The Shaking of The Foundations
Chapter 3 


“When Peace like a river attendeth my soul”

I remember walking down the well-groomed lane along the outer edge of the rock face.  The path was cut into the steep and rocky hillside.  Seated anywhere from 30-50 feet above the water line, the path curved along the edge of the island, ascending and descending with the rolling hillside.  As I was walking I stopped to admire a small wooden doorway cut into the side of the rock wall, and that’s when I noticed it.  Complete stillness.  Perhaps it was not complete stillness.  The transparent blue-green water was almost completely still, interrupted only by the calm ripples from the wake of a small wooden fishing boat coming from an island in the distance.  I curiously watched the white little boat for a few minutes, its hidden captain clearly in no rush to reach the harbor around the other side of the island.  The boat tarried along, the sound of the rhythmic putter of its little diesel motor lingering in the ear long after it disappeared around the side of the island.  And then silence.

            Cats were everywhere.  The whole place reeked of cat urine.  Their choice of travel along the island seemed to be along the small, flat rock wall which hemmed the island’s edges, while only standing perhaps two feet above the ground.  The cats that weren’t walking along the rock wall were lounging lazily along it.  There was another island less than half a mile away, in fact there were islands everywhere, all varying in size.  The island I was on had no automobiles on it at all.  Natives used horses and mules to get up the main mountain in the middle of the village.  No city sounds, nothing.  There is no other way for me to describe the silence other than to say that it was heavy in your ears, like cotton balls.  I do not even remember the sound of the waves reaching the shore.  It is hard for me to believe that I could have missed something like that, listening as attentively as I was.  I was searching for a sound, waiting for any of my senses to recognize something-anything familiar which would jolt me back to reality.  I could find nothing.  For a few short moments I was uncomfortable.  The moment of complete peace and stillness crept upon me with such speed and load that I was unprepared.  I was caught off guard.  After a while I just stood next to the island’s little wooden door, on the edge of its stone wall, looking out over the water, then turning back to the mountainside behind, then back to the water, and so on.  I had been snapping pictures everywhere I went to that point in my trip, trying to take in as much of Greece as I could.  I remember I set my camera on the little stone ledge, shoeing away an exceedingly affable cat in fear of it knocking the camera over or pissing on it.  It was not just a scene but a moment, which I knew a camera could not capture and I did not want to be distracted from it.  I wanted my hands to be free.  I do not really know why.

            If there was anything else going on in the world at that moment I would have never known it.  My senses were so keenly drawn into the tranquility of my moment that I could not comprehend much else besides that juncture.  I was grasped by it.  After what seemed like five minutes but was the better part of 30, my captivation was broken by the long sorrowful cry of our boat’s fog horn, sympathetically moaning a reminder to the island’s visitors that we must return to reality.  Twenty minutes to departure.  It was time to return.  The closer I got to town the more and more my senses dulled, as the sounds of the little town and harbor could be heard among the chatter of the tourists and shopkeepers.  I left Reality sitting there on the ledge all by her lonesome, as I reluctantly returned to the legion of distractions which keep us always moving forward, never stopping to think, to sit in silence.  She seemed accustomed to her loneliness…

#truth (Taken with Instagram at Nicholson Library)

#truth (Taken with Instagram at Nicholson Library)

I blinked and he sneezed all at the same time (Taken with instagram)

I blinked and he sneezed all at the same time (Taken with instagram)

First time tonight (Taken with instagram)

First time tonight (Taken with instagram)

Satisfactions


            I have found that I get a real satisfaction out of fixing things, especially mechanical things.  Like I have mentioned, my father was a mechanic for most of his life, and from the time I was a little boy I loved watching him fix things.  As I grew older I started to try to fix things more and more by myself.  But along the way of learning how to fix things, I learned a lot more ways about how break stuff.  I think the first mechanical responsibility I took upon myself was the maintenance of our lawn mower.  I mowed the lawn at our house and my dad was always so busy he never really touched the thing unless it was seriously broken or he had to move it, so without asking I took upon myself the responsibility of its maintenance.  I knew how to change oil, or so I thought.  So around the time I was 13 years old I began the routine oil and air filter changes and kept the front end greased, and I did it all by myself.  One day I was cutting grass and the mower just shut down.  Come to find out you are supposed to make sure the oil drain plug is good and tight when you do an oil change, or else the oil will slowly drain until the motor seizes up like cement.  Dad didn’t let me change oil for a while.

            I had a lot of experiences like that along the way.  We had an old Ford farm truck with a 300-6 in it, and the coolant system had a slow leak somewhere in it. We continued to use the truck all summer without fixing the leak, by just pulling it up to the water hydrant and filling it up with a garden hose before we took off for the day.  That worked just fine all summer, and in the fall my dad parked it after he got another farm truck.  One day in the middle of January we needed a truck to go get round bales from a field a few miles away, and our other truck was broken down.  Dad called me up and asked me to take the old summer truck down to grab the bales quick, and so I did just that, after pulling it up to the hydrant and topping it off again.  I went and got the bales and came back and parked the truck and thought nothing of it.  The next morning my dad was asking me about how chores went the night before, and when the conversation came around to the truck my dad became quite excited as he figured out that I filled the coolant system with pure water in the middle of January.  We went out to check the truck and the entire system was frozen solid.  My dad thought I had completely ruined the motor, but the freeze plugs did not even blow.  All we had to replace was the radiator and two rubber hoses.  My dad loves to tell the story now, but that morning he was spitting fire.

