Thoughts of a child coming have again brought forward the challenges of looking to God day to day for provision. Those challenges were always present when I was out on the road, and I was confronted with them again when we got married and attempted to begin life together here on the farm. Five years later, we've seen how God has provided for us. Not exactly what I expected but certainly no complaints. Many things have been given that seem overwhelmingly generous on God's part, much more than what was needed. But even after getting used to that, it again seems a bit daunting to wonder how all the needs of a child can be met.
I found some encouraging words in a letter I wrote almost eight years ago. Responding to some hard questions of a friend, I answered:
I agree that God loves our children even more than we do and is ultimately concerned with their care and safety. So why would I not trust him to provide for them just as well (or better) than he has provided for me? Is he not able? Has he not promised to do so? Do I really need to take things back into my own hands if I get married and have children (because the risk is just too great)?
We're just beginning baby preparations, but already I see signs of God's provision. Baby clothes offered by a friend. Another friend to teach Heather about making diapers. A good playpen found next door after our neighbors moved away. And a nice crib in storage in our apartment, which I found I could bring up to safety code with a replacement part from the manufacturer. More importantly, not far away there is a hospital with a birthing center staffed with nurse midwives, much better for Heather than the usual obstetric units. And today we found out we qualify for medical coverage for Heather and the baby, which means the birth will not cost us anything. Because of the talk of mandatory medical insurance over two years ago, I'd thought about the possibility of accepting government coverage, and had to admit that God could provide through such services also sometimes. It still makes me a little nervous, but our experience so far has been good. I feel like I had been gradually prepared to receive what was being offered to us now. That gift, however, raises the need for transportation to interviews and the many check-ups. But it looks like we can ride along on the bakery's weekly deliveries, which go right near the birthing center.
There are still many, many needs ahead of course. But I am reminded that those needs also provide the occasions for faith, with greater challenges calling for greater faith. And greater joy when God shows himself in those moments.
Spring has come early, and suddenly. A week of uncommon warmth and now everything is green and flowering. The bees are feasting among the peach and cherry blossoms. Spring beauties everywhere in the grass.
Life is emerging from all its winter hiding places.
A recent poem by Heather:
I give you my body
The sweat of my brow
The strength of my shoulders
Exhausted, poured out
Into the furrows
Into the land
Into this fruit
That I place in your hand.
I give you my body
The strength in my veins
The life in my bosom
Offered and drained
To nourish and warm you
To help you grow strong
My child, take joy now
Drink deep and long.
I give you my body
I give you my word
In bread I am broken
In wine I am poured
I love you as you love
The ones whom you feed
I give you my body
Take it and eat.
The day before yesterday I climbed up to close some spaces under the eaves where bids had gotten into the building and built nests last year. Then yesterday morning I noticed a couple sparrows up there. It seemed unlikely that they had laid eggs this early, but they were trying really hard to get in where I had closed a hole. Then, for a moment, I thought I heard some tiny little peeps.
I quickly climbed back up and opened that hole. I was feeling especially compassionate to their efforts, I suppose, because we recently found out that Heather is pregnant.
It reminded me of these lines from one of Heather's favorite Psalms:
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at thy altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness...
Recently I noticed a well known political commentator talking about the importance of the presidential primary process. She expressed confidence that the process would sort out who was be the best candidate for her party. That reminded me of a conversation I'd once had about communal decision-making.
A contentious issue had become very heated, and I'd been pleading for an upcoming meeting to be cancelled, to avoid bringing the issue to a crisis point. I thought it would certainly damage relationships and lead to a break in the community. But my friend insisted that bringing it before the group and taking the usual consensus decision-making steps would lead to some good result (though what that might be wasn't clear at the time). "I believe in the process," he said.
The outcome of that particular process didn't impress me, however. From what I could see, it resulted in even more damage that I expected. And in my years in community life I've seen quite a few other processes end in failure (or worse) as well. It has certainly left me with no great faith in "the process."
What are our processes, after all? Merely human organizational models and techniques. Political procedures, designed based on our experience getting groups of people to cooperate. Ways of gathering and maintaining the support of the majority. Certainly there is acquired wisdom to be seen in processes that have lasted for years. But ultimately our processes are still the products of human beings, carried out by human beings, and only as trustworthy as human beings.
I don't believe in the process. I don't believe in the political wisdom of human beings, but in the wisdom of God ("foolishness to the Greeks..."). If I wanted to gain the support of the majority, I should certainly follow their processes. But if I want the support of God, those processes are worthless. I'd rather ignore those processes consistently, to demonstrate that I look to God for my help rather than men.
That's not to reject people, since God uses everyone for his purposes, and I know much of my help will come through them. But I do reject their faith in the process.
So far, my early experiments in side-stepping the process have been encouraging, and liberating. (And hopefully maybe a little inspiring.)
Starting a family encourages "the long view," I think. Looking further down the road, years ahead instead of days ahead. Planning and acting with long term goals in mind.
That becomes more important also in our spiritual lives, I'm finding. God's work with us and others is often very long term, since our turning and growth is usually very gradual. So to understand what God is doing we also need to be able to see further down the road, see God's long term goals. If we don't adjust to this way of seeing then I think we'll experience frustration after frustration. I've certainly experienced my share of that.
God's promises help with this. Also the prophetic aspects of faith. To give us some assurance that we will eventually reach God's long term goals, that we'll eventually get there, no matter how our situation looks at the moment. That can help us enter and move through some pretty dark places. Could Jesus have turned towards Jerusalem that final time without the prophetic assurance of what the outcome would be? Many of God's promises are very long term, as in end times long term. We can always cling to those. But I think a deepening intimacy with God can also offer us some long views that aren't quite so long, to give hope and direction for the more immediate future. I've found that to be an increasingly important part of my faith life.
Heather and I enjoyed a week away, in Florida with my parents. Some good surprises that I'll talk more about later. Now it's nice to be back home, but I'm also hit with the tangle of problems and suffering relationships that exist here. That's turned my eyes to the long view as well. To what will be, not because I want it or can make it happen, but because God is giving it.