The Wilderness

“I’m ready,” I tell him, shivering. I turn to face my disciples. And then I step into the water.

It’s no mistake I found the heart of my spiritual conviction in reading the gospel of John. I fell in love with it, fell in love with Jesus. I read it and wanted to be like him, not Jesus, but John. I wanted to be like the disciple Jesus loved. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be that close to Jesus.

I fly down a hill on my mountain bike and try not to crash. I anticipate each bump, each vein in the trail. My breath hits the air, it becomes apparent in front of the light. We stop for a moment and I hear the gentle growl that reverberation that terrifies me in the pit of my stomach. I hear it again a little bit every day.

I read books on my lunch break and edit photos and write and do anything other than think of Jesus or not dating or the men I’ve met. Or the way that ominous purr rolls over itself and creeps in and rests on my skin in the darkness.

I think back to the mountains. To the man with the beard. To waking up early. To the feeling of Jesus holding my face in his hands. To that undeniable certainty.

I feel so far away from Jesus lately. I keep it to myself. I talk to the man in the Clark Kent glasses. “I’m writing a play,” he tells me, “in Iambic pentameter.” I smile gently and feel crushed by another beautiful thing I have deprived myself of. I barely read my bible. I smile at the babies. I sob a little before putting on my make-up.

I want to quit. I think of the prayers I’ve been saying for my future husband. I think of how I feel when I talk to men now. How every male is suddenly a man. I cry at the spoken word poem they play at worship. ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ I stomp around campus in my security uniform. He tells me that he isn’t sure if his writing will glorify God. I tell him all creativity glorifies God.

“Do you want to keep in touch,” I hear myself ask him. He invites me to a movie. I tell him about creative balance. He smiles and I’m pulled up from the make shift baptismal.

I leave work and the clouds are purple. The tullies lean hard. I get my passport photo taken and make-believe plans. I think of the boy who ran up and wrapped his arms around the man’s legs. The way my heart nearly stopped for the display of love. A moment of silence for the beauty.

I feel genuinely terrified of my conviction and the ways I grasp at it. The way it floats around me. It’s not something that stays with me long and Eric would say that’s okay from the passenger seat of my car. I feel it deep down as I use my finger to move the glue over the flowers on the paper.  It’s the way Naomi’s hand grabs my wrist the moment before she tells me, “It doesn’t have to be hard.” It’s that baby cling. The wanting to be embraced. The early morning sob. The rest of surrendering it to Jesus. The way I tell her on a Sunday afternoon that I’ve never had to stand up for my faith. The way each new man equates to an unknown step down a trail.It’s morning and I cry while I make my coffee. I feel at peace when I realize that Jesus probably felt this way too.

It’s cold and I’m nearly crying and I tell her about the most important thing I’ve learned. I’m confused and hurt and I’m in it and this is my wilderness. This is the thing I was made to feel. This is it.

A home burns down. I walk across the café with hot chocolate. A friend gives in. A baby is all dressed up for church. I make a list of the books I’m buying people for Christmas. I feel alone in my daily re-commitment.

I confess to her the most beautiful thing. The thing that keeps me going. The fervor I felt when I realized that I finally believe He has someone for me. The significance of how three months ago this was something I kept trying to control.

I put pen to paper and feel how much the desire burns. I start to cry on the stairwell as I tell Pastor Larry I’m getting baptized today. I sit in the dark. I think of that Jeff Buckley sigh. I stop midtrial and look at the stars. I know the water is to the right of me. I pray to be in awe. I take a sip of chocolate and pull back from my writing. I shift gears. I sweat. I talk to the girl in the hat about creativity, she tells me I light up. I smile at the men putting up the Christmas tree. I feel restless. I seek new ways to occupy my time. I think of Matt’s voice. I’m soaking wet and I turn to look at Buz. I’m back in that room where I felt forgiven. I’m sitting in a tree stump. I’m smiling at a Godly man. I lean my head against the glass, baby in my arms. I watch the sunset. “Don’t let anyone tell you this wasn’t real,” his eyes closed voice echoes. All the potent places call to me from the wilderness. I pedal faster. I think of the ways I’m becoming like the disciple who Jesus loved. She cradles me in her arms and I sob.

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