Have you ever read a sentence in a book that makes you stop dead in your tracks? As I was reading Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, for the online study over at Michele Morin’s site, Living Our Days, I read these closing words of chapter 7, and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up:
I headed westward, for Louisville. I knew that along the rivers the waters were rising.
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 74). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
Somehow I felt that every word following would point back to this sentence, not just in the physical realm, not just in the beautiful imagery of the-river-as-life, but in the spiritual life of our friend, Jayber. Something was about to rise in his heart.
And something was rising in my heart also.
Last week we finished when Jayber began his journey away from the seminary, and away from any of the rules that he had felt tying him down there. He found himself doing odd jobs, mucking out horse stalls–any job to keep food on the table. Until one day he wandered into a barber shop for a much needed haircut. It was then that his old days of serving the barber back at the orphanage proved to be a good starting point for a forgotten career choice. He fell into the cutting of hair and to the listening of stories as if it were a second nature.
But his heart was still empty.
Careers alone cannot fill the void in our hearts.
The call to find HOME stirs in all of us.
And so Jayber left the city and did not look back. Here is where the river’s rising comes to test Jayber’s staunch position of separation from a CREATOR who could have allowed unanswerable deep questions to rise in his heart. As he began his walk back to his hometown, he found himself facing a dangerous bridge over the swirling river.
Have you ever walked that bridge between what you thought you knew,
across to the place of deeper mysteries,
where only a Savior
can rescue your from your doubts?
And as he faced those thundering currents, something broke within his heart:
“And this is what it was like—the words were just right there in my mind, and I knew they were true: “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” I’m not sure that I can tell you what was happening to me then, or that I know even now. At the time I surely wasn’t trying to tell myself. But after all my years of reading in that book and hearing it read and believing and disbelieving it, I seemed to have wandered my way back to the beginning—not just of the book, but of the world—and all the rest was yet to come. I felt knowledge crawl over my skin.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 79). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
As the flooding river forced many along its banks to seek shelter, Jayber found himself moving with the evacuees to a safe place overnight. Although he wouldn’t allow himself to fully be counted as one of them–after all, he was only walking through, on his way back to his own hometown–nonetheless his heart was stirred by their plight. When he woke early the next morning, while most were still sleeping, Jayber felt a strange desire:
“All the others were asleep, and I remember how small and still and tender they looked. If I could have done it, I would have liked to tiptoe around and just lay my hand on each one.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 83). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
And here is where my own heart broke. Into a man who felt the questions were too deep to be a proper preacher, there yet arose a stirring of a True Shepherd.
When the river of God’s Spirit awakens within us,
When the true heart of our Creator is birthed inside,
Compassion will find a way to flow free.
In this world today, where chaos and heartbreak and calamaties too numerous to count, hit the front pages everyday, where is the Justice of our Creator?
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.”
The days grow closer, until the time that HE will step in and say “Enough! My people have suffered long enough!” And He will return to bring justice to this earth. Jesus told us,
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.“
And I must ask myself,
How cold is my own heart?
Is the river of compassion rising within me?
Will I let the love of a simple barber
point me to the deepest love of all,
the ONE testimony for which
all life was created?
“God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears.”
Titus 2:11-13 (The Message)
I pray that this new rendition of a song from my childhood, will stir in you a longing for His appearing also: