February

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This morning I was cleaning up the kitchen and listening to a lecture on You Tube.  Oh, you know me–it was Tim Keller talking about The Crossing of the Red Sea as a metaphor for salvation. I was, as I am so often lately, alone, and know I will be for the entire day, except when I go out and buy food for dinner. But since my Italian is limited, so is my conversation.

As I was putting on a second cup of coffee, Dr. Keller got to the part about the crossing proper (about 35:00 into the video).  There’s a wall of water on the left, and a wall of water on the right, and the Israelites start crossing.  Some of them are confident to the point of cockiness: “The Lord is on our side!  Eat your heart out, Egyptians!” and they swagger across.  Others are looking at the walls of water (maybe thinking about the physics they learned while building pyramids) and thinking, “I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna die…!” But of course the point is, they get across.

I know which one I am, temperamentally-speaking—the latter. Whether the proximate cause is February, too many mid-life changes and reminders that the world is broken, or a mild chemical glitch, I don’t know. It could be worse, I’m sure, but there are days when all my best counsel, which I truly believe, doesn’t make a dent in my mood.  And what I like even less is the effect of my moods on others.

On Sunday, a chance conversation with my pastor got me reading about the poet Cowper. William Cowper was an 18th C. poet, a friend of John Newton’s who not only wrote the well-known Olney hymns, but he was also an early-Romantic inspiration to Wordsworth and Coleridge.  Yet he was orphaned, bullied, forbidden to marry his first love, and though he became a Christian, he was haunted his whole life by fear of damnation.  After his wife Mary Unwin died, he sank into a depression from which he never recovered.

Does this mean he didn’t believe the gospel?  Not from what I can tell. More likely he had clinical depression, brought on by his early traumas or his genetic makeup.  “Oh! with what a surprise of joy,” wrote Newton a few days after Cowper’s death, “would he find himself immediately before the throne, and in the presence of his Lord! All his sorrows left below, and earth exchanged for heaven.”

So when I heard Dr. Keller talking about the fearful Israelites, I laughed out loud.  Alone, in my kitchen.  Because if my witness depended on my faith, and on my mood, it would be in big trouble: I collapse under a lot less pressure than Cowper. But it doesn’t depend on my faith; it depends on the object of my faith, God in Jesus. Good heavens, what a relief! And yes, I knew that, but it was good to get a reminder.

Now, that said, the sun is out for the first time in days.  I’ve made my confession.  Now I’m going to the market, to do the next thing.

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11 thoughts on “February

  1. Hello from Zurich – you just popped up in my Google reader. I’m having a quiet day too – it’s laundry day – and a good time to browse around the internet. I have a Tim Keller book that I need to begin.

    This is an encouraging post – thanks for sharing.

    Send some of your sunshine north to us, okay? It’s been a VERY gray winter, more so than most.

    1. I was just out looking at your Alps, and they’re looking pretty good from the south. I’d been thinking that we’d gotten off pretty well with winter until this month. But lately it’s been mushy snow and damp cold.

      Hey, maybe we’ll have to meet in the middle sometime. We’re not that far apart and it’s all pretty in-between!

  2. I remember listening to that sermon a year or so ago at a time that my faith felt particularly shaky and being very encouraged and yes, relieved and thankful. Do you know Piper’s book, The Hidden Smile of God; The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd

    I find myself alone a lot more these days as well. Most days I love it, but sometimes I feel a little guilty that I have so much time at my disposal. I think it’s such a contrast to life with a big family that it’s taking me some time to feel comfortable in this new skin. It’s also still a transition time – I’m praying and sorting out what the Lord is setting before me in this new season … and finding comfort and guidance, too, in Elisabeth Eliot’s good word, do the next thing.

    It’s a rainy, dreary day here today, but there are daffodils and sunshine is coming tomorrow.

    1. No, I don’t know the Piper book, but I’ll have to look into it. Thanks! It does take a while, when you’ve always been busy with family, to find a worthwhile focus. I’m quite aware that it’s a privilege to even have the choice, so I want to use it well. I do like your quilts and home renovations!

      And I love how daffodils come up by the end of February in the southern US! When we lived in NYC, I would sometimes call home and ask, “So, that’s blooming now?” just to enjoy it vicariously.

  3. “Because if my witness depended on my faith, and on my mood, it would be in big trouble: I collapse under a lot less pressure than Cowper. But it doesn’t depend on my faith; it depends on the object of my faith, God in Jesus. Good heavens, what a relief! And yes, I knew that, but it was good to get a reminder.”

    I know it, too, but it was also good for *me* to get a reminder. Thanks, Laura. Really.

  4. Haven’t heard the Keller talk, but at the Red Sea I’d be the person paying attention to who was lagging, which luggage was stuck in the mud, and whether some kid had wandered off into the waves. Would’ve missed the miracle, perhaps, in the midst of tending to business.

    Just finished writing a piece (ghostwritten for publication, so I can’t share here) about how we underestimate what people in the Bible went through because we already know the end of the story. That’s in direct contrast to our own experience, where we get stuck halfway through chapter 5 because we can’t see that there’s more to our story than where we are at the moment. It really helps me to remember that my citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. That lengthens my perspective, and allows me to see things in better context.

    Sorry you’re in that grayness of February. I’ve long though that February is to months what age three is to parenting. Will add you to my prayers.

    Julai

    1. Good point about your reaction to the Red Sea, but I didn’t think of it because I’m so busy trying NOT to look at who might be wandering off into the waves.

      And you’re absolutely right that more and more when I read the Bible, I wonder at the ability of the people in it to let go–Hannah leaving Samuel at the temple, Hosea marrying a prostitute at God’s command, and what do you suppose ever happened to Peter’s wife and children? And the most amazing part of all is that God entrusts us with his Kingdom!

      I hear you on age three. Give me two any day. Thanks!

  5. I really don’t know how to put into words how encouraging this post is to me. So I’ll just say thank you. Thank you so much for the transparency you displayed in this. I really needed to read this tonight, especially after the internal wrestling match I’ve engaged in today.

    God bless,
    Lynn

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