My husband and I took separate cars to our beautiful vacation spot in northern Michigan. He took our son and a friend, while I took two of our daughters.
Bad decision on my part. It was a car ride from hell.
My oldest daughter Grace has autism and really hates any change. The older she gets, the worse it is. She used to go on vacations with us, more or less happily. But in recent years she has become increasingly resistant to even the most perfect getaways. Sometimes we just let her stay home with a college student who is loosely supervising.
But this year our rental had four bedrooms, so we thought she should come. She could have her own personal space and a little sunshine in the afternoons.
But she was not pleased.
Weeks before our holiday she began announcing that she would NOT be joining us. We tried all our usual strategies, but they all ended somewhere like, “You’re coming, and that’s final.”
And as if it’s not hard enough to just get out the door for vacation with clothes, food, sunscreen, and beach chairs, Grace had disappeared the morning of our departure. She was hiding. It was her Last Stand.
She had already refused to pack (I packed for her when she wasn’t looking,) refused to bring her favorite things, and threatened to go on a hunger strike. Which is no vain threat from Grace. She’s done it before.
I found her in the unfinished part of our basement among storage boxes with the lights out. “How did you find me?” she asked.
We pulled out of the driveway an hour and a half behind my husband, and the tirade began. She literally complained, grumbled, moaned, and argued for the next six hours.
This always sets off a chain of events that goes something like this. Grace whines. I comfort her. She says no one cares about her. I assure her. She moans. I ignore. She moans loudly. I turn the music on. My youngest daughter tries to comfort her. She shouts “Shut up!” Then my youngest daughter tells her she’s mean. Then I tell everyone to “Be quiet!” more sternly than I like to admit.
So I’m in a car driving to a most lovely destination, with some sweet Christian music wafting through the speakers, and there’s not a moment of peace. It feels like such a disconnect.
And this just seems like the perfect metaphor of my Christian life.
Outside, somewhere sort of far away, a beautiful Christian life exists. But here in the car, there is a kind of turmoil and despair that is drowning out the promise of that sweet communion. I wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why isn’t this Christian life working? Where is God in this?
Lord, you need to help me, I pray silently. I can’t figure this out. Please help me to connect the dots here.
And strangely, I sort of think he’s going to. I have a kind of holy expectation.
We have to take a 30 mile detour to pick up my youngest daughter’s beach bag she left at a Bible camp along Lake Michigan. As the lady hands me the bag, she says, “Priscilla, do you remember me?”
She’s a friend I haven’t seen for a decade. We catch each other up on our families quickly, and she walks me back up the hill to my car.
Michael Card (singer, songwriter, and teacher) has been teaching at the Bible camp all week, she says. I’m so bummed that I missed it. He had a big influence on me in college. Went to every concert. Bought every album.
Right before I go, she tells me about the devotion he led with the teen counselors. She says, “Priscilla, he explained that the whole of the Christian life is lived between the Beginning in Genesis in the Garden, and the End in Revelation in Paradise. And in the middle – it’s Wilderness. That’s where we live now. It’s like the story of Job in the middle. Michael Card wanted the teens to understand that. They’re all going to face Wilderness, and they need to know that this is the Christian life in the middle. Wilderness.”
Funny she should say that.
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter 26 years ago, Michael Card produced an album with songs taken from the Pentateuch. One of the songs was called, “In the Wilderness.” I can still remember driving around town going from doctor appointment to doctor appointment knowing my unborn child had some kind of disability, just not sure what. And that tape was playing repeatedly in my car.
“In the wilderness, In the Wilderness,
He calls us Sons and daughters to the wilderness,
But he gives grace sufficient to survive any test,
And that’s the painful purpose of the wilderness….
In the wilderness we’re wondering
For a way to understand,
In the wilderness there’s not a way
For the Way’s become a Man.
And the Man’s become the Exodus,
The way to holy ground,
Wandering in the wilderness
Is the best way to be found.”
I smile at my friend and say, “Good word.” But she has no idea that it is THE Word. The Word I was praying for a half an hour ago in my car.
Wow, God. You’re fast when you want to be.
So I’m heading to a Perfect Destination, but there is a lot of Wilderness here in my little car. And it is as if God is saying to me, Priscilla, you’re mine. And this IS the Christian life. Right here. Now. In the middle. In the Wilderness. And I’ve got you.