Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
y bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hopes true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh

A hiker, walking for pleasure, likes to choose between several alluring trails.
The pilgrim desires only the road that leads home.

~Frank W. Boreham

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning, Growing, Stretching

It took me an entire year to recover from turning 50. It wasn't so much the fact that the number marked a half a century. That was well and good. It was the shock of finding that I hadn't achieved the wisdom that many years should have produced. That was my thinking.

Now, many years after that milestone I am humbled once again. It's the spiritual and life lessons thought already learned that catch one off guard, that baffle, isn't it?

Beginning to love as He love me began in my early years. Loving, embracing, taking others into my heart has always come easily.

Learning to follow the Leader, began, albeit reluctantly, at age 30 something.

The Sovereignty of God? - that issue was settled once and for all at age 40 through an either/or experience. He was either who He claimed to be and acknowledge that or like Job's wife suggested, curse Him and die.

The biggest life lesson, the one deliberately claimed, began in the first year of our ministry (age 33). This is the one point to which I am repeatedly returned. This issue was claimed in sincerity of heart, but time has proved in blissful ignorance as well.

"...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3.10)

The fellowship of His sufferings. Oh my. Whatever was I thinking?

Time and life have proved I am no Paul. Nevertheless, this prayer continues to be my heart's desire. Yet learning about suffering in its many colors and forms seems an endless quest. One bit comes, seemingly and finally learned only to be presented with more and greater. Each time the former is left in the dust, or perhaps ashes of further experiences.

These sufferings do not take the form of imprisonment or floggings, though they sometimes feel like that. I'm speaking here of situations and experiences not of my own making and completely out of my hands to resolve, boat rocking, heart stopping experiences. These are the stresses, the losses, the griefs that come, these that are part of every life yet always seem to take us by surprise.

Of course, in the midst of all there is much joy and delight.

This all brings us to the present day. This time of life that is golden is so many ways. My family nearby, or at least quite near, the increase in our family, these are blessings and joys indeed. The increase has given us the amazing bit of history allowing us to claim four living generations. That is most humbling.

When the newest members were added so recently - those two beautiful little girl-persons- it was asked of me "how can you contain the joy of it all?" Good question.

I was surprised that these little lasses, along with the older Lad have each staked a claim on heart territory.

This territorial claiming has even caused a stretching, if you will, that is physical in sensation. This must be what scripture calls the 'enlarged heart'. In checking out the phrase in the Hebrew, it included the aspect of being opened wide by joy. Its that. Yes! That's the feeling.

But along with this amazing and great joy, there is the grey cloud of suffering over head. One little lass has a physical heart that is not, in human terms, normal. This causes great pain and suffering (not to mention concern) to those who hold her dear, who love her parents, and their parents, all the way back to the Grand-Nan who writes this.

Of course, there is truly the assurance that this child who 'was formed in secret' was so formed by the loving and all-wise hands of her creator God. And this God creates all good for His purpose. So this child who is now ours is perfect in His sight, according to His plan and purpose for her, for us all.

In the midst of many tears, there was the discovery of a new truth about hearts and suffering, growing and stretching. This was found in the writings of another and it can only be assumed that the writer is acquainted with grief himself. He writes:

"The heart is stretched through suffering, and enlarged.
But O the agony of this enlarging of the heart,
that one may be prepared to enter into the anguish of others!
Yet the way of holy obedience leads out from the heart of God
and extends through the Valley of the Shadow."

So then, the heart enlarged by suffering, like the heart enlarged by love, also is opened wide by joy.

Because we follow a suffering Savior, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, we should not be surprised that suffering and joy are part of the same package or of our lives.

We should not fear enlarged hearts by whatever means they come.

We still feel the pain, excruciatingly.

There are still tears, floods.

But we accept all that has been given as from the Father's hand.

And we go on our way rejoicing.


  1. Enlarging indeed. '...suffering in its many colors...' 1 Peter 1.6- ' have been distressed by manifold trials...' 1 Peter 4.10
    '...the manifold grace of God...' Manifold means, various, or varigated. Like beautiful varigated yarn, there is the grace to match the trial. For which I am grateful.

  2. Perfect! Thanks for the manifold addition to the tale:)