When he and I walk the land in the unusual warmth of November, we have to cross under a wire fence, and over a winding river, and I think about how you navigate a land divided.
“Just bend low,” the Farmer slips under the electric fence. As I shimmy under the electric fence down toward the river, that’s what I am thinking: Bending low in humility can erase dividing lines of hostility.
You can see it: Down at one end of the farm, there’s a rusting stake driven into the ground to mark this boundary and anchor the electric fence, but further down toward the middle of the boundary, past the river, there’s a row of maple trees planted, ancient limbs now stretching out across to both sides like an invitation for everyone to hold on.
“River’s pretty, Mama.” Baby Girl’s smiling and I nod, take her hand, follow the Farmer down to the river.
Fence lines can divide a land, but a river of hope can run through everything.
Walking across the land together, Baby Girl swinging her walking stick wildly, I can’t help but wonder how Abraham and his people navigated unknown territory and divided lands and people coming in on all sides. The Old Book says that maybe the best way to begin to traverse new territory, is to hold up a lens to rightly see the grace of his life: “And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (Gen 24:1).
The Lord had graced Abraham with blessing in all things – in the midst of fading dreams (ch 15), in the midst of family tensions (ch 16), even in the midst of Abraham’s sinful choices (12:10-20; 20:1-18) – the Lord had graced him with blessing in all things.
Trusting that God’s grace is sufficient in all things, is the way through all kinds of tensions. This is not a cliche, this is how to take the next step.
In very real grief, real lament, real division, real tension, and in the very real work of all kinds of reconciliation, the Lord is working out real blessings in all things.
I watch Baby Girl fall in line behind her big sister, trying to make their way across the river flats, and a heart can ache with love and pain and thanks and hope for all the good and faithful ways.
It’s underlined in my Old Book, that when Abraham is old and widowed and wants a godly wife for his son, he sends out his servant, who eventually stands before the potential bride with bowed head, blessing God with his thanks, praising our God “who has not forsaken His steadfast love and His faithfulness toward [us].” (Genesis 24:27).
Since God’s love has not forsaken us, how we can forsake loving each other?
Isn’t now the time to fall in line with what Martin Luther King Jr. directed, “Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all…. Love at its best is justice concretized.” And “justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
Because of God’s steadfast love, we stand against everything that stands against cruciform love.
Because of God’s steadfast love, we don’t just love in word, we love in concrete ways. Because when we reach out across lines and love in concrete ways, we crush divisions.
When we proactively connect with just one person who thinks differently, we powerfully discover we share the same humanity.
This is a dare worth doing every day.
In a land of division, justice is love that reaches out.
And this is the cruciform way Jesus always leads.
This is what Abraham’s servant says as he pours out his prayer of thanks for God’s never-forsaking love: “As for me, the Lord has led me…” (v 27). Nahah is led/lead in the Hebrew and refers to guidance in the wilderness; it refers to well-being in a time of stress.
In times of stress, what we have to stress to our souls is that God still leads. “He leads/nahah me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23).
And because God leads, that cannot mean: “God leads the way, except for the road we’re on now“, or “God leads the way — but He didn’t lead this God-forsaken way” — because God never forsakes. Because the reality always is: God may not seem to be doing anything – when He’s actually directing everything.
God leads the way — and He leads us in the way to love all the people along the way. All the people who see things differently, who believe very differently, who want things very differently. God leads/nahahs us to love the people it’d be easier to say nah, no way, no how.
So we can’t say: “Nah, can’t love that person –” because if we are a Christ-follower, that is how our God leads/nahahs us.
God is love: He knows that to love means to be willing to reach out when it’d be easier not to.
God leads/nahahs us like a guide in the wilderness, because He knows:
Wherever it feels like a wilderness is where we need to reach out and wildly love. Wherever we reach out and wildly love, we find a compass that shows the way through.
When we get down through the trees, we can see the water’s running on, alongside trampled cowpaths, under fences, around the gnarled willows, down through the land, toward all the bridges.
“Mama, this way, it’s really hard for me.” Baby Girl, she’s wearied with the incline and rocks and mud on the way, the wire fences to crawl under, the logs to climb over.
“I know,” Big Sister’s turned toward her, “but this is the only real way down to the water.” She reaches out to scoop her baby sister up and carry her on shoulders.
And I witness how the two of them catch light, how all the land, all the river carries light, and how the way may be hard, but He’s making the only real way through:
Make our hands reach out with Love that leads the way,
make our words a kind compass of His amazing grace,
make our hearts a carving current of His Kingdom everyday.
Watching the girls walk the path in front of me, holding on to each other, carrying each other, they look like they’re navigating through the fields as one.
Studying and working on the ESV Women’s Study Bible was truly a weighty privilege of a life-time, as each of us prayed to help women in all seasons of life pursue a deeper, transformational understanding of Scripture.
“The ESV Women’s Study Bible is filled with 13,000+ study notes, 523,000 words of study note content, 350+ reflections on key passages, 15 articles on theological topics, explanation of the plan of salvation, beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Dana Tanamachi, 120 Bible character profiles, introductions and timelines for each Bible book, more than 80 maps and illustrations throughout, 80,000 cross-references and so much more!
Contributors include best-selling authors like Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, Ann Voskamp, Trillia Newbell, Kristyn Getty, and many more.”