God saw the people of Israel— and God knew. Exodus 2:25
I remember, while walking through the woods as a little girl, Mama used to say, “I wonder what our place will look like in a hundred, two hundred, years?”
She taught me to know a home site, to recognize a land loved. The chimney pile may be dispersed and the well filled in, or they might’ve made home without a chimney or a well, but the plants can tell you, and the ground can tell you. Then once you’ve seen enough of them, you can feel it. You find yourself looking around for a witness. Does this sound ridiculous? But if the earth can be redeemed, why can’t it also keep meaning, and memory? How is that too much? The wonders we are sure of, that we’ve grown used to, imply a Maker of wonders, not a wardrobe of them, unless that wardrobe opens to a whole world.
So I knew what Mama was getting at, and it made me angry, and it still does.
I loved the broken indian pottery, the homemade bricks, the depressions in the ground, the white oaks and iris bulbs of the dead. I loved finding initials in hearts on trees, past making out. I loved loving land that was loved before I was thought of. But I loved myself too. I loved my entrance into the story, and I hoped it would change things. I loved, more than anything, and without knowing it, permanence. My six year old heart wanted to live forever. Twenty years later, it still does. My six year old heart knew this couldn’t be, so the next best thing is to have children who have children who have children who are forever faithful, right?
“We’ll be here,” I told Mama, foot stomping. “We’ll always be here!”
Despite growing up and getting used to disappointment, I still, in all my plans, pursue continuity. Even in writing, this is the goad: an unwillingness to let things go. While the pines are cleared on the hills to make pasture, I’ve dropped into the bottom field to plant black walnut trees, a crop I won’t live to harvest. This may be vision, but it is still my vision, and limited, at best.
The last few months I have served outside the only abortion mill in the region, praying, pleading, present, there, where little people are dismembered. The city has never been the place for me, but now, being cursed, spit at and reviled, I hate it. “Make it, them, real to us,” my friend prays, and when the Lord answers her, I want, with all of me, to go home. There is meaning here I do not want to know or keep. There is hope only that the memory of this place will be wiped off the earth. There my Maker has shown me that I’m a stranger in a strange land. There I’m a little girl standing on broken concrete, closing her eyes for a minute, trying to remember what the valley looks like in the spring, water rushing round the fallen logs and black stones, the smell of sassafras among the ferns, the vanishing white flag of the doe come to drink, this beautiful place of mine, just twenty miles northeast from the hell surrounded by churches full of people who are happier than they should be, considering.
The seed promise is a consistent theme throughout all of Scripture, only increasing in urgency as we turn the pages to the Gospels, and gloriously fulfilled in the coming of Christ. But fulfilled doesn’t mean done with, but made full and here with us, as He is. What hope is there for a nation that legalizes the mass murder of innocents? What hope is there for a generation of women who are merciless to their own babies? For men who despise their own seed? What has grace done for us if the abuses and wrongs we have suffered have not served to make us more gentle and just, but apathetic abusers ourselves? The ground cries out—my own beloved ground and yours, wherever that may be—and we deserve the curse of Cain, indeed, we have received it, a heritage of violence, a fugitive fate, and if we are only a slight depression in the wilderness one day, it’s more than we deserve, for it’s more than we’ve given to the least of these, our people.
What will our place look like in a hundred, two hundred years? I don’t know anymore, Mama. With the time, I will plead for the defenseless, with the sad souls who think killing the preborn could ever make anything better. Then I will come home and plant trees.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. Hebrews 11: 13-14