July 17, 2009
This whole time change thing is confusing me (and my body)! I had breakfast with Aunt Laura and Miranda and one of my Aunt Loises (my grandmother and grandfather and mother all have a sister named Lois) this morning. We met them at The Village Inn. Even though, I’d never met her, I recognized my Great Aunt Lois straight away. She and Grandma look very much alike. She recognized me too; she said I look like Momma. We laughed and talked about our lives, about faith and friendships and dogs (apparently this great love for dogs, and animals in general, is a genetic thing). “Such small hands!” Aunt Lois remarked as I lifted my fork to my mouth (cinnamon pancakes, very scrumptious, perhaps restaurants with “village” in the name are destined to be great). We shared pictures and memories; we took pictures and made memories. In the parking lot, we did not want to part, but the road was beckoning us to come. With warnings that there was a 90 mile stretch of desert with no gas station or restrooms, requests to fill up on water, hugs given out and “I love yous” spoken we were back in the Honda and I was driving through the desert.
Apparently police do not patrol in the desert like they do all of the other cities and towns in the west (I have seen more police men on this trip in varied vehicles from Jeeps to small cars than I believe I have seen in a lifetime), as all the cars flew with a fierce velocity through the sand and heat. 95 (or more) miles an hour I was going as they passed me (at least we had our seatbelts on?!).
It’s strange how the desert heat is different from any other heat. Usually heat leaves me void of all thought, only drained and thirsty. As I drove though, I thought about a lot of things, changes in my life; I thought about a new school, a new classroom, a new grade; I thought about someone I really love who are slowly becoming only someone I use to know; I thought about the Israelites as they wandered through their own vast wilderness and how most of us, at some point, at least once, travel through the wilderness of our own soul.
We got a phone call that a class friend of ours was in the hospital with blood clots all over her body. We prayed for her as we drove and as I prayed I kept thinking about Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (New King James), as if it were God speaking in my spirit.
I thought a lot about forgiveness as I drove. It seems simple enough. You think you have grasped something and then you realize you were only just beginning to understand it—a concept, a practice, a person. I thought about people I’ve forgiven, about people of whom I’ve requested (and who I hope have) forgiveness. I thought of the way forgiveness doesn’t guarantee your relationship with a person will end on the other side the same way, there will be healing, but not always the same closeness. It is a risk we take, entering into any relationship—business partnership, friendship, romance—this risk that things will feel like a new paradise, then, we will hurt someone or they will hurt us and that even though we forgive, things may not go back to that “paradise.” I suppose we have a memorable moment to mirror in Adam and Eve. In paradise, they made a mistake, they sinned, they did something wrong that required forgiveness. God, in His simultaneous mercy and justice, clothed them in animal skin—a sacrifice toward justice, mercy in the covering—and though they were forgiven and loved, their lives were not the easy, new paradise they had been before. Maybe we have all been walking in a desert since then, journeying toward the Promised Land, in search of Someone to take us there.
So, we rode quietly, each in our cloud of thought and prayer, until we saw a gas station emerge. I pulled over so we could switch driving responsibilities. Maybe it was an oasis, maybe it was slightly better than a mirage. A crazy gas station whose credit machines were finicky, where driving was like playing Tetris with the cars, where people crowded like an over-populated city because it was the first gas station for miles and miles on any side of the desert. The redeeming quality was that it was dog-friendly. Dogs at the pumps, dogs outside the stores (which were oddly independent of the actual gas pumps), dogs inside the stores.
We drove further into California, through the Joshua Tree National Park, up desert mountains—San Rose and Jacinta, through the San Bernardino forest, the temperature rising, 109 degrees, then112, and 118. A road sign warning to turn off our air conditioner so the car wouldn’t overheat. Song lyrics filled my mind, “..I feel my temperature rising, help me I’m flaming I must be a hundred and nine…” (Elvis), “ooooh, ooooh, ooooh, I’m on fire…” (Springsteen), “She wants to feel that fire…” (Bentley). We drive through this arid heat until, finally, we are there. Exhausted and excited, we unpack Ginger’s car—the things that will become her apartment—and carry them up the stairs.
I am a bundle of sore muscles. Tonight I ache, for Your rest and strength, for things I cannot explain, but You know them anyway.