When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says it as she wakes up from her whirlwind-induced slumber and realizes she and her furry friend are in new territory, about to embark on wonderful and dreadful where wizards are not what they seem and the threats of witches can be overcome with love.
There’s a lot to be learned from children’s literature. And back into childhood I’ve gone, this week. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, the only place in the continental United States I had not yet explored. Here, where land meets sea and volcanos seen by air at sunset glow majestic, I have come to explore both inner and outer landscapes and give love to one I love and haven’t seen for nearly a decade.
My brother, five years younger has come home. Home is the United States of America. From over two decades living and working in Europe, he is here and we are becoming reacquainted. We’ve gone back. Over decades of memories—many fond, many painful—we have experienced much as we’ve traveled our separate roads with varied twists and turns, like the river I viewed from the Delta jet high above. The river of life has carved us alright. Like wind and water soften the stone’s roughest edges, so life softens the soul of those whose hearts yearn for God. There has been a softening. I can feel it. I see it.
We rode bikes yesterday, like we did as kids. Before we began, he doted on me, making sure my borrowed bike—his old European bike—was as close to perfectly set for my build as possible. I watched him as he wielded tools and showed concern for my comfort and well-being on a bike. As I waited, my eyes wandered and sighted a glove hanging on his garage wall—a baseball glove—THE baseball glove he used as a kid. How fast an object can take one back in time. I still can see the young boy in uniform, standing on first base with that same glove, hanging on a wall of a distant place in a distant time. I can still see that boy in our backyard playing catch with me, his buck-toothed, curly headed big sister, five years older. Back and forth we went, throwing and catching.
Back and forth we go, all these years later, he sharing his story, I sharing mine. Our story themes interject sometimes and separate others. How good it is to revisit places past, even the painful, because he and I—we want to learn and grow and come closer to God and each other.
He’s a gutsy one, my brother. Facing fear head on, he’s done it so many times before and he’s doing it now. And there’s something so beautiful about one willing to reveal their heart when their heart isn’t in the greatest of places—when the heart is hurting and raw but growing faith through the pain. Yes, growing faith through the pain. Faith grows up out of the ground of pain, warmed and watered with love.
We have shared long about the hard, the great unknowns, about God, about our inner worlds, about our past hurts, about our future hopes, and it’s good to be with him again—after all these years. We rode along the shore yesterday, stopping for coffee, photographing a seagull, smelling salty water. And I spotted some ship equipment, rusted and retired. Two pieces spoke to me—a ball and chain—and an anchor. Rusted and retired.
I thought about how anchors break balls and chains. There’s so much than can bind our hearts and souls in this life, so much that can weigh us down making us captives, caught. I looked at those rusted links and thought about the impossibility of breaking them myself, no matter what tool I could hold on my own, just with my own two hands. Impossible. My brother couldn’t break the chain with his own two hands either. No one could. Impossible.
The chains that bind our hearts and souls—no human can break those apart—no human can set the spirit free once bound so strong. Only one. Only One. The one and only God-Man, Jesus—fully God, fully Man—He came and broke the chains of hell for each and every one of us captives, bound up in brokenness. He came and He died and He rose and He promised to anchor us in Himself if only we would have but a tincture of faith. Just a tincture—just a drop can change everything. And sometimes, we only have a drop.
When all has been stripped away, when we lose so much, we’re in position to gain everything because everything we really want and need isn’t found here on earth in earthly possessions and imperfect relationships. Everything we really want and need is found when we’re anchored in God. Our past mistakes, our future blunders, our feeble attempts to find peace—we all need God to anchor us, to redeem us and our broken, and to make something new and whole and beautiful.
Out of the depths, God drew me. Out of the depths, God has drawn my family. And the vision I had as a teenager, of God breaking the chains that bound us tightly broken, I see His hand at work, even today—in distant time and place where anchor reminds that no chain is too strong for our Almighty God.
Our One and only Anchor in an ocean of vast unknown, where unseen dangers lie submerged, help us, mighty God of waters deep. Keep us afloat on stormy seas. Keep us anchored in You. Grow us and keep us. For You are our hope and our future.