            In the midst of learning a lot about how to break stuff, I picked up some things on how to fix stuff too.  In fact, I think I learned more from those colossal mistakes than any of my other experiences.  There is a real truth there; “we grow in the broken places of mistakes and failures.”  There is something about the moment of realizing that you just did hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage to something, which crystalizes what you should have done in your head.  Overtime I became better and better at fixing things and came to really enjoy it.  A relaxing afternoon normally involved changing transmission fluid and filters, spark plugs and wires, or some obscure light bulb behind the cluster.  I looked forward, and still do, to changing parts or tuning up vehicles.  After I moved to AU, I brought my own tools with me to continue fixing my own stuff.  Every once in a while now I get the opportunity to help one of my friends save some money, with everything from simple brake jobs to more serious stuff like replacing struts. 

            I think the reason I like automobile repair so much is because I enjoy the instant gratification that comes with repair.  Fresh oil, new brake pads, a smooth idle, those things are really gratifying for me.  Perhaps another reason why I enjoy repairing cars is due to the fact that my father, despite his tremendous mechanical ability, was horrible with upkeep of our own family vehicles.  Our farm truck went for a whole winter without a starter that would engage itself, because my dad could manually engage the starter with an ax handle.  I got to drive that truck to school and would always have to get a friend to turn the key while I was outside in the cold trying to engage the starter with that stupid ax handle.  My dad fixed that eventually-right before he sold it.  I have a story like that for every vehicle our family ever owned.  As they say, ‘the cobbler’s children have no shoes’.

            It became such a pet peeve of mine that now I could be considered obsessive compulsive over vehicle maintenance and upkeep.  I have found that I have a restorative strength.  I am not only gifted at, but receive personal fulfillment from fixing things; not just cars, but everything from happy home-owner fixes to personal relationships.  It is apparent at times however, that I struggle with recognition of brokenness and the knowledge of not being able to fix it.  I think it is a very masculine nature, to try to always fix things.  This can often result in one strapping on their tool belt and dealing out answers before the conversation has even finished.  I think it is a very frustrating thing for restorative people, to see a situation in which they truly feel they have the solution to, but to be unable to fix it.  I felt like this in the season of my parents’ divorce.  I expect that I will continue to struggle with this should I enter pastoral care and counseling.  It must be a horrible thing to see a marriage tearing apart right across from your desk and to have the overwhelming anguish of being helpless.  He will not listen to her.  She will not stop drinking.  They have hurt each other too much to leave their emotional barricade of calloused pride.  It must be an awfully heavy feeling for a pastor to feel incapable of reconciling such a mess. 

            Then again, it could be even harder to have the feeling of incompetency when the individuals are looking to you for answers, willing to listen to any comfort you can give, vehemently looking for any trace of reconciliation and repair you can bring to their situation.  I would venture to guess that no pastor looks forward to those late nights spent in the sterile hallways of the local hospital, holding a full grown man as his last effort of composure collapses in your lap.   What do you tell that man?  You are their fixer.  They are looking to you for the million dollar question: “Why did God let this happen?”  Right now I have no answer.  I could muster up a biblical truth about how God has a plan, about how God is going to use their loss for something greater, or how God had nothing to do with it.  But to be honest, I find some of those answers sickening.  People are not stupid, and when the tsunami of pain rips their life apart, they ask more questions about God than you give them credit for.  Perhaps some of those questions are what we, as pastoral counselors, need to spend more time on ourselves.  How can I offer a canned version of comfort when I myself do not understand, when I myself am overwhelmed, and when I myself am questioning God?  Is it my job to have all the answers?  Is that what the man in your lap really needs at that point?  Or is perhaps the most intimate moment you can have with that man at that moment, in the cold, dark hallway, is to look into his eyes to see the eyes of the suffering Christ, in his last moments on the cross.  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”  And perhaps all you can hope in that moment is that he can look up and see the same in your eyes.  Perhaps in the moments in which we feel the most separated from God, the most broken and hopeless, are the moments in which we come closest with the suffering Christ in His final hour.  And perhaps those moments between suffering and restoration, those gaps of uncertainty, pain and question, are the places in which grace abounds.


AU with snow (Taken with instagram)

AU with snow (Taken with instagram)

They aren’t going to break themselves in! (Taken with instagram)

They aren’t going to break themselves in! (Taken with instagram)

I just spent five minutes looking for this thing. Should have checked behind my ear…. (Taken with instagram)

I just spent five minutes looking for this thing. Should have checked behind my ear…. (Taken with instagram)

My sister is pretty great! (Taken with instagram)

My sister is pretty great! (Taken with instagram)

nationalgeographicdaily:

Lemon Shark, BahamasPhoto: Brian Skerry
A lemon shark pup swims among mangrove roots in the Bahamas. Throughout the more than 700 islands there are mangrove nurseries, coral reefs, and deep oceanic trenches, all perfect habitats for a wide variety of shark species.

nationalgeographicdaily:

Lemon Shark, Bahamas
Photo: Brian Skerry

A lemon shark pup swims among mangrove roots in the Bahamas. Throughout the more than 700 islands there are mangrove nurseries, coral reefs, and deep oceanic trenches, all perfect habitats for a wide variety of shark species.