I love the way Father weaves himself into the fabric of our day. I hadn’t seen the notes pictured above for decades. I forgot I even had them until I picked up a tablet off my desk, and there they were sitting beneath. Look at the date: “2/12/75.”
How they got there, I have no idea. Between moving into storage from our old home and then into this one, I suspected they fell out of something, and I laid the tablet on them without knowing they were there. When I picked it up a few days ago, I was undone for quite a while.
These are not just any set of notes. They are scribblings from lectures given by Dr. Clyde Kilby, a professor of English at Wheaton College and the founder of The Marion E. Wade Center, which is a library to study the writings of the Inklings, including C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, two of my favorite authors. They opened my heart to the wonder of God’s mystery and the adventure of following him. He wrote and taught extensively on the influence of these men and was one of the leading authorities on their material.
As part of my work for the Chaplain’s Office during my senior year, I was assigned to escort Dr. Kilby to his lectures and take him for meals when he visited Oral Roberts University. We often ate with others, but the last night we dined alone at the Steak and Ale Restaurant beside a log fire in a stone fireplace. The Old English ambiance and the fact that Dr. Kilby resembled in so many ways the wise, gentle, witty man I thought C. S. Lewis must have been, it was like dining with the great thinker himself.
Then, to my horror, he pulled out a manuscript I had written as part of my senior project. The Chaplain had given him a few chapters, and he pulled them out to discuss them with me. For the next few moments, he told me how impressed he was with my writing for a young man and encouraged me to pursue my craft. “You have the gift of writing. Don’t ever forget that, no matter how difficult it might be to find your way into print. The world needs your words. Pursue it no matter what.”
I was blown away then, and still am, by the encouragement God gave me that night through this dear man. Our friendship grew from there through letters, and twice when I was in the Chicago area, I got to sit in his garden with him and his wife after their retirement. My interactions with him are some of the clearest and most treasured memories of my journey.
My eyes moistened, thumbing through those old notes as they rekindled the memories of my relationship with Dr. Kilby and his encouragement for me to write. I have no doubt it was providential that they ended up on my desk at this moment. Something had been stirring in my heart, and not only finding these notes but also the content of the first lecture seems to confirm a growing direction in my heart.
It has been nearly sixteen months since I returned home from my last trip to discover that, to my complete shock, Sara had left me and planned to file for divorce. A few days into that stretch of the journey, and before I had any conversation with Sara, God seemed to be letting me know that this was not what it appeared to be and that he would be bringing her back. As I prayed one day, I saw in my mind a spaceship approaching a giant planet. Its trajectory bent about sixty degrees as it passed, and soon it was off in a different direction. God seemed to speak to my heart, “This is going to change the trajectory of your life.” And has it ever!
Early on, everything stopped—podcasts, blogs, writing, and travel. Sara was first; find out what happened to her and see if I could reconnect. When we discovered that Sara was drowning in trauma from her childhood, about which she had complete amnesia. At that point, I dedicated the rest of my life to being part of Sara’s healing and Sara’s joy. Over the last year, we sold our home, wandered around together in an RV to Virginia and back, and now have purchased a forty-year-old home and are remodeling it as a place for us. I’ve held that lady through the most painful revelations, helped her set a course for freedom, and now we are finding a way to live together that will honor her trauma and the work Father is doing in it.
It has all been a joy to live in this space with her and to let go of everything else. It has not only changed the trajectory of my life; it has also transformed me in ways I never saw coming. I see many things differently today than I did sixteen months ago. God has been expanding my heart to see that the way I’ve loved Sara through this is how God loves his people who are lost in the world’s darkness and tormented by sin. We are exploring some of that now on The God Journey podcast.
Over the past year, I’ve wondered if I’d write again or travel. Walking with Sara through this has taken most of my time and emotional energy. I managed to keep podcasting with Kyle when we understood what was happening with Sara and knew she wanted to tell her story there. I have also continued to walk with people through tragedies and discoveries that are rocking their world and continue with a small group of others to gaze with God in prayer at the brokenness of the world and his redemption in the midst of it.
Now that we are approaching the end of our remodeling projects, the desire to write again has been steadily growing. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever write another book. My best book is already in the world, He Loves Me, and its companion devotional, Live Loved Free Full, are encouraging many people to live in Father’s love each day. So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and Finding Church are still the best things I have to say about being part of the church Jesus is building and not being disillusioned by humanity’s attempts to fabricate its own version.
“Will you speak for me again?” The words ran through my mind a couple of months ago. I’ve resisted giving in to them because Sara and I are intentionally avoiding old patterns to embrace new ones. She has been wonderfully encouraging, however, about me writing again. I’m sure she’ll want me distracted when she has time to play in the garden. So, I’ve been toying with two possible books that keep rising in my heart.
That’s why finding these notes one morning undid me a bit. As soon as I saw Dr. Kilby’s name on it, it was as if all the encouragement God gave me through him almost fifty years ago came flooding back as if it were yesterday. And the first few pages of those notes strike the heart of the Father’s passion growing in my soul. Here are a couple of quotes that feed Father’s adventure in all of us and that exploring specifics is the gift of God, not codifying God’s life into systems or workbooks:
The best evidence of man’s fall is that every experience that overwhelms us with beauty becomes after a bit of time mere commonplace. It is one of the saddest things. Heaven will not have that quality. God can enjoy every sunrise as if it is his first.
The greatest sin you can commit is to think that today is just like yesterday and that tomorrow will be just like today.
Reality is never found in organization and analysis. The more you abstract or define, the further away the thing itself gets from you. Systematic theology is God on the dissecting table. Anything worth talking about is greater than the sum of its parts.
Snowflakes are intimately beautiful and intimately individual. Each one is unique. The world is not a generalized world. No two apples are alike. If I call them “apples”, I have abstracted them and taken away a bit of each of them to find the lowest common denominator.
Everywhere I go, I look around to feel something. I thank the Lord for the freshness of life. All things are full of beauty. God made butterflies. They have a reality of beauty, as does everyone you meet.
I love how God makes himself known. That he would bring these notes and memories to me now means more than I can say. I have no idea what the future holds from here; Sara and I are still living each day in the beauty and adventure of what doors God might open on any day.
These notes remain on my desk today as a treasured reminder of his gift to me fifty years ago and perhaps a glimpse into what will yet be.