I am well. My house is an explosion of colour and toys from cousins visiting and birthday party paraphernalia, but I am well. Mostly.
I was sort of hard-hit to learn that the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables mini-series died. I’m not usually affected by celeb deaths, but this one felt more personal. He was only three years older than me, for a start. But I also grew up reading Anne of Green Gables over and over again, and discovered this mini series when I had just completed my semester abroad in Avignon – my first time away from home.
That year, I spent Christmas with my aunt in Germany, and once when she was away at an engagement (made before my visit was planned), I spent the entire day watching the mini series. It was such a cozy return to comfort after my months away from home.
I bought the series to give as a Christmas gift to Juliet so that she could discover Anne with an ‘e’, and we recently watched it as a family . For him to pass away right now felt extra personal and sad.
Yet overall, I can sense a shift in my heart and thought process regarding this whole grace thing. Saturday when I was reading the Bible, I suddenly remembered a scripture I hadn’t thought about in years, but I still remember where I was the first time I heard it nearly twenty years ago.
I was sitting with a friend in the hallway steps of a New York apartment, waiting for someone who was supposed to arrive but who wasn’t there yet. She shared it with me – probably in response to some comment I had made, which revealed my total lack of understanding of this whole grace thing. I was blown away at the time.
So when I thought of it on Saturday, I had to search for it and find it right away, and I eventually found it in Isaiah 28.
Priests and prophets stagger from beer
and are befuddled with wine;
they reel from beer,
they stagger when seeing visions,
they stumble when rendering decisions.
All the tables are covered with vomit
and there is not a spot without filth.
“Who is it he is trying to teach?
To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
to those just taken from the breast?
For it is:
Do this, do that,
a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there.”
Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,
to whom he said,
“This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
but they would not listen.
So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
Do this, do that,
a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured.
That verse is written on my heart (the way it appears in my Bible) “do and do, do and do; rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.”
I know it. But understanding it as a twenty-something, zealous without knowledge, busy without responsibilities – and understanding it as a forty-something, wise (sometimes) without zeal, and buried under responsibilities are two very different things.
Borrowing loosely from the book, Jesus +Nothing = Everything, it feels so much safer to add a little rule here, a little rule there in order to have the world spin the way it should. It feels safer to do this or that thing to be righteous (and therefore guaranteeing God’s blessings for a good and peaceful life) than it does to rely on this wholly unpredictable thing called grace. If it doesn’t depend on what we do, then we’re in the same boat as everyone else! Completely at God’s mercy and unable to predict what will happen.
But the more we add rules to our life, the less of a resting place it is. I think it’s safe to say that God hates us striving to attain perfection through our own efforts as much as he hates outright evil – maybe more? One has a semblance of goodness, but both ignore God completely.
God has been thwarting our efforts lately. That’s what I think, anyway. We’ve been after our banker about that one piece of paper that is missing (for months) that will allow us to move forward with our refinancing and work loans. When I went into the bank on Friday to see if she had gotten it for us, I was told that she had collapsed that very same morning and was hospitalised with (what I guessed was) a stroke from being overworked.
(I feel really terrible for her, and brought a card to the bank. I haven’t been able to find out if she is okay).
I’m waiting for my mother’s birth certificate in order to translate all the official documents and start the French naturalisation process, but they are backlogged. All official documents have to be dated less than 3 months, but it’s been 2 months so far that they haven’t sent the birth certificate and I wonder if the 3 months will expire on all the other documents before I have a chance to send them in.
My father and step-mom were supposed to arrive tomorrow and my husband took a week off from work. We were supposed to go visit the Champagne region and just enjoy our time together, but they have had a complication with their passports/flights. Now I’m not sure if they can come.
We are still having leftover problems with our dog, though we gave him away months ago. The insurance company is forcing us to continue paying until we prove that we gave him up. But we sent all the official papers with him to the refuge in Germany, so we have not been able to do that.
And then there are other nagging concerns, which are too personal to get into here (namely because they are not my story to tell). Nothing is going the way I want it to, and I finally broke down and cried last night. That’s actually a good place for me to be because it means a softening of the heart rather than a kicking out in frustration. I’m learning.
Because despite all my efforts, I am not able to bring about the results that I want. Do and do. Rule on rule. A little here, a little there. And all I’ve managed to do is fall backwards.
So I’ve stopped. No more kicking against the goads.
And I’m seeing that the flowers are still coming up. Food still tastes good. My legs work and I can walk where I want to go. Kids are still funny. Soap smells good and it’s nice to be clean. Hugs feel amazing, and there is no shortage of them. The shutters are closed at night against the brisk wind and the darkness.
And all is surprisingly well in the world.