It was as I read The Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos Markides, as he interviewed the Eastern Orthodox monks of Mount Athos in Greece, it was as I heard how they drew near to God. Ceaseless prayer, certainly, but also a unique perspective on life’s twists and turns sets them apart. They use the word “temptations” differently than we do; not as luring desires to sin (though they can be such) but any circumstance of life, whether on the surface quite good, quite benign, or altogether bad. It could be a headache or a pay raise. It could be a compliment or a slight. It could be a disease or an unexpected inheritance. Each circumstance cannot be judged as good or bad in itself, because we do not know how we’ll go through it, with God humbly or without God proudly. They believe that any situation can be to our spiritual benefit if walked through humbly, prayerfully, and leaning into God for strength and direction. Similarly any situation can be to our spiritual detriment, if it distracts us or distances us from intimacy with God. A disaster loses it’s strength, a windfall loses it’s ecstasy. All temptations are held at arm’s length, are not allowed to disturb the innermost peace that Christ gives to each of His children. Because the point isn’t that life goes well for us, but that our relationship and intimacy with God deepens and grows. I put the book down and I thought. God knew. He knew I’d marry a plumber with a plumber’s salary. He knew we’d have a passel of children and that I’d care for them at home, not contributing to our income. He knew he’d send us off to Chile for six years of mission work, incapable of laying aside money for savings. He knew all this; He knew money would be tight and my fences would at times seem to be too narrow. That bills would give me a choking feeling and that I’d be tempted to think that we weren’t good enough as people or as Christians because we didn’t have an account that could absorb the blows of life without scraping bottom.
I found the perfect farm for us. A stone farm house built in 1740 with plenty of room and open hearths (I have a strong desire to cook over coals, see), and even one of those split dutch doors in the kitchen. It has a library where all my books could take residence comfortably. Deep window sills and wide plank floors. Twenty acres of farmland and Swiss-style barns for animals. A dream. And a million dollars out of our price range. It calls for fences wide and open, so wide you can’t see the end of them, that just disappear over the horizon. Such is not what God gave to us. We can see our fences in a glance; we know our present limit well. We know it each month when the bills come in and we have to breathe deep.
What did it mean to trust God within our fences? To walk as dearly beloved children rather than as disappointments? To not be ashamed of what we cannot do, and to be grateful for what He has given us? Because how do we know what He is up to through our narrow fences? Is it character, is it humility, is it perseverance? Whatever it is, can I not dare to believe that He knows best how wide our limits should be in order that we might seek Him hungrily? So I took my eyes off of someone else’s fences, someone else’s possibilities and I looked within my own fences; what did they contain?
And I near wept. Within my fences are things that are all out of proportion; too many blessings for such a small space. Four darling children running about, one in Heaven, and one kicking in my belly. The astounding miracle of being able to send three of them to a wonderful private Christian school. A beautiful Victorian home with a massive yard that we should never have been able to buy at such a cheap price. The best neighbors one could hope for. Two beehives, a dream come true that each day makes me awe-filled and amazed. The ways that God meets me in the grocery store; finding a pork roast for $5.00 that feeds us for six meals. The friends he surrounds us with, the extended family who love us. These fences are near to bulging with God’s mercy.
In all these blessings and in all our hardships, peace is not a maybe. Not if we lean-in to God in all of it, come medical bills or vehicle break-downs or a plentiful honey harvest. I can say along with the Athonite monks and my dear Orthodox friends, “God provides”.