When You Can’t See What’s Coming

March 14, 2011 | 20 comments

Fog hangs in the March air of an Iowa farm. It’s a creamy soup ladled from a celestial pot.

I’m standing in the kitchen, atop our hill, looking outside while my two schoolgirls finish a breakfast of waffles. I squint my eyes in search of fields lost in a sky soup. While we slept, hidden hands hung a gray curtain from heavenly grommets. And I’m standing at the window of a minuscule world, partitioned.

I don’t like when I cannot see.

Behind me, the television buzzes with words that pummel like fists.

More bodies found.
Another explosion.
Disaster in the Pacific.

Our oldest daughter — the one who asks the hard questions — lays down the fork, wipes a single drop of syrup from her chin.

Mommy, Is this the end of the world? she asks.

No, I reassure. No, it’s not the end of the world.

And the answer feels like half a lie. Because I wonder how I’d answer that question if I lived in Sendai instead of Iowa?

She asks another question: How will the world end?

Will the whole earth crack in half and swallow us whole, like one gigantic PacMan? Will it end in a big war with explosions and fire? Or — she asks — will the air just stop being air, and we won’t be able to breathe, and we’ll all lie down on the grass and fall asleep, waking up somewhere beautiful where people aren’t sad anymore?

I cross my arms over my chest, tilt my head, nod gently. Blink.

I hem, and then haw — in that order. I fumble for any good answer, then offer only this lame reply: “Those are good questions. Really good questions. Maybe we can talk more about that after school.”

I look at the clock, a digital rescue. The bus will be here in four minutes, a reprieve from questions whose answers are locked in a foggy vault.

We pack school bags with folders and handwritten reminders to take the town bus to the Girl Scout meeting after school. The world wouldn’t end on a Monday, I rationalize, childlike. We have Girl Scouts on Mondays, and cookies to deliver after that.

I wonder what the Japanese schoolgirls had planned last Friday?

Gravel crackles under tires as I steer straight into a curtain that won’t lift, to the end of the driveway. We fold hands and pray for Japan. We whisper the Amen as bus headlights cut through the fog, a happy greeting.

There are kisses and goodbyes, and I roll up the driveway alone as the curtain closes in behind me.

Inside again, I find my “Spirit of Food” book in the basket, the one I’m reading for the book club over at The High Calling. For today, we are supposed to read the last two chapters. And it feels like a duty.

But I don’t want to read about dinner tables or baking bread. And I don’t want to write about books or recipes. Because someone is dying in Japan. The world is ending for someone in Sendai, and I’m caught in a fog with empty answers.

With a reluctant obedience, I turn to an essay and read, while the TV announcer’s words continue to buffet the air. At first, these are just words, hollow. I have to read them twice before I see what Laura Bramon Good really wrote.

“I could feel how strange it all was: to grow up, to grow away, to believe God was my bridegroom, and that time would end in a feast.”

I gasp. Her words cut a tunnel in the fog curtain. And for just a moment, I can see to the other side.

I lay the book down, spine-up. I repeat five words — five simple syllables — again and again:

Time ends in a feast. Time ends in a feast. Time ends in feast.

I put two syrupy plates in the sink, look out the window again to find fields in fog.

I still can’t see, but I can speak: Time ends in a feast.

I wipe plates clean, and keep speaking five syllables.

Because when the fog won’t lift, sometimes the best thing you can do is remember what waits on the other side of it.

Over at the High Calling today, writer Laura Boggess delivers a beautiful wrap-up for our book club — one that speaks to the eternal longings of our heart.

And this eternal hope? It is the beacon in every fog.

Praying for you, Japan…

by | March 14, 2011 | 20 comments

20 Comments

  1. patty

    thank you.

    Reply
  2. David Rupert

    "creamy soup ladled"
    That's good food analogy !

    I want to see too. But often, I am blindest when the skies are clear. Why is that?

    Reply
  3. Nancy

    So much wisdom in your daughter's questions. I think she's right to ask if we won't be "waking up somewhere beautiful where people aren't sad anymore?"

