“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
If you were in a Church Service within the last 10 years, chances are you have sung the song that is based on this Scripture Passage. When I first heard the song, I felt a little embarrassed by it, and thought, “Isn’t that song a bit arrogant? I mean, how can I stand and just sing those words out loud like that?” And when I had those thoughts, I realized how often the enemy tries to dupe us into taking a lower standpoint than what God has created for us.
It’s Week 11, and the final week with our friend Jayber. In case you missed any of the posts in this series, and would like to catch up, I will post an index at the end of today’s post.
for the beautiful way that she has opened her site and her heart to lead us in such an enriching study of
By the end of this book, it was the 1980’s, and the little village of Port William had succumbed to the fate of so many small towns, and dwindled down to a handful of residents. The farms in the area had also suffered the fate of modernization and overzealous attempts to be bigger and better every year. In particular, the farm of the woman that Jayber had secretly loved had been worn to a frazzle as well.
But there yet remained an untouched patch of forest land, passed down through the generations, called “The Nest Egg,” where Jayber often found himself communing with nature, and where I found some of Wendell Berry’s finest writing:
“Above those, the big trees and the vines went up to the crown of foliage at the top. And at all these aboveground stories there was a moving and singing foliage of birds. Everywhere there were dens and holes and hollows and secret nests. When you were there you could be sure that you were being seen, and that you more than likely would not see what was seeing you. Everything there seemed to belong where it was. That was why I went there. And I went to feel the change that that place always made in me. Always, as soon as I came in under the big trees, I began to go slowly and quietly.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 345-346). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
One afternoon as Jayber was resting there and fell asleep, he awoke to find that Mattie, the woman he secretly loved, was coming up the same wooded path, and the two of them found themselves in a woodland hush of nature. Hardly speaking, never touching, yet they would arrive there at the same time, purely by accident, at least a few times every year. Jayber counted it as a special connection of hearts that could not be shared in any other way.
We’ve discussed this uncomfortable side of a “platonic” emotional relationship in the book study, and most of us have concluded that it’s a little wierd and not quite “pure” in the fullest sense of the word. Nevertheless, Jayber was moved to find what real love looks like because of his love for Mattie.
For you see, his chiefest enemy was Mattie’s husband.
But it was not because he had Mattie and Jayber did not, no, it was because Troy, (Mattie’s husband,) had no true love and reverence for the woman that Mattie really was. And this was finally most fully realized on the day that Jayber heard a horrible crashing of machinery in the woods.
Mattie had been terminally ill for several months, and by word of mouth, Jayber found out that she was in the hospital, probably never to recover. Mattie’s husband had mortgaged the farm to it’s fullest amount, but borrowed yet again and again. He had one more option left, and that is what Jayber came upon, as he followed the sound that he had heard:
“It was a painful walk, for I was still hoping to be proved wrong, but every step I took confirmed that I was right. The thickety little strip of bottomland along the lower end of Coulter Branch had been cleared off with a bulldozer, and that was where they were yarding up the logs. Tremendous logs were lying there, side by side. They made me think of beached whales, great living creatures heaved out of their element at last. But all the logs were not big. Troy Chatham had sold every marketable stick, every tree big enough to make two two-by-fours.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 359). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
And Jayber was furious. Did Troy really know his wife so little, that he could sell off the one remaining part of land so dear to her, all while she was on her deathbed? As Jayber felt the anger and hate turning to rage inside of himself, a curtain parted, and the swaggering self-assured man that Troy had always played himself to be, was finally revealed to Jayber:
“So there he was, a man who had been given everything and did not know it, who had lost it all and now knew it, and who was boasting and grinning only to pretend for a few hours longer that he did not know it. He was an exhausted man on the way back, not to the nothing that he had when he started out, but to the nothing that everything had been created from—and so, I pray, to mercy. And there I was, a man losing what I was never given, a man yet rich with love, a man whose knees were weakening against gravity, who needed to go somewhere and lie down.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 360). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
In time, Jayber would become friends with Troy, and find that forgiveness had been planted within him. But on that day, he had to face a kind of dying first:
“But that day I couldn’t stay with him any longer. I needed to leave him and his desperate merchandise and that woods of once-upon-a-time. I needed to go and find a place to lie down. That urge was in me like a natural force. Like a woman or an animal in labor, I longed to lie down, for I was heavy, not with new life but with much dying, many deaths. I had in me the shaking of the fall of all things. I wanted to get as low as I could, as I thought I would want to do had I been in the top of a windblown tree or in a little boat in a storm.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 361). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
And I recognized the death Jayber spoke of.
