This morning when all the children were sleeping, I padded into the den to find Matt reading his Bible. He said we had a minor emergency in that no coffee was pre-prepared the night before. Like the stellar man he is, he got up and ground the beans stealthily in the garage as to not awaken anyone. A few minutes later he brought me my coffee and stood above me and he said:
“I feel like you have pulled away from me and I am hurt by it.”
I needed a drink. Of coffee, that is. And I stalled a response by gulping in some much needed caffeine. I had felt distance the night before and wondered about it. In a marriage there is ebb and flow. It is to be expected. Natural. But a healthy marriage will note the ebbs. A courageous partner will confront the distance.
Matt and I began a heart to heart conversation about how we had arrived at this spot of distance in our relationship. I am grateful for this courageous partner and his servant-leadership.
And so, I began pondering the ebb and flow of life. Ebb happens in our relationship with God. Recently I made a quick trip to the Mississippi Delta where I grew up. The trip threw my routine off. I usually spend some time in the mornings connecting with God. I lost my rhythm. Ebb.
Before that I had flow. Something I had been confounded over in my spiritual journey came together. Like the last puzzle piece falling into place, God delivered a message into my spirit and it gelled. It all started in Ezekiel. Zeke has a lot of ebb and flow.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.”
Listen to the contrasts. Sins. Ruins. Desolate. Laid waste. Destroyed. In contrast with Cleanse. Rebuilt. Cultivated. Like the Garden of Eden. Fortified. Inhabited. Replanted. I hear ebb and flow in that. For me that passage represents all that He has been about in my life over the past five years. He has rebuilt my ruins. Yes, He has. He has rebuilt my ruins. Areas of desolation have become like the garden of Eden. And I am acknowledging a large FLOW of the Spirit.
In regards to the ebb, little e, of last week; I found my rhythm again by going back in my journal to get in touch with what He had been doing in my heart before the ebb.
St. Ignatius called this ebb and flow desolation and consolation. Consolation refers to the times we sense God’s spirit. It is the sense that all is well. Desolation, then, is the loss of a sense of God’s presence (Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, p. 112). We may feel off center or even rebellious.
In the last few years, I have been encouraged to notice, simply notice, these ebbs and flows. What gives me life? What drains me? What has brought me back in the flow? What has blocked it? In noticing, I have been able to choose things that put me in the flow and try to avoid the things that block it. Certainly, I cannot always choose the flow, but in noticing I can search like a blind woman feeling her way for what will bring me back to the flow of the Spirit.
I am grateful for the flow, and I don’t much like the ebb. I wonder how much I would appreciate the flow without the ebb, though. Even in the ebb, I can believe and trust that God is there. I may not feel him or know where He is exactly; but I can trust that He is with me. I trust that because His Love Letter to me tells me that. He will never change. He will never leave me.
As for the ebb in my marriage, we declared a date night. We ate at Whole Foods and went to see Midnight in Paris (****). We remembered what it was like when we were in the flow of relationship. We recently visited Paris. Flow. And seeing the images on screen took us there for a brief while.
In marriage and in my spiritual journey, I am like an attentive gardner noticing the weeds, the dry patches, the rich soil and the delightful sunlight and cultivating the fruit that comes from walking with the VineDresser.