“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
That’s what the Bible says, and so we have to trust it. That means everything is open game; all that we encounter is in the process of redemption, and believers are always supposed to be actively engaged in the process of restoration.
I teach a poem, “They Flee From Me.” It’s in the textbook; it’s lurid (don’t read it!), the language is difficult and the kids don’t quite get it, so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to get them to master it – if I teach it at all. But the rhythm stays in my head: They flee from me/that sometime did me seek/with naked foot standing in my chamber . . .”
I’ll leave it at that, only to say it is like a song I wish I never heard. Why do songs stay in your head, and, why, as believers, do we become haunted by things we never wanted to think about? Unless God can use it for restoration.
To back up, I tell my students all the time: “literature works better when you feel it.” I encourage them to make connections; to take the universals of a story and see if they can find an anchor in their life. “Turn your pictures into words and your words into pictures,” I tell them, hoping they will make it real, never sure that they will.
This summer, I dropped my daughter off at college. To this point in my life, things were easy. She’s a great friend, a strong believer, and engaged person. She brings life to everything she touches. Every day, while growing up, I would say to her on the first day of school, “You’re the best looking girl at that whole school!” She would blush, and I would spend the rest of our year convincing her that she was everything God wanted her to be.
But she shut my car door this August and walked up the ramp to her dorm. I rolled down my window to shout and tell her, “You’re the most beautiful girl in this whole school.” Essentially, I wanted her to know that Daddy was going to make everything alright, but I heard the click-clack of her naked foot on her grown-up sandals, and I couldn’t shout a word because she was walking into a place I did not know at all. I could not promise her that, by my own hand, nobody was ever going to touch my baby. The tune came into my head: “They flee from me/that sometime did me seek.” And there she went: the girl whom, by my hand, I had sought at every turn; who, by the hand, I escorted into life, and, whose barely naked foot was walking into another story: her own.
The poem became real – and it hurt. For weeks, I have been trying to cope with the vacancies that we used to share; as she leaves into an inviting world of God’s splendor, I still occupy the chambers in which we danced, and played, and sang.
And, now, I realize it is not only (nor has it ever been) my story alone. It was not, though I might have thought so at the time, my hands that were leading her. It was not only my love, my work, and my job. In the click-clack moment of my little girl walking away, I came to the life lesson I should have learned long ago: that eventually my hands have to give way to prayer because — whatever brought her to this moment – those who will seek her, those chambers in which she will sing, and dance, and play are all the Lord’s, and he knows best where to put her.