I stepped out of a research class with two hours to spare and nothing to do yet (the only time that will happen this semester!). I refused to return to the apartment, and the battery on my Mac was at half life.
So I crossed to a building I love but have only been inside once. So white and stately, a beautiful part of history, and thus an instant favorite.
I walked through the doors and felt the breath of air conditioners again; stood transported 150 years ago despite this. Turned right and walked across the red carpet to the marble-looking stairs. And walked up them. Just because.
Walked down them again but could not leave the place yet. So I exited out the back door. Lowered my huge purse and my laptop, sat on the steps on the far right side, pulled out A Grief Observed and finished it.
I just sat there, enjoying Lewis, with a sprawling green lawn and flowerbed in front of me, the sun warm but not hot behind the shade of the old trees surrounding. Here, on the outer edge of campus, it was hushed, and traffic was slow. No one seemed inclined to talk loudly or much at all.
I sat there and read, read the biography of the author in the back. In the leisurely, lazy, sun-spelled quiet, I marveled again how God provides for His children, even if they stray from the path He would choose for them, leading them back to Him through love and patience. Suffering with them long as they figure things out for themselves, sometimes through hard and self-inflicted experience.
Longsuffering. I have never given the word much thought. Have never used it. But.
God is longsuffering.
I have known something of this in life. Not through laws broken or transgressions committed but through sobbing doubts stifled into a pillow. Through misreading and cursing a blessing in life because it is not EXACTLY what I was hoping for, what I in my finite and still-barely-surfaced-from-teenagedom psyche can understand.
Fearing what booby traps the future can hold when I have been promised a rainbow. Praying for comfort, not believing that it will really come—not because God won't do it but because there just is no solution. And I don't deserve it anyway. I all but threw the gift back in His face. A spoiled child. Utterly ungrateful.
But still needing the Parent.
And fearful, partly because I feel the parent doesn't understand me and partly because I know He does and that spoiled children get punished for tantrums.
I have felt this way before. Have felt as Lewis feels in his book's vindictive vomiting. Wondering one of two things: 1) why I can't be more like God [and thus avoid the battle of wills] or 2) why God can't be more like me.
Feeling wrong—for the situation and for the thought. Praying again, unbelievingly but desperately. Because really, that is still the best—and only—way. And there is still a bit of child in me, not just teenager.
Then reading the scriptures or pondering in a quiet moment, like this morning, and being quietly...comforted.
Not chided. Not upbraided. Not struck for doubt in the face of a promise. Not punished for refusing to understand or to bend my own will or to quiet the anxieties I know are irrational but must be real because they are in my head.
Comforted. Promised anew. Quieted, mind and heart, in some way I can neither comprehend nor deny.
Humbled. Loved. Despite myself.
Then filled with some sublime mixture of remorse and gratitude. And love. Greater love. And prayers filled with these now rather than with doubt or impatience or even fear.
Lewis was never lost. Not as an atheist and not as a bitter widower. Some part of him always reached to heaven, though at times he may have staunchly denied it. And heaven always reached back, tugging gently, never breaking hold. And look at the man Lewis became.
It is something unexplainable to us humans on our mortal leashes, forever straining at the collar, choking ourselves in our attempt to escape the Master and Provider on the other end. We can conquer the world, we think, and all the easier free of His constraints and direction preferences.
Sometimes we break free. Congratulate ourselves. Then look around and realize what a dog-eat-dog existence it is. The leash was in fact the lifeline.
But will God take us back? And if so, with what amount of pain inflicted for our disobedience, our sideways glances, our eye rolling, our fits of temper? We know how we would treat us if we came skulking back after putting us through so much trouble.
It was driven home to me today, in the apartment, on those stairs, in this chair. Gently, with reassurance rather than accusation.
Heaven always reaches back.
Sometimes the tugging feels like a rude jerk. Sometimes it may scrape and bruise. That is our own fault. We chose the rocky way. But more often than not it simply pulls, with a gentleness that surprises us. With strength and purpose, love, and a patience born of understanding far greater than ours.
Into an embrace rather than a spanking. Only God knows the perfect balance. But He tips the scale on the side of mercy as much as He can. He is a God of love. And mercy. Longsuffering.
How grateful I am for it.