My intent eyes could have burned a hole in the thread-thin pages of my old Bible. I imagined those delicate pages erupting into flames, all because I had rubbed determination against perseverance over and over again, morning by morning. Surely the two forces combined could cause enough friction to generate the Spirit to move. I sat on the end of my couch, folded up like an envelope wrapped around my rock hard heart as I darted through the Psalms, then plowed through the Gospels. I was desperate to sense a stirring from God, eager to hear an utterance from Him. So I dug into the Word like a spade into clay, convinced that if I could just keep digging, God would speak.
Morning after morning turned into week after week, and I grew tired of jabbing into impenetrable scriptures only to come up with silence on my spade. Determination wilted into resignation and resolve into acceptance. Perhaps it was time to settle into God’s silence. For if He did not speak to me in His very Word, what word could He possibly have for me?
It was then that I picked up the book that had been calling to me for months. I had read poems by Wendell Berry, but Jayber Crow was the first novel of his that I would read. I was captivated shortly into the first chapter. The pages turned slowly, like one long poem. I was both ready for the events to unfold and hesitant because each turn brought me closer to the end. I felt my spirit winding down while widening out, making space to breathe. I opened the book, evening after evening, filled with anticipation, alive with wonder, expectant that I would be stirred. It was fresh and rich, and when I dug in deeply, I pulled up crop that nourished and fed. I was wrapped up into the story, caught up in its grief and joy. In the most curious way, I felt the pulse of Love in this work of fiction, and I knew that it was from God.
Friends and family have read Jayber Crow and responded differently. Some could not quite get into it, and others found that it just wasn’t their style of writing. Perhaps had I read it at a different time, I would have felt the same. What I do know is that God chased me down in that novel. He bent down low through the prose of Wendell Berry to touch the stone of my heart. I thought He was silent because I couldn’t hear Him in scripture, but all the while He was whispering to me through story.
And isn’t He always whispering? Isn’t His pulse of Love beating through all of it? Yes, in the scriptures, but sometimes just as loudly in the beauty of the art and in the sweat of the sport. I sense it in the grit and the glory of the hard work of mothering. He is no more confined to the pages of the Bible then He is to the walls of the church. So instead of demanding, “Speak to me, God,” I must instead choose to listen. I must choose to use that spade to grow a heart that hears and a spirit that senses how alive He is, in all of it.
And when that Word feels harder than clay, might I put down my spade for digging, and raise up my hands for receiving. For only then, like reading Wendell Berry’s great novel, will I find myself soaking up the holy scriptures with a heart full of wonder at the mystery, a soul captivated by the romance, and a spirit enfolded in the adventure of the Love in the one, true sacred story.
“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time.”
“And how long is that going to take?”
“I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps.”
“That could be a long time.”
“I will tell you a further mystery,” he said. “It may take longer.”