This journey is hard. The life that we live between the already and the not yet. Between the fallen and perfected. Like the windy roads that lead me to my house atop Lilac Hill, the roads of life are full of twists and turns. A series of hairpin turns that leave my knuckles white as they grip the steering wheel, careful not to let go.
Driving down the hill exhausts me. Leaving me dizzy and desperate for a stretch of straightness. What joy and relief there is in those moments that I can relax my hands, take my foot off the brake and see to the horizon. My heart is always searching for the straight, savoring every stretch, every smooth ride that I can, wishing it would never end.
And in my savoring of the straight I forget for just a moment about the next turn. I deny the impending reality that I cannot avoid it. I want to pull over and enjoy the view. I want to turn around and head back but I know that what lies behind is just as crooked. I want to deny reality and the harshness of the road ahead.
I try to speed through the turns hoping to pass by them unscathed only to find that if I do not slow down I run the risk of flying off the road all together. I will only crash and burn. Sometimes I wonder which is the one that will end it all. So many of them seem to come at a neck breaking speed.
I lean and I brake and I panic and I hold my breath. Reality grabs hold of the back of my neck, turns my head straight and shouts, “LOOK!” But with eyes shut tight I can continue to deny the pain of life. With eyes shut tight I won’t have to see what is in the road up ahead. Maybe in my own strength I can do this, maybe I can get there safely. If I try hard enough perhaps I can straighten the crooked. I convince myself that I will move away from these back roads of heartache and pain. Find a less crooked road to travel. Maybe some day.
And then I find grace, a grace that gives me courage to open my eyes. A grace that takes the wheel and assures me that one day I will live where there are no more crooked roads to travel. Where the road is smooth and straight and there is nothing but an easy drive ahead. This grace allows me to face reality. It gives me hope. It is a grace that breaks through the notion that humanness is something to hide. That my human best is all I have.
Fredrick Buechner writes, “The human best tends to be at odds with the holy best. To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do- to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at it’s harshest and worst- is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is the more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.”
And so I let go. I take my grip from the wheel, trusting that all is grace. All is not up to me and the gritting of my teeth. Reality is merely the vehicle of which I relinquish my hold. It’s not up to me to get through this crooked life. It’s not for me to straighten the road.
My journey was birthed from grace, survives in grace, and expires in grace. It was finished before I ever started.