Though none go with me...
I half-sang as I climbed up the hill and distractedly made eye contact with a resident squirrel who sat resolutely just above me.
...still I will follow.
Though none go with me…
I wandered off the main trail and deposited myself on a fallen log, observing another hiker crunching past across the fallen leaves.
…still I will follow.
I was barely mouthing the words, and actually thinking about them even less.
Though none go with me…
Glancing at my phone to make sure I headed back down in time to make my meeting, I stared at my reflection and, for the first time, sat with the weight of each word:
However, given the choice, the validity of that claim was doubtful. If Jesus continues in this current pattern of gently ushering precious journey-sharers into new seasons and out of my life, will I still follow–really? This literal kind of “though none go with me”? Not a fan. The question lingered in the back of my mind, coupled with thoughts of God, I’m so tired. I get the whole obedience and faithfulness thing, but it’d be kinda cool if one of these days You called me to be obedient and faithful in something that doesn’t suck.
An hour later I was sitting across from my spiritual director with my shoulders tense and hands clenched tightly in my lap, my body imaging the defensive posture of my soul.
“I’m so tempted to go back into hiding,” I divulged. “That would be easier. Stop feeling things again? Go numb? Sounds pretty good. Pro pretender here. I’m high-functioning depressive, pretending I’m fine is one thing I do really well. And you know what? It’s not even just internal hiding anymore. I want to get out. I want to physically pack up and leave. All this lament we’ve been learning? This whole naming the pain to Jesus? I don’t think I can do it anymore. I don’t like the tension and the messy and the unresolved-ness of it. Why is following Jesus a constant call to die?”
She let me ramble, and spill out my questions, and announce my doubts, and when I trailed off, she paused.
“What’s so attractive about hiding?” she asked.
I didn’t have to pause.
“It’s safe,” I answered.
Unbeknownst to me, I was echoing Job 14.
“If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!
If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.”
Job is pleading with God, begging him to make it easier by hiding him in the grave until the pain is gone. He doesn’t want to feel it. He doesn’t want to carry it anymore. The weight is too heavy. The call is too costly. He feels as though he has been entrusted with holding too much. How long until my renewal, God? Can you give me an end date on this hurt, and let me hide until then? How long until it’s safe to come out?
My spiritual director pressed in further. “Sure, it’s safe. But can you rest?”
This time I wasn’t so quick to answer.
“No…I guess not.” I paused again. “I can’t hide and rest at the same time.” Always tired, never rested, why am I so reluctant to leave my hiding place? How long am I going to have to sit with this unnerving restlessness before it’s safe to come out?
The thing about the Gospel is that it’s constantly inviting us to come out.
Come out of shame. Come out of fear of being known. Come out of self-sufficiency. Come out of self-righteous anger. Come out of self-made heart-walls proven insufficient to protect. Come out of deceit that claims our pain is not worth seeing. Come out of box-checking, rule-following, pedestal-placing definitions of obedience. Come out of arrogance. Come out of tribalism in the name of unity. Come out of cheapened surrender that doesn’t require much of anything from us. Come out of the ache of distancing ourselves from intimacy.
Come out of hiding.
Come out of death. Come into life: the flourishing, abundant, water-for-my-world-scorched-soul, food-for-my-affection-starved-spirit, unfragmented and whole kind of life–gently gathered under the wings of a mother hen kind of God–safe.
But not safe because it doesn’t hurt–safe because Jesus has to become my hiding place.
The Gospel flips Job’s (and my) paradigm on its head by answering our questions with a resounding “yes–those who die do live again”. This is a die-to-live kind of situation. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
If life means I die to my default tendency of hiding behind my ability to pretend and allow only fragmented pieces of myself to be seen, and instead hide under the protective arm of Christ, who sees me as more whole than I am able to see myself, then I want to choose Christ.
If life means I die to my right for people to hide with and instead hide in Christ, then I want to choose Christ.
If life means I die to my right to erect walls of self-preservation to create an illusion of safety for my heart and instead invite my soul to run to a Fortress and Defender who remains steadfast, then I want to choose Christ.
If my hiding turns to seeking, He promises that I will find Him. He promises that “he will keep me safe in his dwelling” and “he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent” (Psalm 27:5). And somehow, with the assurance of that promise–the promise that seeking Christ means finding Christ, and finding Christ means being found by Christ, hiding loses its pervasive appeal. The cost is not insignificant. If I define safety by comfort then safety is unattainable as a disciple of Jesus, because my personal comfort is one thing He never promised. But safety comes less from my distance from suffering and more from my proximity to the goodness of Jesus. C.S. Lewis always says it best:
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So today, I choose to trust the King of my heart, and sing with a quiet confidence even my sanctified imagination didn’t quite think possible: Though none go with me, still I will follow: out of hiding, and into rest.