My good friend Wendy told me two month ago about a book I needed to read. It was Don Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” She thought I could use it. And she also told me when she read it, it made her think about me. “It’s you”, she said. I thought, cool. “I’ll pick it up.” I did. And then she would ask me, “Have you started it yet?” “No, not yet. I’ve been finishing this other one.” “I can’t wait for you to read it so we can talk about it.” “I’ll get to it soon.”
A month rolled by, and I was still working on another book. And I was hurting about losing the girl I had never had. “Bruce, you need to read that book”, she’d tell me. “But Wendy, I am moping and grieving. I love this woman, and she used to be my friend, and now she treats me like I am a nobody.” “Bruce, I am sorry about that- but there is more to your life. There is more to you than that. You need to leave that behind. You need to read the book.” “Okay, Wendy.”
Fast forward another month. I had kept trying to get the girl to talk to me, to just respond to me, to show me I was someone to her, someone who had at one time been someone worthwhile in her life, by sending her an occasional short note here and there. I kept trying to make sure she didn’t forget me, trying to hang on to my hope that somehow she would wake up and realize I was spectacular and someone she would miss if I wasn’t in her life. But she didn’t. Instead, she just quit answering my emails. And so, after a few weeks of this, I realized I had to send a note- that note- which would uncover everything to my heart, that would let the axe fall at the roots of our friendship, and that I knew would mean, after nearly 5 years of memories, the death of our friendship.
After writing a short note, I quaked and stared at it for two hours, my stomach in fits, before I found enough nerve to send it. Wendy had popped online when I saw her appear in my chat app, and I told her about the note- and that I couldn’t send it. “Bruce- yes you can. You need to do it. You need to let it go. You need to give it to God. You need to leave this. Leave!” In a moment of temporary unconsciousness, I quickly hit the “Send” button. The email was gone, and soon she would receive it, and our friendship would be dead. A wave of anxiety shot through me, Wendy praised and tried to calm me, and then a ball of sadness exploded inside of me. I told Wendy I needed to go outside and walk. “Try and read in the book soon, Bruce.” “I will.” I went for a walk and cried, and then talked to my friend Chris, and he, friend of infinite patience, gave me wise advice: “Don’t cry. Make an altar to God about this in your life here and now.” Make an altar to God about this.
I used to think that when the great men of the Old Testament made altars to God after some incredible (or appalling) experience, it was because God was busy wanting them to just stop and think about Him because God wanted them to realize He was all that. I used to think about them making altars to Him because God was this narcissist that needed adoration simply because he dragged them through whatever trial they were drug through. You end up thinking that way about God if you don’t really know Him though, because you haven’t tasted- you haven’t realized- that God loves you so deeply that He is really more concerned about how you are than about you collecting your silver and your salutes and throwing a parade for him. He doesn’t need our bangles and bouillon.
When you realize instead how much David loved God, and that David loved God so deeply because he knew that God loved him first and with fervency and fire, you realize that David stopped often in his sojourns to build altars to God not simply to placate Him, fulfilling some requirement, but to praise Him. To praise Him for His faithfulness and presence, whether David’s recent experience was full of triumph or travesty. David built the altars to worship the One who walked with him through it all. And David built the altars as much, or even more, for himself- that he might not forget the kindness of the One who was with him through delight or defeat.
I made a mental note that on Thursday, December 1, 2011, the Lord God my Abba was with me as I took the biggest hope in my heart of the last ten years and tore it out by its roots, and then held it up to the sky where, like a bird, it could fly away. I closed my eyes and let it go, and then remembered He was with me. “Thank you for being here, Father.” “I am always here with you. I am proud of you. I know you have loved her. Just leave her to me.”
I started Miller’s book this last weekend. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. I read through it in three days, and about two-thirds of the way through, I had to stop by Wendy’s house and talk to her about it. “I knew you would love this book. Let’s wait until you finish, and we’ll talk about it.” “Okay. But you are right. He sounds like me. At least, he speaks to me.”
After visiting Wendy, I went home to read on it some more. And then I came across chapter 30, and it’s closing paragraphs:
“I like those scenes in the Bible where God stops people and asks them to build an altar. You’d think he was making them do that for himself, but I don’t think God really gets that much from looking at a pile of rocks. Instead, I think God wanted his people to build altars for their sake, something that would help them remember, something that they could look back on and remember the time when they were rescued, or they were given grace.”
Amazing how God puts messages He wants us to get in our lives, highlighted and underlined. ”Seek me first. You know that’s how it has to go. Remember this time, and keep seeking me. I am with you.” Yes, Father.
The Miller book is awesome. It’s about how to live a better story in your life. Just what I’ve needed to hear lately. I recommend it highly.
Oh Lord, thank you for your grace. And for possibilities, the future, good friends, and good books.