Last night, yellow therapy dog sniffed evening essences, nose to the ground, while I pointed my nose upward as if to breathe the essence of the stars themselves just wafting light from the deep mug of straight up black sky. I sipped the night sky like this. Black, with stars sprinkled as sugar and stirred.
"It's so deep," I marveled upward. My chest expanded with a heart brimful of star light and, "Pull me up into Your heights, God," spilled out. "Take me into Your depths where it's too dark to see me and dark enough to see only the lit path to You;" because surely the stars are arranged beyond the constellations we've figured out. Surely the stars are ordered as the solar lights I have lining the path to my front door; only His solar lights would line the path to His front door.
My eye caught the blink of a firefly and I watched it zig from pecan branches spilling over the pool and zag into the open garage and, "There! Your solar lights look all ziggy-zag to me, but they must lead to the inside of where You're parked!"
An owl hooted wide-eyed somewhere nearby and I'm certain I heard a duck in the distance quacking nasal like they do. Must have been a coyote sticking its nose into a nest.
And somehow in the dark there's a lit path, and somehow there's something organized in zig-zag, and something ordained about night owls and nesting ducks who quack through their noses when waken by a coyote smelling duckling for dinner.
So, my night owl daughter balances the mug. Sleeping in the bed next to hers is my sand-runner who sprints like an ostrich till she falls on her neck just pillowed; and in the crate is my yellow therapy dog stretched out but eyeing me hopeful for a morning walk. She'll keep her nose to the ground, zig and zag and sprint to leash end through the mud. I know she will.
Coffee in Bed
She does. I don't. We walk and I wonder why she must muck through mud, drink mud puddles and chase bunnies for breakfast. "I'll have to wash her feet," I sigh to the One walking with me; "and she doesn't like getting her feet washed."
"Neither did Peter," says He.
How does He do this? How does He go from muddy dog feet to the holy act of washing the disciples' feet without blinking? "Hmm. Well," I say as we tend to say when we don't know what to say, "I guess it's humbling to have our feet washed. I guess it means we've been mucking through mud."
"But only your feet," He assures. "The rest of you is clean."
I remember that conversation. Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet, but Jesus told him, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me" (John 13:8). Peter then asked for a complete washing and learned from Jesus that the only washing he needed was a foot washing.
We continue walking. The song, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" runs through my head.
It's true. I'm washed by the blood of Jesus. But I also walk through this world. I carry mugs of morning coffee upstairs to my night owl. I sip the stars from a mugful of night sky from the back patio. I loose track of a sand runner, and I leash a yellow mud mucker, and sometimes I eat anxiety for dinner and worry for breakfast and track through wastelands to find an ostrich who has disappeared.
I need my feet washed because, yeah, I track through sand and mud and worry and sometimes I put my nose where it doesn't belong and end up quacking nasal. I need my tough and tender feet washed; and I need to learn how to wash others' feet with a tough and tender love like Jesus' love.
Tough love. I'm not convinced that what we've been told about tough love is what Jesus would say about it. Isn't the tough in love the, "I will lay down my life for you, but only when you want me to"? And maybe the tough is a combination of the heart going out to the one loved, but not extending beyond the will of Love Himself.
I think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means to spend wastefully and recklessly, and that's what the son did. He was old enough to go his way; old enough to know better, old enough to figure out possible consequences, but chose to think he was different and that these things wouldn't happen to him. He was like we've all been.
I think about his father. Somehow he knew the wise difference between watching for his son and searching for him. He had the wisdom to retain daily life, though his heart may have dropped out, and to restrain himself from dropping out of his life to search for a son who didn't want to be found just yet. Was it tough love to give his son the inheritance he asked for, watch him walk away to certain destruction, and then turn back to the house and work the fields as one whose life is laid down because his heart is wrapped somewhere around his ankles and he stumbles over it every step?
I think about Jesus and His disciples, and Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus who was meant to die to be brought to life so that something holy would be accomplished in the followers of Christ up to this very day by a divine will that extends beyond any reach our hearts can make.
Was it tough love for the father to believe, trust and hope that one day he would say, "This is my son who was dead and is alive again"? And for the sisters to say the same about their brother? It was tough; and it was love, and they did say those words.
I think of my life word, pisteuo. The Greek verb I discovered and wrote a book about. Pisteuo-to believe, to trust, and to always hope in Love Himself.
So I'm a guardian of a prodigal and, yeah, there's still some prodigal in me. I still spend too much on misguided love and I still pisteuo too little in Love Himself. But not as I did before I suffered.
