I’m loading coffee cups into the dishwasher and pretend not to hear. No follow-up voice speaks, so I rinse plates and slide them in slots below the cups. I’m returning pineapple to the fridge, when it comes again.
“Yes, I’m here, I just want to finish cleaning up the kitchen. I’ll be right there.” He wants me to come sit and talk, but I need to get the clothes in the wash and run to the grocery store.
“Suzanne, why are you avoiding me?”
I lean against the island in the kitchen, arrested in mid-wipe of the counter top. Why am I putting him off? The distance between us will grow as I allow the number of minutes to grow until I stop and face him. I drop the rag and head to the couch.
He’s waiting for me, waiting for my reply to his question.
“I don’t know what to say.” I plop on the couch.
“Tell me your thoughts,” he responds.
“I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m just trying to get my chores done before fifteen people come through the door tonight.” My words sound harsh, surprising me but not fazing him.
“You know I can help.”
“Thank you, but I don’t need help, I just need to keep going through my list. I’m not sure how you could help anyway.”
“I think you know that if we talked, you would be more at ease in your day and get more done, so tell me really why you’re avoiding me.”
I sigh, but search inside for the true answer. It’s not as if he doesn’t know it already.
“I feel like we’re in a long-distance relationship. I know you’re here, Jesus, but I can’t see you. I can’t tell if you’re smiling or pursing your lips. I can’t hear the tone of your voice. I tell you everything, but I feel like I’m missing your side of the conversation.”
“You heard me calling you?”
“Well, yes, but that could be my conscience.”
“You know who speaks often through your conscience.”
“The Holy Spirit speaks to me, I know that, but I also know that I just as often confuse my thoughts with what I think are his words, your words.”
“I hear your thoughts, Suzanne. You’re thinking that my part of the conversation is written in Scripture. Those thoughts are given to you through the Holy Spirit.”
“Yes, that’s what I’m thinking, but still I feel like I’m in a long-distance relationship with you. When I read the scripture, I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right and not imprinting my bias.”
“Remember my promise I gave to my friends when I left for heaven and my Father, The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’ (John 14:25-26) This promise I give to you too. The Spirit teaches you. He gives your heart understanding.”
“But people misunderstand the Spirit all the time and go off on some wild tangents,” I object.
“What else did I give you to prevent you from wandering?”
“You gave me a family, the church, to confirm and correct me,” I rattle.
“I did, but you underestimate the importance of your spiritual family. They serve you in keeping you on track, but I gave you gifts to contribute to them too. You must depend on them, and you must be dependable, for them to rely on you. That’s a true family, isn’t it?”
“So I’m still waiting for the real answer to my question. Dig deeper.”
Why do I avoid the one person who loves me and understands me more than any other? Why do I shy from the only one who knows my past and future and possesses authority to act on my behalf? I must be crazy.
“Your’e not crazy, you’re afraid.”
My mouth drops open in one of those aha moments. He’s right, I’m afraid.
“Tell me what you’re afraid of.”
“I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. I’ll disappoint you or won’t hear you. I won’t pray the right way with adoration, confession, and thanksgiving first. I’m afraid to speak so casually to you but also to grovel when you’ve told me I’m your child. Either way, I don’t know how to approach you.”
“Yes you do. You’re thinking it right now. Say it out loud.”
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16”
“That’s it, but there’s more fear. Name it.”
“I’m afraid I won’t like what you say, that you’ll require something of me that I can’t do or don’t want to do.”
“You think I would give you something I won’t prepare you to do, because you’re afraid of something else.”
I twitch in my seat, not wanting to admit my deepest fear.
“You don’t believe I truly love you. What’s the greatest act I could do to prove it? You know what it is, and that I did it. You need to accept my love for you, and if you don’t accept it, Suzanne, that means there’s something else feeding your fear. What is it?”
I whisper the answer. “Unbelief.”
“And what does your unbelief imply?”
“That you’re lying. My unbelief questions your character. I’m sorry. Please forgive my playing the victim, when you are the one whom I’ve offended.”
“Do you not fear me? Haven’t you been saying that you’re afraid to pray?”
“Yes. I fear you.”
“Fear is not a bad thing. Why do you fear me?”
“Because you’re so holy, so mighty and far above me. I’m a worm in your presence.”
“In the beginning, I was with God and created the world. I am life and the light of the world, yet I sought you. I find pleasure in talking with you and in working in your life to reveal myself to you. The breadth of my power is matched by the breadth of my love for you. How does that change your fear of me?”
I close my eyes to consider. I picture the stars in the heavens and imagine the extent of the universe. I open my eyes and gaze at the sequins riding on the waters of the bayou. Mr. Cardinal chirps on the wax leaf ligustrum, and the scent of jasmine all remind me of not only the magnificence of my creator but of his beauty and care. I bring my focus back to my legs curled under me on the couch, of my small world within worlds and of the conversation I’m having with the God of gods, Light of lights, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, of one being with the Father, from whom all worlds were made, and my fear morphs into awe.
“Yes, now remember me as I was on earth. Think of the private conversation I had with Martha. Remind yourself of my words in Matthew 11, ‘Come to me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ ”
“Thank you, Jesus. You have helped me get ready for the evening’s houseguests. I’d like to continue our conversation while I tackle chores, if that’s okay.”
“Now you’re talking.”