    And then, once the fog has forever cleared, we'll all sit down to the feast.

    Reply
  4. Laura

    Oh, Jennifer. This is perfect. YOu write my heart. I found hope in these last two essays. In the end it is the Bread of Life that we will feast on. Thank you, friend, for offering beauty from ashes.

    Reply
  5. Patti Hanan

    What a wonderful, encouraging reminder that time ends in a feast. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Kelly Sauer

    First, you made me cry. That is all I really have to say. Thank you, thank you, for sharing this.

    and do you know what else I found this morning? even as Jesus was telling His disciples about the earthquakes and the wars and the rumors of war, he says, "These are the birth pains." Why BIRTH? Birth leads to life – the indescribable pain we bear in our bodies as we bring our children into life, this is what is happening, the groaning labor of earth bringing us to Life. Jesus knew what we'd face, but He also knew what it was for…

    Reply
  7. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    i love this – i can picture that great feast in the air with our Lord as we ascend into our heavenly home for all eternity!

    Reply
  8. S. Etole

    oh … just oh …

    Reply
  9. jasonS

    A beautiful exposition, Jennifer. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  10. Jennifer @ Studio JRU

    Oh Jennifer, what a wonderful post. Sometimes all we can do is remember what is on the other side. So very true. Thinking and praying for Japan.

    Reply
  11. Ann Kroeker

    So glad you picked up the book. It filled you…and then as you poured it out again on the screen for us, it fills us after we are emptied by the loss.

    Reply
  12. Lyla Lindquist

    Last time I drove in fog, I could have sworn I felt it. Few things I like less than being in the middle of it, thick and impossible as it is.

    But you know, this focus on the other side, that's the way through. And as much as we fix our eyes on the things that tell us how the end might come about, the more important thing is what's on the other side.

    Would love to hear you tell Lydia how the world will end, with that feast.

    Reply
  13. Sarah

    To ask. Brave mom to admit the answers are hard. For me, the pain lingers deep remembering a nation, one of the least evangelized, Japan, slipping into the fog with no light awaiting them. My answer. Live life loud for Him. Teach, proclaim, sometimes with words, sometimes with silence. Reflect His glory as He transforms me more into His likeness. That even in the midst of fog, I would shine His light bold..

    Be blessed friend,
    Sarah

    Reply
  14. diana

    Truly this is one of the loveliest, most thoughtful and well-written posts I've read in a long time. Thank you so much for this exquisitely crafted narrative – and thanks you especially for those five words. What a gift. Just perfect.

    Reply
  15. elizabeth

    A fabulous post…

    Reply
  16. Disciple

    I just didn't see that coming. "it all ends in a feast". So, so beautiful and somewhere deep within us we know that there is a truth somewhere in that.

    Reply
  17. Joan Davis

    Saved by the bus! Phew! But what a gift God gave you in those hours when your kids were at school. He reminded you…and us through you…that the world ends in a feast. When we place our faith in the Lord, we can be at peace for we know how it will "end".

    I'm joining you in lifting my prayers up for Japan.

    Living for Him, Joan

    Reply
  18. Sandra Heska King

    Oh, Jennifer!

    I've thought so much about those who woke up that morning expecting/planning a normal day.

    To know for us it all ends in a feast. So beautiful.

    I wish I'd managed to join this book study.

    Reply
  19. Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam

    Children have such a straightforward way–maybe that is included in the reasons why we have to have faith like little children–they have faith enough to ask the hard questions, assuming there is an answer. As "grown ups" sometimes we don't ask because we're afraid there isn't an answer or we won't like the one we get. "Time ends in a feast." What precious timing God provided for you to get that message–and WHAT a glorious message!! I'll bet you can't wait to pick the threads of that conversation up again when your daughter gets home–you have such good news for her!! Thanks for sharing this Jennifer!!

    Reply
  20. lynnmosher

    Jennifer, your words always take my breath away! Exquisite!

    Reply

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