Haven’t I faced that death myself?
Haven’t I been brought low when I have seen
into the depth of my own sinful heart?
And while I don’t want to give away the ending of the book for any who might choose to read it still, I must say that my heart was left with longing for a man who never seemed to enter into friendship with the ONE who loved Him most of all.
Jayber found forgiveness with God.
He knew that only because of Jesus’ death
are any of us fully forgiven.
Jayber even found forgiveness for a
man he had hated.
But I never saw that He found
the friend that would stick
closer than a brother.
And for that, my heart wept.
And once again, my aching cries out for those around me and even for myself. Because the enemy of our souls has duped us into a position lower than what Jesus came to bring us. Jesus took up our sins to bring us into friendship with God. Anything less than that is simply a lie.
Will I answer His call?
Will I go after those I love
and speak in His Name
to join Him at the table
to find a friendship deeper than any
a love so much higher than
all we can grasp?
20 thoughts on “A Friend of God”
Oh Bettie, I am crying. Oh what yearning in your post. Yearning I feel in the depths of my heart also. For ourselves and all those around us. I have found myself praying on my runs lately for each person that passes me. I sense God moving me to look with His eyes. Each and every person precious in His sight. Oh that He would keep breaking our hearts for what breaks His – including our own turning away from that offer of friendship. Thank you for all these convicting and encouraging posts. I've been so very blessed by the words you've shared.
Dear Anna, Thank you so much for your encouraging comments, my friend! Yes, my heart has been so convicted again & again throughout this series. We have been offered such a treasure in friendship with God, and yet we so easily turn it away. What a sweet way to pray, as you pass those ones while out running. Again, we are offered so many opportunities to point others to Him also! May my heart stay softened to His callings. Love and Hugs to you! xo
I wondered about Jayber's actual relationship with God, too. It was certainly unconventional (like the rest of his life, I suppose), and he seemed to have more peace with Him at the end of his life than during his college years. But it still seemed like he missed so much.
I have so enjoyed this discussion group!
The afternoons in the “Nest Egg' were the sweetest passages to me also–reviving many memories for me. The logging too I have experienced more than once. So much beauty God gifts all of us. And when our thoughts turn toward Him in it is is even more beautiful…I have found this part of Jayber's story the easiest to relate to. But Heaven will be so much more than he mentions! For there we will have God present with us visibly, the most beautiful one of all. Everything else is just a little foretaste. I've enjoyed doing this read along with you, Bettie! What will you be reading next?
I have not gotten back to reading the book yet. Things just got so busy for me, but I have loved reading your thoughts on it. I love how you take the story and relate it to your own life in some way. What you shared here from Wendell Berry – “Always, as soon as I came in under the big trees, I began to go slowly and quietly.”- I have felt this myself when I begin to walk among the trees. It's awe-inspiring. Blessings to you, my dear sister. Love and hugs! xoxo
Yes, Barbara, I have enjoyed this discussion group so much also! I will miss these times. Jayber did bring such a beauty and joy to being in God's creation, and I have surely benefited from that. I am thankful that many of his early questions about God seemed to have been answered, but I still felt that lack of relationship. And therein lies my own convictions too, because there is always so much more in my own heart that can go deeper with Jesus! Thank you for all of your great posts and thoughts too! Blessings and Hugs!
Dear Linda, Oh yes, what a joy Heaven will be, to be in the very presence of the Lord who created all of these beauties around us! I guess that explains my deep sadness for Jayber, because he understood the gift that creation is so well, but seems to have missed the One above it all. I will surely miss all of these discussion posts next week! I have a stack of books to finish, among them an ongoing savoring of Amy Carmichael's “His Thoughts Said, His Father Said,” and Susan Shipe's “A Pruned Branch.” But the one I put aside while “Jayber” was on the front burner, that I am really looking forward to is C.S. Lewis' “The Problem of Pain.” I am so grateful for the gift of words that come to us from so many different places! Blessings and Love to you!
