Letters through the Radio: Finding Company on the Shores, Pt. III

By now you may be thinking, “Nichole, you’ve gone through two parts of this shindig and you still haven’t even mentioned a friggin’ radio.”

Well, hold your horses, I’m about to.

But first, let’s talk about sacrifice.  I know, it’s a scary word.  The two serpenty “s” and “c” fricatives combined with the “c” stop consonant is rarely a positive sounding combination. (Sorry, phonology technicalities.  Really, though, I just wanted to use the term “fricative” because it’s my new favorite word for the time being.  It just sounds great.  Fffffricative.)  I haven’t met anyone who enjoys the word’s definition, either.   For most, it has one of two meanings:  The first is that a sacrifice is something offered for expiation or propitiation.  That’s not what we’re talking about right now, though, so put the axe down and please don’t slaughter a calf.   The second meaning that comes to mind is that of a giving up of something.  That is what we’re talking about, but we cheat ourselves if we stop there because it is only half of the definition.   Dictionary.com (my most favoritest website in the whole World Wide Web world) defines it as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” It is not loss only, but willful loss for the promise that there will be a return of something greater.

At various points along Much-Afraid’s expedition she was to build an altar and sacrifice something on it, whatever was timely for the specific situation.  One sacrifice was titled Acceptance-with-Joy, surrendering the need for everything to be smooth as butter because, like grains are beaten again and again until they’re ready to make the finest bread, so we need difficulty as a sort of “beating” for refinement.   At another altar was Bearing-the-Cost, aka forgiveness, on which she put the right of judgment and the hardening of her heart.  There was an altar for her dread of future trials and where the Shepherd might take her next, too, where she released her own will.  She progressively gave Him more and more, each altar a physical representation of a change in her heart that said, “With this, too, I will trust you. I know you’ll give me something better in return.”   The Shepherd never failed to meet her where she was at these altars, always answering her call and assuring her no matter how small or great the need.

She knew in advance what the very last sacrifice was to be.  The Shepherd explained that human love needed to go on the altar, and she was reminded of it a few times along the journey.  She just didn’t know when, where, or how until the path stopped dead at the edge of a yawning chasm that cut off all further progress.  There was no avoiding it.  The only way to go was down, so she flung herself into the misty pit.  Once she landed and gathered herself, she said: “This is the place.  This is where I am to make my offering.”  She knelt down and prayed, “My Lord…will you come to me now and help me to make my burnt offering as you have commanded me?”

She called.

He did not come.

She waited.

He did not come.

What.  The.  Crap.

Why now, of all times, when she is sacrificing this desire for human love, comfort, and company does He withhold His own love, comfort, and company!? Oh my gosh!  It’s just too much!

I felt her ache, and I wept with her.  Alright, fine, I cried my eyes out.  To the outsider (by that I mean to the one who hasn’t experienced Jesus in a profoundly intimate way) it probably seems a silly thing to get upset about.  What’s the deal?   He’s just some shepherd she got to know in her home town who befriended her and helped her out here and there with troubles he told her to go through in the first place.  There isn’t even a spicy romance happening in here!  Now, you could understand the tragedy in Bella and Edward’s (“Twilight” characters.  No, I don’t read the series. I actually had to Google their names to be sure) potential lost love.  Edward is Bella’s LIFE, without him she will DIE, or worse, live a NORMAL life without werewolves or  a bloodthirsty posse of vampires trying to KILL her.  If she doesn’t get to reunite with her beloved, sparkly (dead serious, the vampires sparkle) Edward she just might faint into hopeless oblivion (please, gag me with a dog-poo shoe).

But baby, oh baby, falling in love with God the most consecrated and holy romance there ever was, is, and could be.  Unlike Edward, worth living and dying for, I tell you that.   He’s not an austere, unknowable figure high in the sky, and following Him is so much more meaningful than scrupulous obedience to a set of THOU SHALT NOTs.  Loving God, and being loved by Him, is 100% relationship.  It can’t be understood by anyone who’s never been there, and it doesn’t even make much sense to those who are there when we try to analyze it.  It’s an unexplainable thing that “though we have not seen Him, we love him” (I Peter 1:8).   While there is a void in the absence of physical company, there is an eternal and infinite void in the absence of Him, our true Lover.

I’ve been calling.  I’ve been waiting.  My Lover has not come, and it fills me overwhelming sadness.  It is too much for words, this deep, dark void from whose depths effuse long rivers of sorrow.  Sorrow that cannot be quieted, that refuses to find relief while the Shepherd is yet afar.   Its pangs call out inconsolably from the core of your being, and there is no consolation, no comfort, no balm apart from God Himself.  It needs no serious dwelling or rumination to be discovered, only that when the daily noise and distractions cease, from the silence it naturally echoes out of an empty chasm that reverberates with the yearning to be filled again.  It is longing at its deepest measure, pining down to its very definition.   Tears cannot exhaust its strength, and time cannot diminish its pain.

Much-Afraid couldn’t tear the human love out of her own heart, so she asked a by-standing priest to tie her down and help, lest she run or fail.  She completed the sacrifice, and with that I finished reading for the night.   It was getting late, and I had to sleep.  I got ready for bed, and as I gazed at the ceiling with my hands overlapped behind my head, I thought about this human love in my own life.  Family wasn’t much of a source with the suicide of my deeply troubled and physically abusive dad, crap step-“father” of 14 BLISSFUL years whom I used to call “the guy who lives in my mom’s house,”  and mom who continually chooses the guy who lives in her house over me and my brothers and have never been able to have a serious conversation with anyhow.   Nor was she interested in my every day, only that the house was impeccably clean.  We didn’t eat together.  Or do anything together.  To avoid the steady harassment of fighting words and unpredictable violence, I eventually reclused to my room.  Having practically raised and taught myself, I carried that with me into adulthood.   Miss Independent right here.

