Moments linger, but years seem to pass at breakneck speed. This year did not unfold as I scripted it about this time last year. The screenplay I scribbled in my Moleskin notebook was full of grand accomplishments and well-thought goals. Sometimes I wonder why the plans I laid went awry, and in the worst moments I get stuck on the failures. The end of the year has a way of demanding an accounting, but as I look across the great and small moments of the year, I am reminded of the great promises that hold my whole story together.
“Faith and promise keep me honest when starvation falls upon us.” These beautiful words are taken from the song “Life,” by the Avett Brothers. Later they sing, “You and I know all too well about the hell and paradise here on earth.” Beautiful stuff.
That got me thinking about the fight to keep faith and promise in view. All too often other narratives take center stage, so this post is a practice in locating faith and promise.
To look in the mirror is to remember who I am. It is no mystery who my family is because I bear the Williams markings. It is a beautiful thing to stand as a member of the Williams family. There is not a day that goes by that I am not certain of my family’s love. This promise is a grand promise in the face of starvation. Even in the lonely moments, I know there is a group of people who choose to love me. Not the good me or the right me. Not the smart me or the “on the right path” me. I stand on the firm foundation of Larry, Cyndy, Kyle, Cody, and Clara. Faith and promise keeps me honest.
As I write, there is a trendy ring on my left hand. The ring has been there for over 6 years now. On the evening of March 3rd, 2007, Jill and I exchanged trendy rings. The exchange was much more than a jewelry swap. It was a day that was in the making for some time. We met in college and though we did not admit it, (Jill was far less forthcoming than I was) we knew early on there was something right about each other.
The abstractness of marriage falls away with the reality that you are bound to another. I remember showing up to the hotel with our wedding clothes on. Husband and wife. It was the moment that it all became more than an event for me.
I am married to Jill in ways I would have never guessed. It is this dance together where her “otherness” makes me whole. It is not simply that she fills in my gaps, though she does some of that. The beauty of marriage is that you are so close to someone that lives in the world differently than you. I thought over time I would figure Jill out. I would take account of all of her otherness and figure out ways to change or change her to dismiss the otherness. I have changed and Jill has too, but she is still other. Brueggemann says, “The reality of otherness will not go away, but is the very source of life (location 320).” Jill is the gift of new life for me. I live in the world with Jill.
For us, life has always been a partnership, a give and take. The amazing thing is the giving and receiving with Jill does not distort my identity, but is where my identity takes shape. It is not that I have cut all ties with what makes me different. Instead, in giving myself to Jill I am taking part in a new future. It is in relating to Jill that I encounter myself, warts and all. We are not mirror images of one another, but we are other and yet have become one at the same time.
Jill’s faith and promise keeps me going when the moments of starvation happen.
There is a weird story in Genesis where God commands Abraham to sacrifice and cut several animals in two. Once in two, he was told to lay them on the ground so there is room for two people to walk through. Abraham did not have to take copious notes because it was well known practice. He knew this was the ritual of contracts, so he did as God said. I am sure he lingered at each step, making sure everything was just right, then he waited. All of the sudden, the Lord appeared and walked back and forth down the aisle of covenant alone. The promise cut on God’s character, a foundation forged by the God of steadfast love and kindness.
Sometimes when I cannot get my bearings, I close my eyes and think of this story. I think of God who has a furious love for all of creation. It is God’s faithfulness that sustains the covenant, and it is God’s promises that keep me going.
There were moments that gave me life this year, and there were others that restricted life. I both succeeded and failed. I can say this about every year, but as I recount the year, I must also leave room to remember my faith and promise. This kind of remembering has a way of ushering me into God’s new reality.
So before you start scribbling resolutions and goals in your notebook, leave time for the practice of recounting your faith and promise.