Dear Gayl, Yes, I knew that you would appreciate those words about the forest, since you live right on the edges of those woods! I do hope you are able to get back to “Jayber” at some time, because there are such beautiful expressions of the beauty of nature in his words. I am so thankful that we can share that love of the woods, and the poetry they stir within us, my friend! And I am grateful that God has allowed us to live so close to their beauty also. Many blessings, love and hugs to you! xoxo
Oh, sweet friend! I hear that call…that beckoning call that can only be spoken through His voice. It is compelling beyond words, and it draws me in closer to His side. How I long for Him! He is the only true fulfillment of peace that the human soul craves. Thank you for always pointing me ever nearer Him. Thank you for your precious friendship and support and kindness to me. Much love to you, dear Bettie!
THANKSGIVING BLESSINGS TO YOU BETTIE G!!! xo
Dear Cheryl, Oh you are so right that HE “is the only true fulfillment of peace that the human soul craves.” I am so thankful that He understands all our weaknesses, and yet continues to call us to find help with Him. Thank you for your sweet words and your gift of friendship. My prayers are with you today! Much love and blessings to you!
Oh thank you so much Dear Friend! And may Your Thanksgiving be full of Blessings also! xoxo
Bettie, reading your thoughts here brought back the loveliness of those pages in which Berry described Jayber's wanderings in the Nest Egg. I agree with you that he never gives us a clear sense of where Jayber's heart is in reference to the truth, but I wonder how much of that is just orneriness, and how much is a poet's tendency to show and not tell.
The truth has certainly been put on display here in your writing home throughout this journey, and I'm so grateful for the role you have played in sharing insights about the book and the way it has hit your sensitive heart.
Looking forward to many more visits around words and around the Word.
This is so touching, Bettie. That excerpt about the big trees made me long to be there. I identify also with the longing you feel that those around us may
“find a friendship deeper than any
a love so much higher than
all we can grasp”
And that we ourselves will answer His call to speak in His Name. Love and hugs to you!
Dear Michele, Oh, yes I will miss our times of connecting over these words! But I am so thankful for the convictions that I will carry forward from this time. I am always amazed at the way that God uses these stories to open my own heart to find HIS stories growing within me. Memories of all of the vivid word-pictures that Jayber painted for us–out in those wide open spaces, or gathered close to dear hearts–have left sweet places in my heart. Thank you again for asking us to ponder and think about the words that we read, and not just skim over the surface. I hope you have a Beautiful time with your family this Thanksgiving!
Dear Trudy, Yes, Jayber had such a way of describing those forests and places of nature that were all around him! What an amazing Lord we have, who gave us these things to point us to Him! And yet when those stirrings of love & longings awaken within us, it can be overwhelming sometimes, can't it? I am so thankful that HE knows how to help us speak in His Name as we do answer His call. Love and hugs to you too! xoxo
From a human angle, friendship with God seems so unlikely and unattainable. It is hard for our hearts to comprehend. We definitely do have this treasure in jars of clay! Yet as the you have so beautifully expressed, we are honoured to be invited into an intimate relationship with Him, to experience a “friendship deeper than any other” and “so much higher than all we can grasp.”
I've really enjoyed the unfolding of Jayber's story over the last few weeks and the way it intersects with your own. His faith quest has drawn out your tender compassion toward others, your yearning for all to know God as Saviour, Lord and Friend, and your innate sensitivity to all things spiritual. It's been such a blessing to take this journey with you. My heart aches too for those who are lost and hurting. May they be drawn with cords of holy Love and Compassion, lured by God, our earnest Soul Lover, and discover the enormous gift and privilege we are given to be children and friends of the Most High Himself! Love and hugs to you, sweet friend! xoxo ��
Oh, yes you are right that from a human standpoint we can't imagine that God would desire to call us friends. It's another one of those mysteries that the Holy Spirit brings to our hearts as we understand His Word isn't it? Thank you for your thoughts on this–I wonder if the Lord would be encouraging us to pray for Holy Spirit stirrings in those that we long to know Him as a friend! I am so grateful that you have come along on this journey through the story of Jayber Crow and his community. There have been so many convictions heavy on my heart along the way, and I have been so blessed by your encouragement as I've shared them. Your friendship is such a gift from the Lord! May He bring you blessings and Love this weekend! xoxo
Beautiful reflections! The more I have read from you and Michele aboutJayber Crow the more I want to read the book. The description you shared of the forest and the mention of the above ground stories was beautiful. Thank you for elaborating so well. Happy Thanksgiving!
Yes, Mary, I think you would really love Jayber's descriptions of nature–especially with the beautiful photos and words that you share from your own walking outside! He had such a way of bringing us alongside to feel and see the beauty all around. I am thankful that you found encouragement here too! May you have a Blessed Thanksgiving!