The quotidian life is my fertile clay, and in the small dollops of the humdrum my spirit is renewed. Winds brushing through swaying treetops, the scent of burnt vanilla candles that flicker in the dusk of evening, hot soup steaming on a chilly night, our dear grandson’s first baby smiles, soft piano music swirling as I write. Worn Bible pages as I unearth the book of Matthew, an outstretched wave from a neighbor, my daughter and I laughing as we enjoy our show. Family group chats, long walks through crunchy leaves, catch-up phone calls with our sons, a note of gratitude with care-filled words, slowly brushing the walls of our home with paint colors that reflect God’s creation: blue of sky and sea, green of pasture, soft white puffs of cloud.
I am flesh and bone, dwelling solidly in the physical realm, seeking comfort in the touchable, the seen.
I have been reading the gospels, and listening to God as he speaks to me through the Bible, paying attention to the lack of hustle, lack of worry, and lack of frenetic activity in the life of Christ. So contrary to the ways of this world. Jesus walked from place to place, purposeful in motion, speaking truth in love, resisting Satan and rebuking Pharisees, humbly bowing only to the will of his Father. He ate and slept and prayed and wept and worked and taught and spoke in parables.
Jesus can empathize with our carnal frailties.
For fifteen or more years I prayed for an older, wiser, Crucified-with-Christ mentor. A flesh and bone woman. This did not come to pass, so I eventually stopped praying in that bent, believing it was simply not to be.
Several months ago, in the high heat of summer, we purchased our home. We had been renting, allowing ourselves time to grow familiar with our new state and county, in all of its thin weaving roads and lustrous beauty of seasonal change, considering neighborhoods that might serve as a quiet oasis in the midst of pastoral ministry.
The market was hot, at least from a seller’s vantage point, and our Realtor reminded us time and again that it would be next to impossible to find what we were looking for without paying exceedingly over asking price, which was something she cautioned against.
So we toured three homes, and I fell hard for one. We prayed, bid on it, and drove home. I was soaring internally, daydreaming of paint colors and patio furniture, big family gatherings and quiet rocking chair moments, when I received an alert on my phone: a new house listing had popped in a neighborhood where homes disappeared within hours. My husband had previously researched this location, and was hopeful.
Let’s drive by, he said.
I nodded, but in my heart the other house was the one. It was flawless and yellow, and guess what? Not just any yellow. The perfect yellow.
So we slipped into this other neighborhood, and it was beyond lovely. In fact, it was so beautiful and good that I felt faintly conflicted about our previous bid.
Jon’s smile was huge.
But we just bid on the other one, I said, heart thudding. And it is yellow, I might have whispered.
Let’s see what God does, was his answer. A good reply from a good man.
We entered the neighborhood, looping through a winding road that culminated in a generous culdesac. There she sat, a beauty of a house resting upon a hillock, with an entire acre of yard. I immediately envisioned our soon-to-be-born grandson, and future grandchildren, playing here: building forts and jumping in autumn’s leaves, riding bicycles, playing football by day, roasting s’mores by night.
I felt whiplashed.
The House on a Hill or The Yellow House?
Quieting my inner dialogue, I wrapped up both homes in butcher paper and string, and handed them directly back to God, freeing both my hands and my heart: an act of the will. It might be one, it might be the other, or it might be neither. Thy will be done.
Within a short time, we lost the bid on the yellow home, placed a bid on the second one, and the owners accepted.
Our Realtor was stunned.
You never should have been able to get this home at asking price, were her words. I don’t think you understand…this does not happen in this neighborhood. Ever.
I laughed and told her it was God’s doing.
She studied me sideways, considering.
As a pastor’s wife, I have grown accustomed to hard things; to circumstances unfolding contrary to what I hope and pray. I actually anticipate difficulty, the way a beekeeper calmly expects to be stung. There are honey-sweet times too, but let’s face it: any pastor who is willing to preach the truth of God’s Word will suffer, to some degree. Principalities and forces are at play, warring and raging as Scripture is proclaimed. There is skin in this game, and that skin includes the pastor’s family. Every pastor, plus his wife or son or daughter who might read this knows. So much outpouring, precious little inflowing.
We have a wooden sign that I pass each morning in our hallway as I begin the day, a quote from Charles Spurgeon:
Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.
He wasn’t wrong, and being in full-time ministry has been the impetus of my deepest, ongoing sanctification. Yet some days it is rather easy to neglect this truth: God knows precisely what he is doing. Always.
When the yellow house did not pan out, I was fine. More than fine. God had chosen perfectly, gracing us with a gift far better than what we could have imagined.
And I was unaware of the half of it.
If the yellow house bid had been accepted, I would have never met Carrie.
We closed on our new home, and schlepped our belongings from one address to the other. After I had cleaned every square inch of our new abode and painted three different rooms in as many days, and unpacked our entire kitchen, I was spent: desperate for air, for sunshine, for twenty minutes of writing time, for my beloved walks. Anything other than unpacking boxes.
As I stepped outside, shielding my eyes from the sunshine, I met our across-the-street neighbors, who were retrieving their mail.
Welcome to the neighborhood! I am Carrie, she said, before introducing her husband.
We made small talk for a minute or two, before she inquired what brought us to our state. I told her of my husband’s pastorate, and her eyes danced. I have been teaching Bible Study for over thirty-five years, she said.
We waded to the deep end, moving straight to the things of God, kindred spirits and fast friends. Carrie swept me up into her Bible Study, where we are currently settled within the pages of Matthew. Nothing shiny, pretty, or easy: only the unadorned Word of God, which is exactly as it should be. I am in the midst of women who have tossed all fluff, and are burning to obey God. I am soaking up their wisdom eagerly, grateful to learn.
Although I never officially asked, nor had to, since it sprouted organically, Carrie has become my mentor, pulling me into her home, feeding me the finest chicken salad, praying for and treating me like a favored daughter and sister-in-Christ. She is direct and strong, serene and wise, humble of heart and entirely devoted to glorifying God.
She is also fun, likes to laugh, and has befriended our seventeen-year-old daughter.
You, she said to Lauren, are my adopted granddaughter. And I am treating you to a pedicure.
So off they went, and it was good.
I am undone by the kindness of God.
I might be undone, but only after having seen a physical answer to my long-standing then abandoned prayers for a Crucified-with-Christ mentor.
In fact, truth-be-told, I have behaved exactly as did Thomas, doubting God.
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, the disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus, fully resurrected, walked through a locked door, entering in peace. He approached the doubting disciple, and in a flood of understanding, urged Thomas to touch his scars, to feel the physical truth, and to believe.
Thomas often receives a bad rap, but I see the tender love radiating from Christ to this man. The compassion, the understanding. The sheer physicality of the wounds themselves. Jesus’ scars proved his fidelity to God and Scripture. Wounds that cost him his life, yet he empathizes with Thomas’ frailty, knowing that the man before him is mortal, a soul fashioned for eternity, but with feet of clay.
Jesus invited him into the somatic, (touch my scars) while pointing him to the eternal (blessed are those who believe without seeing).
May we, as flesh and bone, have eyes that see beyond the earthly, trusting God to the uttermost.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)