New York City, the beach, a clean five star hotel room, a hip meat packing district restaurant or hotel top bar, a music night or long run through Central Park can never offer, provide or give what they never really had – genuine life and that to the full. Yet I look to them instead of the author, redeemer and sustainer of life.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25

This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.” Is. 42:5-8 He has worked so that I may rest. He continues to work out His accomplished righteousness so that my heart may be at rest. He will finish the work so that I may one day, finally, enter His rest. It is in Him alone that I can find any life, but not just any life – a life on the verge of His Kingdom’s victory. He is teeming with life…oh would I go to Him!

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