I was dreaming of the beach, dreaming of grad school somewhere I could wear sundresses in December and get a tan. I’d just gotten back from San Antonio, and I was in love with the sun. My brother was in the next room with a crooked, skinned nose; I was ignoring the fragility of the emotions in my house. I was trying not to see the crooked lines of worry etched into faces. I was trying not to see the weight of what I’d missed. I didn’t want to own the parts of this that belonged to me, the worry that fell back on my shoulders. I didn’t want to deal with the worry, or the apologies, or the unnatural cold in Oklahoma that week.
It was a hesitant time, those weeks I slid back into my old life. The minutes had such a tendency to blur like it was some kind of dream. They dragged and raced and jumped around until I would come to laying on Lauren’s brown couch and grasping at what structure I’d built for myself. It was always the same.
I was waiting, there in my old room with the purple walls. I was waiting and knowing I shouldn’t be there. Knowing that I was part of this. Knowing this was my chance to be present. That this was my chance to fill the void that I tended to leave on the end of every stilted phone call. But there I was in my room alone, planning for California.
It nagged at the edge of my mind for a moment. The thought of roots, and being planted, and the fact that mine were here, however withered. I flashed back to a moment on my phone in the dark thinking I had lost something that I’d never let myself need. And here we were, back together, and I was hiding in my room. Because I couldn’t get back. Because this wasn’t my world anymore, and I couldn’t see a way back through the wall I’d built with the guilt and the frustration and the pride that I didn’t call pride at the time.
I’d been comforting myself with songs and verses for leaving and forsaking, and with a canned promise that isn’t in the Bible. “you can’t go home again”. I was so much the martyr, save for my eyes which had never left the yellow lines along the side of I35 and the way back to Waco. You’d almost have believed me.
But I was hiding when His voice came to me. I’ve only heard it once. One time there was the sudden understanding in my heart that the world hung on a single sentence, and it wasn’t an emotional tug. It was a certainty. Once, in the whole spread of everything, have I ever been certain that it was His voice, out of all the others in my mind.
“I am able to make a door in the air”
“Please don’t” instantaneously, because it made more sense than I wanted it to.
You don’t hide long, and I opened Prince Caspian and read the chapter quickly through two times, looking for a loophole.
”I am able to make a door in the air”
That probably doesn’t sound like bad news to you, unless you’re a hard core Narnia buff. But the door in the air…
…It’s high time that I explained Prince Caspian to you. If you want to understand me, read that book. It’s the book that makes me cry. If there was only one, it’s this one.
Yes, they go back into Narnia. But it’s like knock off Narnia. Everything they loved is just wrong, and they don’t fit anymore. No one believes in them, and everything changed, and they always wanted to come back. When they do and it sucks. But then Lucy is looking at stars she knows and wandering around talking to trees, and you think okay! Things are looking up! This will fix everything and be lovely. And she tries to get the trees to wake up but…she can’t do it. She’s different and they’re different and it’s just a little girl alone with some trees. (this is the part where I lose it entirely.)
A little girl in the place she loves the best; she is realizing she can’t stay here, and it can’t be like it was, and everything ends, and the magic has disappeared. She’s thinking that maybe the magic was never real, or at any rate it will never be real again. Wondering if it’s her fault for believing too easily, or if it’s her fault for doubting too quickly. Sitting alone in the trees and belonging nowhere, and all her hope is in a million pieces.
I always wonder if she regretted leaving at that moment. If she regretted chasing that stupid stag through the wardrobe.
Things start to come back together. Narnia still isn’t the way it was, but it’s not hostile anymore. They fight for it, and they win.
And then they leave. Just when everything is getting better, they go home. And nothing has changed except Edmund doesn’t even have his birthday present anymore. Seriously. CS Lewis, a happy ending would have been swell. But no. Aslan makes this door in the air, and they walk through it and go right back where they started.
It’s like nothing changed. Sitting on a train like nothing was ever different or magical. Peter and Susan can’t go back, and even though Edmund and Lucy can they’ve just learned in a heartbreaking way that it can’t be the same. Things can’t happen the same way twice.
“I am able to make a door in the air.”
Sometimes God doesn’t use a wardrobe or rings or a horn or an unlocked gate in a fence or a painting of a boat. No, sometimes he rips open the fabric of the world and you walk blindly through the gaping hole.
“I am able to make a door in the air”…
…My response was less than enthusiastic.
“If that’s your plan, I’ll go. But I can’t help but resent it. I can’t help but cry. Why would you do this if you love me?”
And then God and I did not speak for months. There was no door. I slouched toward it, anyway, unsure of where you turn when your heart knows where God is taking you and every other piece of you is just wandering out in the fog.
We became reacquainted, of course, the first Sunday I was back in Waco. And I realized it couldn’t always be like this, making this place into the throne of God like He wasn’t near when I wasn’t here. And so began the process of God slowly and inexorably creating this Way, and I’d been so sure there could not be one.
I’d like to say I was mature about it.
I’d like to say I stopped turning hopelessly at the knobs of every other door.
But lying isn’t very classy.
Here is what I missed in the din and clamor, in the lightening and the earthquake that it took for me to heed the whisper: You were the door.
All of you. The words I carry with me, and the advice and the stories and the laughter. That was the door. God used a year of my life to shape me in every way possible, and it was a thousand tiny lights on a landing strip helping me know that the ground was there, coming up under my feet. The past 365.25 days have been so drenched in fire and magic and the presence of God that it knocks me back down to my knees.
A year later, on Rebecca’s floor, trying to explain how I ended up here, and how it was different than I expected. Because she prays for things and makes lists, and I pray for things to go away and make escape plans.
“I am able to make a door in the air”
It’s like MLKJ said, according to Rebs anyway:
“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a great benign Power in the universe whose name is God, and he is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. This is our hope for becoming better men. This is our mandate for seeking to make a better world.”
And He is the Way when there is just not one. And you were His body, and you were the Way once before, but even in this place where you aren’t He is the Way. And if you ask me why I’m writing this, today, I’d have to tell you that it’s because it’s been one year, to the day, since I asked God to do what He needed to get me where He wanted. It was a simple prayer with my feet in the Pacific Ocean and the dreams of living there falling into the water, rock by rock, as I threw them as far as I could.
When I think about heaven, I can see us somewhere on the beach in California, all of us, letting the waves break over our toes and laughing while the sun sets, throwing rocks in the ocean. And I know it’s bigger and wilder and more perfect than that could ever be, but tonight, when I can see the state capitol from my window, it’s enough that we had this time together and it changed us. And we all end up back at the train station and it looks the same, but I promise you—it’s different.