Lately, instead of blogging about being “Mom,” I got to be “Mom.” Our son-in-law’s brother, Andrew, came to stay with us for nine days. Since I was busy enjoying his visit instead of writing, I think it only fair that I let him be the guest blogger this week. Here are his thoughts, inspired by his flight from Phoenix to Denver:
I’d missed the metaphor the first half-dozen times I’d flown over Colorado. Somehow it had been staring me in the face for years, but it didn’t click until Thursday afternoon. Waking from a nap as we approached Denver International Airport, I glanced out the window of the plane just in time to see the wings tear free of the thick cloud cover obscuring the ground beneath me. From above the earth looked like a patchwork quilt sewn in agriculture, geometric and surgically precise. To the East, as far as I could see, there were squares, rectangles and “Utahs,” divided neatly from one another by rigid boundaries marking one territory’s end and the beginning of the next. From the ground one would never realize that the state had been so neatly segregated, but from my perspective it was equally difficult to perceive it simply as a whole.
It was then that I grasped the message hidden in the earth below: this was life laid out before me. It comes at us in “blocks,” or seasons, each of which is neatly divided from those before and after it. We spend our earliest days floundering helplessly, dependent entirely upon our parents, then merge into childhood with an awkward grace, seeking identity and autonomy. As we age we leave behind the ignorant chaos of our youth, ultimately finding ourselves in God, the work that we do and the people whom we love. Though unique in the details of our lives and personalities, each human being is generally cut of the same genetic cloth, a part of the greater fabric of our species. We are that soil-borne quilt beneath the airplane.
Years spent struggling to discover ourselves, or periods of loss and grief, are represented by desolate plots of ground below. Lifeless and ugly, these shapes stretch for miles in any direction, devoid of trees or houses, razed to the ground and left undeveloped. Yet one day these places will be irrigated and seeded, or filled with homes and stores and schools. Children will dance in playgrounds where once there was naught but dirt. Such are our lives— our hardest years are often the ones which produce the most fruit, challenging us to persevere and hunt down meaning in tragedy. This too shall pass, however, and the wasteland ends abruptly where it meets the next field—one erupting with life and expectation.
The transition from death unto life is little more than a line drawn in the sand, separating acres of sahara from lush overgrowth. Plowed earth laid in arithmetic rows, tilled and seeded, flourishes below. Years of toil invested in the dirt have produced beautiful oases just weeks from harvest. Here, seeds fell into good soil before taking root and dying. But God adores paradoxes, and from this death His design has wrought life abundantly—Eden’s shadow creeps along the horizon. Man-made rivers bless the land with water, sustaining the crops which in time will feed our people. Likewise, those who love and invest the most in us labor in our hearts, exposing Living Water without which we could never bloom. Often, we can only appreciate the “highs” and harvests when reflecting upon the trials we’ve suffered on the way to where we stand today. Had we never lost ourselves in the desert we might never have found God in paradise. And were we to miss God where He waited for us, beckoning us, wandering in the wild would offer little meaning, and even less hope.
As the landscape faded out of view and we kissed the runway, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the maze of wasteland that I’ve crawled through, and for the season of life that I’ve subsequently entered into. It felt like coming home, and in a sense it was, because I love this state and the people who have brought me here. The air is cleaner, the skies brighter and the land itself more vibrant and inviting than Arizona. Pondering this, I can’t help but realize that the latter is the desert where I’ve spent the worst of my life, and the former a gorgeous oasis steeped in hope and love. Perhaps one day I can settle down here and discover something of a new beginning, but for now I’m content just to get the message and consider the boundaries, wherever they may lie. Though as long as I live I am bound to this human mosaic, I take comfort in knowing that God orders my steps. In the midst of pain I am always drawing nearer to freedom—to perfection in Christ and the tranquility of my next verdant plateau. And upon reaching those heights, I will pause to reflect on all that I have overcome—and immediately lose my breath.