Seems there's a suffering that exceeds what comes at us. It's the internal suffering experienced when we choose to be manipulated by the lusts of others. The Bible says it, and so do those who have suffered like this, and then discovered the will of God.
"He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his life in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1-2). I'd like to understand this more than I do now.
I'm sipping on it.
"You suffered in the flesh for me." I speak the part of His word that I understand, and wait for Him to take the cue.
He does. "Therefore," He begins, "arm yourself also with the same mind."
I wonder, Does He mean to suffer in the flesh for others? It doesn't make sense to me, because the next thing He says about this is, "Don't live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men."
I have to ask Him. "What do You mean?"
The answer is right in front of me. "Live the rest of your time in the flesh for the will of God."
I'm a repentant prodigal, and a guardian of a prodigal who still has wanderlust, and I wonder if this verse is where tough and love come together.
Tough when a loved one is a prodigal.
Tough to love as the father of the prodigal son loved; and as the Father loves His prodigal sons and daughters.
Tough to restrain giving the prodigals more of ourselves than we should, but if we're short on pisteuo then we'll give our souls and spend our livelihoods searching for, finding, and dragging our prodigals home.
This is misguided love. It's a love that believes, trusts, and hopes in our persuasive, might I dare say manipulative, efforts. I know about this misguided love because I've loved so.
Misguided love doesn't help the prodigal. It just makes a prodigal out of the wife of a prodigal, and who hasn't seen it make a prodigal out of the mother of a prodigal daughter, or the father of a prodigal son?
Misguided love. It's the kind that lacks faith and hope in the Son who saves, and it will accuse Him of being prodigal. I can hear Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters, "Lord, if You had been here, our brother wouldn't have died." I read between the lines, "If You had dropped everything when we sent word rather than acting the prodigal;" and misguided love accuses ugly and out of line.
It's hard for me to draw the line at serving another, especially a loved one, in time of need and crossing not at all that line.
It's hard to simply serve; but cross the line and become the prodigal who misunderstands and misuses the legacy of the Father's love. This is a suffering in the flesh that exceeds a suffering that comes at the flesh. But live for the will of God and, yeah, cease from sin. Tough love comes together here. The father of the prodigal son must have known this because he didn't become prodigal himself in striving effort to bring his prodigal home.
It's a mystery, but maybe only a prodigal gone bankrupt, a prodigal starving for the Father's mercy, a prodigal returning repentant, and a prodigal learning pisteuo in the return can understand something of the mercy of Love Himself. Sometimes it's a long journey back and maybe it's long enough to get pretty good at the pisteuo step. It goes something like, "I'm trusting." Step. "I'm believing." Step. "I'm hoping." Step; and nothing but, "Have mercy on me" speech just daring hope till the prodigal is embraced by Love and the Father says, "I only need to wash your feet. The rest of you is clean."
I wash muddy paws on the patio till they're happy yellow again. While washing, I worship the One who washed the disciples' feet; and the wash cloths are still in the water bowls because His legacy lives on.
He's left the legacy of serving the needs of another without becoming controlled by those needs.
I'm learning how to wash another's feet without becoming the towel used as a bathmat. I'm learning the difference between a wash cloth and a towel. One washes and the other absorbs.
I stand under stars that burned out long before I was born and I worship in the light they shone because their legacy extends far and long.
I stand under the upper, outer layer of lit up atmosphere that covers this dark side of earth and, "Oh. Oh!" I exclaim. "The Light of the world shone bright as the morning star and the Morning Star hasn't burned out, but lives!"
Starlit worship service happens at patio.
The patio is starlit once again tonight. I stand looking up. "It's just so deep," I marvel at what's beyond as far as I can see. It's the upper, outer layer that somehow validates believing, trusting, and hoping.
"It's the epi part of pisteuo." The author in me recalls that epi is the Greek preposition meaning "upper layer, outer layer."
"Ha!" God barks out laughter. "Epi-pisteuo!"
Epi-pisteuo. Our new word. It means, "The upper, outer layer of faith and hope."
Faith on faith; hope on hope. Epi-pisteuo.
I breathe the essence of star light, and the poet in me remembers that God rides the wind and that the clouds are the footprints He leaves.
"You ride the highest solar winds that are a mystery to men," I worship upward. "You walk starlit pathways through galaxies that look like cloud mass to us and, Oh! Only starlight can wash the feet of a star-treader."
I open my heart to the Light of the World; to the bright and morning star who lives, to love that is greater than mine, to love that will never be filled up full because it's uncontained.
I lift up my heart to Love Himself.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig