Supplement to Chapter 4
"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:16-17).
I'm straddling the window sill, one leg hangs outside and one inside, and I'm pressing one vertebrae at a time into a half twist my yoga instructor would be proud of. Her voice is balanced and sounds like what flexibility looks like, "Now inhale and draw the breath over the back of the throat. Open your chest wide and increase the blood flow. Now, find one focal point." I found mine already. That's why I'm twisting halfway out the window I opened. "Now exhale and, if possible, deepen the stretch." I lean further clutching my iPhone. I put it in camera mode because this evening sun is lacing fluid yellow and entwining shadows that seem to twist right off the peach tree and branch across the words "believe, trust, hope" I painted last year on the top, middle, and bottom rungs on my Pisteuo gate.
I touch the camera screen to zoom in and these days I don't snap a photo, but what? My iPhone isn't crude like the old Pentax with the zoom lens growing ancient on my closet shelf, but sleek and silent with no dangling lenses, and filters, and camera bag heavier than my purse with a strap that straddles my chest till and I couldn't think of half twists out open windows.
I take the picture quickly because the sun moves fast, ready to call it a day at 5:45. She lays down and pulls a sheet over herself; veils her light till it's filtered gray and soft.
A dove, gray and soft too, is silhouette perched pregnant. It seems the air just folds as felt over feather and tucks beneath her full rounded belly. And the Lord just holds in His hands this rounded earth, full of life.
He's got the whole world in His hands. All things that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. Life and death, hades and heaven. Every dove, every sparrow, every dawn, dusk, sun, moon, star, and every hair that's on my head. "He's got you and me brother, in His hands; He's got you and me sister, in His hands; He's got the whole world in His hands."
It's child's song, but I still sing it to preserve child-like faith because doesn't He say that His kingdom is made up of those who believe with child-like faith? He does. And doesn't it seem that the fuller the head gets, the emptier the heart can get? It can happen to grown ups and disciples and I'm both. I'm wary, because I'm no less prone than the disciples to tighten my chest, constrict my heart, and clamp down saying the likes of what the disciples said to those bringing their infants to be touched by Jesus.
I look at the pregnant dove outside my kitchen window, "Lord, You never tire of welcoming infants into Your kingdom." I look at the limb she's resting on and, "Lord, Your arms never tire of holding me."
"I held you when your mother's belly rounded full. I held you when your friend perched in My arms as this dove perches, expectant." He's quiet for a moment as we look at the dove softer gray in dusk's sheet. "She brought you to Me like that, and I held you;" He whispers the memory.
My iPhone is still in camera mode, and I look through the lens. It probably won't come out, but still I take the picture. Gray on gray silhouette of pregnant dove. Symbol of peace resting on love. That's how I see the branch in the dusk; as the arm of love.
"The eternal God is your refuge," the verse comes from way back when I memorized it as a teen, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." I don't remember where that is in the Bible. I google for the reference and find more. "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds."
"Ahh! Oh, Lord! I think I've just watched You ride the heavens and the clouds like this;" I breathe it out just all "Ahh," because maybe the evening sun isn't pulling up the sheets but is tucking in beneath the the train of God's robe as He takes His evening ride across the heavens and removes shadows till the painted white "believe, trust, hope" on the isteuo gate, and the pregnant dove, are silhouette. This pisteuo gate. This pregnant dove. This soft gray and this absence of shadows. I have only four words. Faith, hope, love, and peace.
Just faith, hope, love; these three; but the greatest of these is love. Just peace because the resurrected Christ breathed, "Peace to you! Receive the Holy Spirit," and may I say, impregnated the disciples to make disciples and present them through baptism? The dove sits so full.
"Love covers shadows. Love covers sin and," He continues, "sin left uncovered casts shadows as long and deep as the valley of the shadow of death."
I make the dove out in the gray and I can't read the words on my pisteuo gate but I know them by heart, and "Love is pregnant with faith and hope" filters soft right out from my heart.
"And love is the grace that saves," He adds to my thought.
"And, Lord," my eyes are fixed on this pregnant dove as my thoughts form. "The mothers brought their infants to You. They brought their infants in child-like faith and You say that all mothers who continue in faith and love will be saved through childbearing." It's somewhere in Timothy. I look it up. It's 1 Timothy 2:15. I don't really know what it all means. Just that the pain of childbearing is the curse passed down from Eve, and the valley of the shadow of death isn't what I thought it was and that, somehow, this is all okay because what's outside my kitchen window is profoundly beautiful with life in this valley.
"I've never seen this before, Lord, but there's only one valley and one shadow." It's singular in His word. One. Valley of the shadow of death. And may I read this verse as, "Though I walk through this life, I will fear no evil, for You are with me?" Because maybe the valley is this life lived under the shadow of the curse of death. I'm not in this valley only when I feel the shadow dangerous. And I'm not out from it when I feel the shadow lift. The shadow was cast down when Adam and Eve were cast out.
I don't experience the curse passed onto men through Adam, but I have experienced the curse through Eve and it's part of pushing through life, and pushing life through.
I remember another verse; "The just shall live by faith."
The just. Live. By faith. "Lord, who are the just?" The likes of me is still grasping faith and I can't exactly say who the just are. But if they live by faith, then I want to know. "Who are they?"
I google the question plain and simple, "Who are the just in the Bible?" And, "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4).
"The just look for faith," He nods toward the pisteuo gate, "and always ask Me, 'Show me more?'"
The gate is hinged on truth and isn't the Truth the Anointed One? The just must have an anointing. Surely they are described in 1 John 2:20, "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know the truth." The just know the truth, and keep the gate open asking to be shown more.
"Lord?" I hope He understands my silent question.
He does understand. "Trust enough to open the gate. Don't draw back. Believe to the saving of our soul; it's your hope. Open the gate and obtain a good testimony." I know this language by heart. He's speaking Hebrews, chapter eleven to me.
"What's on the other side? What does the gate open to?" I hear the answer before I ask the question.
"Love." He looks me square in the eye, knowing that I know because He's seen me searching and sees where my Bible is most creased, and watches how the pages just fall open at 1 Corinthians 13, or Hebrews 11.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." The pages fall open to 1 Corinthians 13, and I see life silhouetted as never before, because God is taking His evening ride across the heavens, on the clouds. And though I walk through this valley shadowed by death, faith and hope impregnate love and the train of His robe folds over me this evening.
"Lord?" He's so quiet.
"I'm still here;" He smells like damp clouds.
Connecting with God's Heart:
- This is the valley where faith is walked out for the hope of eternal salvation.
- This is the valley where salvation is worked out with fear and trembling.
- This is the valley where I may fear no evil because the one who is to be feared most is the one walking with me.
- This is the valley held in the hands of God.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig