“For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?” 1 Cor 7:16
We’re nearing two decades of walking through life together. Like all marriages, this one has had a multitude of ups and downs, highs and lows, heartaches and celebrations. Never really knowing what we were doing (do we even know, now?), we sort of just packed it all onto our backs and started the journey.
Somewhere along the way, we began to lose pace with one another; either he was too far ahead or I was. And day by day, we lost sight of one another.
Doing the best I could with the pack on my back, I trudged along, looking toward the horizon, always the horizon. Some days, it seemed like I was the loneliest I’ve ever been in life. Some days I would find peace in the songs of three little birds fluttering around me. The best and beautiful blessing was the Son shining so brightly around me, keeping me from losing the hope of one day finding him again.
The thing about wandering in the desert is that if you just stay there, you remain lost. To move out of the wild, the emptiness, one must move both their heart and their feet. To move out of a dusty, barren desert, one must be willing to move both their heart and their feet.
Even the simple act of waiting for him to catch up proved futile. My impatience began to fester and gnaw away at me. If I had any hope in finding my way back to him, I had to be willing to bend.
Bending felt like breaking. Bending felt like burning. Bending demanded breaking. Bending demanded burning. Burning brought ashes. Breaking brought dust. So, breathing, I bent and burned, and broke, fixing my eyes to the horizon, to the Son.
What does a Holy, infinite, and gracious God do with breath and ashes and dust?
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Some days, motherhood is much more difficult than I ever thought it could be. Raising three children to become fully functioning, healthy contributing adults who are also rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus can often be laborious. Raising three children to grow up and go out of our home without damaging them somehow? It’s probably the scariest and hardest thing I’ve been tasked with.
We are in the thick of the teenage years. Every day feels like wilderness. They didn’t come with a manual and we’re just trying to do the best we can, trying to break off anything we learned along the way that doesn’t give way to life and fruit. But we are sinners, weary and worn from carrying the brokenness of the coping mechanisms and strategies we’ve learned all this way.
Out here in the desert, days seem to drag on forever. Out here in the desert, I thirst for a fresh well, Living Water. So, I keep my eyes fixed on the horizon. I listen a little harder for the songs these sweet birds still sing. I look for glimpses of the Son shining down.
If I have any hope in finding my way back to truth, I must be willing to bend. Bending feels like breaking. Bending feels like burning. Bending gives way to breaking. Bending gives way to burning. Burning brings ashes. Breaking brings dust. So, breathing, I bend and burn, and break, fixing my eyes to the horizon, to the Son.
And what can a Holy, infinite, and gracious God do with breath and ashes and dust?
Before it was breathed into existence, before creation began, it was empty, formless. Something, but nothing. Darkness stretched the expanse. Void of anything at all. But God. He was there, hovering over it, ready to begin. I imagine that when Jesus went to the depths of Hell for us, the tomb was much the same way. Dark, lifeless, empty, void of anything at all, save the shroud that covered His body. I can’t help but believe that our Holy, infinite, and gracious God was hovering over the grave; waiting and ready to begin, waiting and ready to breathe something beautiful into creation from the dust Jesus left in that tomb.
What can a Holy, infinite, and gracious God do with breath and ashes and dust?
I wandered far and wide for much of my own teenage years. Searching and seeking for something solid and true. As I look back, I can see how my gracious God hovered over me. I can see how He was already beginning to breathe something out of the ashes and dust. Even though the wandering looks different now, He still hovers, ready to breathe and begin.
I see the handiwork of my infinite God as He has covered my marriage. While the day I’m waiting for hasn’t yet come, I know that God is on the move. His ways are wild and infinite, but I see the glorious grace in small prayers and subtle mercies. The grace of the Gospel becomes the air we breathe, the ground we stand on. Hovering over the heaviest days, He is already forging; from ashes and dust, He is breathing something whole, something refined, something beautiful.
The three little birds still sing, though their songs are a little louder and a little lower. The melodies they sing are not the ones of carefree days, but of harder things they’re learning. We journey on. Sometimes pressing in to the force that comes against us, and some days we don’t have to press so hard. He hovers over us in the pressing. The grace of the Gospel is the air we breathe, the ground we stand on. He breathes fresh holiness and grace into our house as we learn to say we’re sorry five (or ten) times a day. He breathes fresh life into our hearts as we learn to love and forgive each other well. He is breathing something beautiful out of ashes and dust.
The journey Home isn’t for the faint of heart. The pressing and refining and reshaping that comes from the bending, burning and breaking brings suffering and sorrow. But when we are willing to hold our hands out, open and empty, a Holy, infinite, and gracious God will breathe something beautiful from emptiness and ashes and dust.