Though I did finally have a period of about three years of really great relationships a few years ago, now all I could think about were the array of distant, fading friendships.  Disparate friendships akin to mere acquaintance.  Strained friendships.  Shattered friendships.  The seeming impossibility of creating new friendships.  God doesn’t feel super plutonic or Lover-ly right now.  These Shores suck.

The next morning while getting ready for work, my deliberations churned as if there were no interruption of sleep.  I’m tired of doing things on my own.  I want to assuage this ache with something I can see, to call someone, to hang out with someone, to just be with someone who totally gets me and what I’m going through.   Names and faces come to mind, but our schedules or life stages just don’t fit.  I’d be bold-faced lying if I said fear didn’t play a part.  I worry of being an intrusion or appearing necessitous.  I’m terrified of being known and then cast aside because I’m not found worth the time.  I don’t want to ruin what relationships I already have by making messes on people’s shoulders, either.  I feel stuck and I fear not finding a real and mutual connection.  And if I don’t find that connection?  Is God going to ask me to do as Much-Afraid on that mountainside?  Build an altar?  Let it go?  How can I let go of human love when I can’t even feel His?  If I sacrifice that desire in order to go deeper into the desire of Him, will my Shepherd finally come?   When will I be able to find Him?  Will I be able to find Him? Is this all even worth it?

This slew of thoughts continued to muddle my mind as I hurriedly stepped across the lawn to my car.  I sighed, pushed life aside, put on my public face and tried to muster up the energy for yet another busy, ordinary day.  In one fluid motion, I inserted the key into the ignition and turned.  Without one second of hesitation, these words came through my radio (see, I told you!):

I climbed a mountain, built an altar
Looked out as far as I could see
And every day I’m getting older
I’m running out of dreams
I’m running out of dreams

But Your love
Your love
The only the thing that matters is Your love
Your love is all I have to give
Your love is enough to light up the darkness
It’s Your love

Your love
all I ever needed is Your love

You’re the hope in the morning
You’re the light when the night is falling
You’re the song when my heart is singing
It’s Your love
You’re the eyes to the blind man
You’re the feet to the lame men walking
You’re the sound of the people singing
It’s Your love

Your love
Your love
The only the thing that matters is Your love
Your love is all I have to give
Your love is enough to light up the darkness
It’s Your love

Your love
all I ever needed is Your love
(Your Love by Brandon Heath)

Then, no DJ, no advertisement, no break.  Just this:

Slowly fading away
You’re lost and so afraid
Where is the hope in a world so cold?
Looking for a distant light
Someone who can save a life
Living in fear that no one will hear your cries

I am with you
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you
I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
‘Cause you’re not
You’re not alone

Your heart is full of broken dreams
Just a fading memory
And everything’s gone
But the pain carries on
Lost in the rain again
When will it ever end?
It’s hard to believe
It seems so out of reach

But I
I am here
I am with you
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you
I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
‘Cause you’re not
You’re not alone

And I will be your hope
When you feel like it’s over
And I will pick you up
When your whole world shatters
When you’re finally in my arms
Look up and see love as a face

I am with you
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you
I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
‘Cause you’re not
You’re not alone
(Not Alone by Red)

I stayed in the same lane throughout the morning stop-and-go freeway trek, paying no heed to the possibility of being a few minutes late, and let the words wash over me with tears trickling down my face.   With every song, sermon, and verse sounding the same and not being able to see, hear, or feel Him for so long, it’s become easy for me to point to coincidence.  But I heard these songs, and I believe God broke through the silence on the radio that morning.   And it’s moments like these, when we’re lost and scared  and feel as though God’s got everything other than us on His mind for now and always, when our heart is sick with deferred hope and extended stays on the Shores of Loneliness, that He reminds us, My love is enough.  It’s all that matters and all you’ll ever need.  I’m with you.  I’ll carry you through.  I won’t leave you, even when others do.  I’ll never lose my grip on you.  Especially when you feel like letting go.

(Remember that priest who helped Much-Afraid tear human love out of her heart and put it on the altar?  Yeah, she later finds that was the Shepherd.  She just couldn’t see Him through the haze.)

People, however, won’t stick with us through to the High Places.  When we expect them to be there every step of the way, we’re setting ourselves up to get ditched at a mountainside or hanging off the edge of a cliff.   Some do it unintentionally; others reject us precisely because we allowed ourselves to be 100% real.  People are fleeting and there isn’t a single one who can be our everything, not even sparkly Edward, and no one is supposed to be.  Our God is passionately, jealously in love with us.  He wants all of your eggs and mine in His basket where they safely belong.   Anyone else is likely to drop them all over the kitchen floor and may not even feel sorry about the mess you’re left to clean up.  When we finally figure out that He unaidedly satisfies our every need, He makes the promise that “You will seek Me and find Me; when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  And when the stings incurred by this life tempt us to withhold our hearts from Him:  breathe in, breathe out, remember that He alone is trustworthy, and let it pour.

Mind you, I’m not condoning disillusionment.  People can be there to love, encourage, correct, guide, provide wisdom, and we can most certainly do that for others, but only in the capacity that God works through them and us, and only inasmuch as God permits so that we know it was not them or us at all, but Himself.  We’re not to forsake the human relation for which we’re built, but to find ultimate relation in Him.  His love and acceptance are adequate, more than commensurate.  Enough.

The lack or loss of human love cause our biggest heartaches, but even the seeming loss of Him we love yet have never seen causes pain unspeakably greater.  And if it can hurt so fricative fricking much, its remedy must be worth sacrificing for.

Here is my altar.  Here is my heart.   This is not loss, but gain.  Though I do not see it, though I yet perceive it, with this, too, I will trust You.

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