There is a print of this lovely photo hanging in our living room. My father-in-law is a genius at capturing beauty in nature and blessed us by sending us into Nairobi with such a stunning image of Smith Rock. It took me a long time to notice the thin line stretching between the two peaks of this massive rock. Upon further examination I inquired of J— what the line was and he told me it was a slack-line.
I can just hear my Arabic teacher Heba’s comments in my head about North-American leisurely activities as I learned how a slack-line is used. Folks use this thin line to walk between the two peaks. Heba’s response would be, “you all over there have extreme sports—we get our thrills from riding the microbus…” While this statement is true there is a thrill I’m sure about walking across a slack-line that is distinctly different then North Africa public transit. Both are full of thrill and an element of danger but distinct in their emotional outcome.
This has been a bit of a painful season for me, there is the sadness of moving (again) and of saying goodbye (again) to friends and setting up in a new country (again). Then we had a new addition to our family which is a big change in any context, overshadowed by a very dramatic medical entrance into the world. It has also been a season of great joy and amazement at God’s goodness in the provision of an amazing home (again), wonderful neighbors (again), and miraculous healing (again). But in the aftermath I find myself holding in each hand two truths, the goodness and graciousness of God and the pain and it seems at times impossible to hold onto both well.
The tendency for me, and in my limited observation, of the church, is that we tend to camp on the goodness of God’s character – we celebrate miracles, we pray and when good happens we are quick to give God glory. Historically the western and East African churches have been a bit more silent when it comes to pain or suffering. It is right to think upon who God is to fill us with hope, but we have this other side of life, pain and grief that must also be dealt with in light of Gods character.
Which brings us back to Smith Rock. There is something amazing to me about this picture and the slack-line suspended between the peaks. Without both rocks the slack line would not be able to be used. In this season God is every so gently calling and challenging me to experience a thrilling adventure — to meet him in between two peaks. It is something that is very frightening (or it wouldn’t be a thrill) and distinctly different then riding microbuses or boda bodas or dug out canoes along the Nile.
The boulder on one side is that of pain, grief and sadness – it is allowing myself to feel and experience grief in life. Without this boulder there would be no need to trust, there would be no faith in walking across the line. The second boulder that anchors the line is that of God’s character. It is knowing who He is, that He desires our growth for His glory and it is knowing His deep goodness and grace in my life. This too must be experienced felt, and contemplated in gratitude. Then there is the slack-line. It is this line He is gently calling me to courageously walk. This line is faith. It must be attached to the goodness of God or there is no courage to walk along the line, but it must equally be anchored in acknowledging and feeling pain and grief or there is no need to trust.
The courage to step forth on this line can only be found in knowing the deep love that God has for us and in the center of this line of trust, in the place where pain and God’s goodness meet is peace. Peace that can only come through the courageous act of stepping out in faith, of being brave enough to feel the depths of pain and grief while seeking to know, see and experience God’s sovereignty and goodness.
If I had to tell you about this season it would be this, I’m seeking to walk the slack-line of faith and it is hard, and thrilling and frightening but as I anchor myself in the deep love of God I am finding that there is a depth of peace to be sought after in the center of this line that can only be found by walking across it.