Behind the Door of No is A Lot of Good Yes’s.
Sometimes the dreams that secretly drive your life are ones you could never say out loud. Maybe you don’t even know it’s The Dream….until you wake up one day and you aren’t living inside it.
Stacy and I just finished riding through the countryside around Staunton, Virginia along with 1100 other bikers in an event known far and wide as “Bike Virginia.” I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. Field after lush farmer’s field spread across rolling hills, framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
This was the landscape I looked out on every day of my life until I was 21. I thought the whole world looked like this, honestly I did.
So here we are, rolling down the road, sweating in our matching blue bike shirts. And I stop dead in the road when I see this house. Oh my stars. I’ve got to get a picture.
Here in front of me was the living vision of my secret childhood dream, like it had been waiting all these years for me to inhabit… and I never came.
This country house embodied the life I was primed for as a Virginia girl’s first stop on the yellow brick road to happiness. You will live out in the Virginia countryside, in an old red brick home, full of antiques, with the Blue Ridge mountains out the window, a passel of children inside those walls, and a husband who holds up a pillar in town.
That’s probably not a description of your dream. But trust me, it’s a dream as lovely as the home you see in this photo.
In fact, as I rode through Virginia on a bike that week I realized that if I”d had my way growing up, I would never have left Virginia. Never. I talk like those people. I cook their kind of food. The slow pentameter of history and tradition is simply the way I think. I can feel my roots in Virginia clay and truthfully, I”d be right there today planting hydrangeas… if God hadn’t interrupted my life.
(That’s really the way it feels sometimes, isn’t it? Like God just swoops in out of the blue and says, well, honey, actually, you are going down this road, not that one).
Sure enough, I met my husband and three days after our Virginia wedding we were in a One-Way U-haul headed for Texas for Stacy to go to seminary. T-E-X-A-S. I”d been plucked up by the roots. We went west—and more west—for fifteen years, into a completely different life than I could have imagined.
God took me out into the world. The world for which He died
I finished that bike tour with a strange new appreciation for the power of the gospel to re-order our deepest loves. What other force can reach into the soil of your gut—into the whole way you see life, really—and transform so radically?
C. S Lewis always had it right: you stumble through the back of the wardrobe you’ve always lived in and step into a Kingdom that transcends place and time, stretching into eternity. And there, it’s snowing and you have never seen snow.
To find myself riding a bike through Virginia countryside, many years later, was an experience of coming full circle. I looked out over a broad valley newly harvested in June, with the mountains framing the sky, and gratitude flooded me. Gratitude that God hadn’t left me to my own shrunken version of the good life.
I could see it all more clearly, all that I would have missed if I’d stayed in Virginia, captive to an old dream.
I wouldn’t have known how well people in Oklahoma speak the truth. Or experienced the “can-do” attitude of Texas Christians. Or seen how the aspens wave like yellow glitter strands in a Colorado fall.
I wouldn’t have heard a Kenyan tell my grandson exactly how to back away from a rhino—or seen what the fruits of revival in Norway look like forty years later—or listened to a Filipino describe how you hear the voice of Jesus in your life.
God put my old dream through a paper shredder. I am now old enough to be very happy about that fact.
Garrison Keillor wrote about this in Lake Woebegon Days in words that sound strangely like the Bible. “Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have which once you have it you may be smart enough to realize is what you would have wanted all along had you known.”
Did you get that?
That statement is so true I memorized it years ago. And it describes some important piece of your life. Along the way of following God, you lost some things that you really loved. And those losses opened the door to opportunities and relationships and understandings of God and life that you would have always wanted—if you’d only known what to want.
That God can change my “want-er” is one of the strongest testimonies to his power and his existence that I know.
It’s the mercy of God, really, that you didn’t get what you thought you wanted. All the wistful longing that describes your life—and mine—gets distilled into gratitude for the life you are given.
Sometimes a ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains let’s you see more than the mountains.