I am still collecting and reflecting on my thoughts from the conference I attended last week. The first day of the Christlife conference was engaging, they won my heart with magnetic name badges (no holes in clothes) and wonderful bowls of fresh fruit. There were still moments of doubt when I asked myself why was I there, and the ever present thought that it was Justin’s birthday. I realize now that I did not comprehend how much energy it was going to take to juggle that reality.
By mid-morning I was convinced that I was where I was supposed to be, the people were incredibly friendly. I didn’t tell anyone that it was Justin’s birthday, through the inevitable questions about family and children, those at my table learned of Justin’s death. Doug and I are pretty good now about stating the plain fact in a simple sentence, you learn how to re-direct the conversation off the subject onto one more comfortable for everyone. I still had a deep sadness running through me, my baby’s birthday and I felt alone. So I asked God, we don’t speak much, but I did ask Him if He was around, could there be cake for dessert tonight, you know, birthday cake for Justin? By that afternoon, I could feel a migraine coming, my scalp was beginning to crawl, it feels like someone has brushed your hair the opposite direction, and the pain settles in behind one of your eyes. Sprinkled throughout my conference book are the times that I wrote down when I took Tylenol to keep it at bay. I wasn’t going to leave, I was determined to stay.
The end of the day one came, a full 12 hours since it began, it was near 8:30 PM. I walked out from the conference seating area to the reception/hospitality room and there on the tables was cake. Cake with little flowers. Cake cut into the perfect small bites. Chocolate layer cake with chocolate mousse filling and it was delicious. I wanted to share it with someone, but how do you articulate what this cake meant to me? I made my way to the car, I had reached the end of my reserves, sorrow is always greater in the evening and night. I quickly reviewed the directions for home, the exit for the beltway was a bit hard to find and it was very dark. I missed it. I figured that I could just loop around and pick up another exit for the beltway. I ended up in what I think was Hanover or Brooklyn. I couldn’t get the volume to increase on the GPS and I was becoming…frustrated, yeah, a lot. I pulled off the road and pulled up a NAV program on my phone, looked with disbelief at how it said to find the beltway, but took the turn and headed that way. Over. A. Bridge. Bridges, we don’t do bridges. Bridges have water under them. And it was so dark. I get over the bridge, pull over at a gas station with the bright lights of the city looming ahead of me and melt down. Complete melt down. I call Doug.
I snuffled out my story to Doug and all he asked was where was I. He didn’t remind me that I had an expensive GPS, and two navigational programs on my phone, he just asked where I was. So I told him I came over a horrible dark bridge. He said he was going to need a little more detail. Well, I thought it was the Hanover Street Bridge. Okay he says, be there shortly, sit tight. Knowing he was on his way, I was content to just sit and breathe and wait for my knight. I texted a friend and she lied and said that she gets lost too, I am pretty sure she was just saying that so I didn’t feel like the complete village idiot. Doug arrived and slid into the passenger seat of the van, amid piles of tissues, the GPS which I had dumped on floor, my conference bag, and more tissues. “You up to following me” he asked, yeah – I am good. And so we started for home, on and off ramps, merging with crazy traffic, and all I had to do was follow him. I had a voice in my head telling me that I should just stay home, miss the rest of the conference, it was a crazy idea to go anyway, but I didn’t want to miss the rest of the conference. There was no great theological treatise or discovery that made me want to go back, it was their hospitality, it was the lovely bowls of fruit and smiling faces, kindness is a powerful draw. And there had been cake. We pulled into the driveway, safe and sound. The puppy was dancing, so happy to see me. He knew that I had been crying, he did his best to cover my face with a thousand kisses to make me laugh. And I cried some more, I cried for a boy I couldn’t hold, I cried for another birthday without him.
I have spent many wakeful hours sorting out what happened last Wednesday night. I have the distinct sense that God was trying to show me what discipleship and walking with someone on their journey truly means. I never have to worry about Doug bringing up to me my getting lost or being mean to me about it, he will never make me feel stupid. He is the first one to put me right back in the car and tell me it will be okay. He didn’t ask how I got lost, or tell me if I would just simply follow directions none of this would happen – he just asked me where I was, and was I safe. And he came and met me where I was at and let me follow him home. There is another deeper truth emerging in the quiet. I believe God was showing me that no matter how lost I get, or how dark it is, He will always know where I am and can always find me. He will never tire of finding me in the dark, He won’t tell me it is my fault that I am lost, won’t remind me of mounds of doctrine, He will just quietly find me. It is what He does, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” All I have to do is follow Him, He knows the way through all the thorns and thickets. Just like I followed Doug home, I didn’t have to worry about the scary ramps that seem to hang in midair, or the zillion lanes to chose from, I just had to keep fixed on his vehicle.
There is no sin in being lost, no sin in darkness, yet there is a tendency to shove quick fixes at people, give loads of advice, tell them to pray more, but very little is taught about just being quiet with them, walking with them in dark places. We are not the consolers or healers, Christ is, all we have to do is be kind to each other and the Kingdom of Heaven is present. Sometimes the most grace filled words are “sit tight, I am on my way.”