Remember back in May when I was ruminating on getting stuck in the middle of a journey as described in Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? Recently a quote from the beginning of that chapter has been ringing in my ears and proving itself quite true:
“It’s like this when you live a story: The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you’re finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn’t seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you’ll paddle out for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn’t going to be over soon.
The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.”
This depiction of the middle of a story is so true. And it’s as apt a description of my current journey as any. There’s a canyon between knowing you are supposed to be doing something and knowing it will end well. For me, that canyon is filled with doubt and second thoughts and fear and frustration, among other things. Yesterday, during my run (that wasn’t a run so much as it was a “run”), I basically prayed one long prayer of “UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” It wasn’t one of my most eloquent moments.
Lucky for me, God speaks the language of UGH. He heard exactly what I was saying and answered in a completely humbling way.
I’ve known for awhile that Donald Miller is holding a conference based on A Million Miles in a Thousand Years in September (you can find more info about it here). I actually knew about it before I planned this trip, but figured that since it’s in Portland and I was in Rochester there was really no point in looking into it much. Then I planned this trip and completely forgot about the conference until I started getting frustrated with my current middle and also started reflecting on quotes from the book. Come to find out, the conference is in Portland on the same weekend I’m planning on being in Portland. That made attending much more realistic, until I considered the also realistic fact that I am currently living out of my van and making trail mix the foundation of my food pyramid.
So, I went for broke: I emailed the conference website. I explained my situation and offered to be the hardest working volunteer within a 1000 mile radius if I could work in exchange for attendance. It was one of the bolder things I’ve done.
It turns out that where there is great risk, there really is great reward. Yesterday I received an email saying that the conference was fully staffed, but that someone had just emailed to say that they could no longer attend but wanted to give their place away to someone who could not afford to go, so all I have to do is show up at Registration and I’ll be all set.
(Mouth still hanging ajar.)
(Eyes filling with tears.)
(Legs starting to leap up and down.)
There really are no adequate words for such an outrageous display of God’s love and faithfulness. This happened 12 hours ago and I’m still sitting here blurry eyed with emotion, wholly taken back by God’s provision for me along this journey, even before it started! Time after time after time after time after more time and even more time after that, God reassures, validates, and encourages me. He fulfills his promises in Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.” He doesn’t get frustrated with my frustration or annoyed by my lack of trust. He consistently and constantly provides. He reminds me that he’s got everything under control. He reaches out to me tangibly and intangibly. He loves me.
Things like this aren’t convenient coincidences. They aren’t random acts of kindness. They are the unconquerable, unstoppable, unyielding love of God in action.
Farm stories from yesterday are forthcoming. This one just couldn’t wait.