Fall of 2014 I drove my car from Chicago to North Carolina to close a chapter of my life and open a new, unknown chapter. The 16 hours forced some unwanted reflection.
I was at one of my lowest points. I had been doing everything possible to save myself in my own might and strength, but it resembled a chronic version of self-sabotage. It didn't help my state of mind that I was driving my 2001 Ford Expedition with 240,000 miles on it. As I cruised through the back roads Ohio, I wondered at times if my car would just give out. And ‘cruised’ isn’t the right word; it was more like jumbling along the back roads of Ohio.
I was good at finding the cynical symbolism in my life: I was jumbling along in my own life, about to give out. I was worn out, beat up with 240,000 miles, worried I might not make it to North Carolina.
The sound system in that old, beat-up Expedition was the only feature that didn’t rattle. I drowned my thoughts and the clanking of the car by blaring the music. Scrolling through old playlists, searching for brighter times of when I was a lighter version of myself. I flipped tracks. It was hard to find untarnished memories in the last few years. I switched playlists. Josh Garrels. Awwww. I used to listen to him when I lived in California. It was a dark time, but there was still hope in my heart and grace in my voice.
Humming along with the chorus I turned onto another two-lane country road as the darkness settled around me. Then the words hit.
"I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man
My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round
Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored" (Josh Garrels. Rise.)
I was falling. I had fallen. I was crushed and surrounded. My natural instinct would be to grit my teeth and muster my own might as I got back up again. But this song stated profoundly:
“I will rise. Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords. Only through, your love, my lord.”
Only through love; nothing seemed more true to me in that moment. Love was the only way for me. Not by might, but by love. The love of the Lord.
Over the next year I experienced the love of the Lord strengthening me. It was the slow rise; the enduring love of a gracious Savor slowing worked me over, bolstering my being. Soon I was crawling, then I could stand, I even took a few steps. A loving father stood across the room and opened his arms to me, “you got it Elizabeth Joy, come to Daddy.” I hobbled on maturing legs and fell into the His arms.
Love came softly and worked its way into my DNA, changing my very nature. Healing my wounds and making me strong. I learned about a new kind of power. A power that dwells in love and grace. A strength that is everlasting and a hope that is enduring.
My own might is always short lived. It can quickly get me back on my feet after a fall, but when I am not grounded in that deep love of the Lord, I easily topple over.
I am learning to stand in that love, reside in its strength, and rise in its hope.