The train seat hummed. I flipped a page in my book and looked out the window. Then back to the page again.
My husband and I swayed. The low grade forward motion toggled between Southern Californian hill and brush. Another glance out the window and I saw that the bushes, once robust, were starting to give way to small streams of golden dirt. The empty streams snaked like veins where life used to flow. It made you wonder where and when the life left.
A slow in our sway announced a change of scenery.
We took a lean left and broke onto a portion of track that hugged the Pacific coastline.
Birds broke out. Grass danced. The waves crashed. The sea stretched. And I sat up. Entranced and in love.
The scene called to me. It serenaded me. It awoke me.
And I quietly wondered, "Why can't everyday be like this? Why do I have to have such long lapses between what inspires me and what bogs me down? Why does this feel so different than every other day?"
So I fixed my gaze again. I needed to memorize the scope. The scale. The feeling. The freedom. I knew she would be gone soon; that the ocean would lap and laugh without me. So I studied her froth and fall without taking my eyes off her.
Then she disappeared around a curve in the track. And I didn't even get to say goodbye.
But the question circled back. "What am I doing wrong? Why doesn't life feel like a day at the sea?"
I felt another forward push and the sea wall gave way to graffiti walls. We were crossing city lines into Los Angeles.
I could feel it creep up on me. The grit, the grime, the greed and the lust. I've called this place home before, and it hurt me. It still pushes those places to the color red when I visit. The chain link fence wrapped itself around the train window. And I felt like a caged animal.
This spray painted city pumped out messages wall after wall; messages that it was made on. I just watched them swipe by feeling vandalized over and over.
Then I saw a beautifully manicured hedge. A random, flourishing collection of leaves and twigs that stood at the back of an abandoned warehouse.
What was it doing here? Of all places. A hedge this beautiful belonged by the sea.
The care was noteworthy.
Someone had trimmed the lines of its leaves to perfection. Even the color was saturated bright green. The soil was dark and deep and watered and well loved. It was about 8-feet-long, sandwiched in-between trash and broken concrete. It stood out in the most beautiful and wasteful way.
This was the work of someone who understood the currency of secret devotion.
This gardner was someone who didn't tend so that the masses could applaud him. The skyline was clearly hidden from the view of it. It was tended by someone who sweat and stooped and dug and pruned for the love of it. And maybe, somewhere in all of that hidden work, it was because he hoped that someday some deep feeler on a train would pass by and see God.
And I did.
We need more hedge men in our day.
Just like the Israelites, the most ancient of God lovers, did.
Moses was the original hedge man.
He introduced an entire generation of wilderness believers to a new hedge; a hedge of protection: the Torah.
The Torah, and namely the book of Dueteronomy, was a combination of speeches and covenants and laws and promises and blessings and curses that gave spray paint junkies a grid for understanding God. He handed lost folks a guidebook to get them out of the empty streams and into the ocean. He gave them reasons not to vandalize the temple over and over again with godless graffiti that looked like unholy grain.
So this verse stopped me in my tracks when I began to ask God why I didn't get more sea days in my ordinary life.
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.
It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?'
But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it."
It isn't far off. It is very near. It is in my mouth; like a kiss. It is in my heart; like its beat.
God is speaking directly to me. To you. To all of us who think that someplace out there can fix what is in here.
It speaks to the Bible belters who believe that it requires a heaven stamp in our passport before we can live out the kingdom work here on earth. It speaks to the ones who worship their calendars assuming that obedience is a vacation they put off because they can't afford it. It speaks to the star-aligners who are waiting for the sea wind to blow the dust off their Bibles.
It is for those of us, like me, that long for the sea instead of the dirt.
That want salt on their skin, but not in their tears.
Lately, by the grace of God's word, I can see where He really is. He is behind the broken down warehouse; without an audience; giving each of us 8-feet of faithfulness for the glory of God and, gasp, maybe the benefit of just one.
Obedience is the tending.
The hedge is the fruit.
The fruit is the reward.
The reward is not needing the sea to be satisfied.
The Word is very near to you.
Jesus is close. He may be sitting on your bookshelf, curled up next to your bed, holding one of your hands, kicking back in your memory, tatted on your arm, the bread in your mouth, the art on your walls, the nap you're needing, the song on your radio, the bottle cap on your whiskey. But wherever He is, He is close. Very close.
Open your Bible. Read what it says. Do what it tells you to. Love the man who tells you to do it.
If so, you might just hear the roar of the sea in between diaper changes or data entry.
It's a least worth a try.
We're in this together,
Blog inspired by Emily P. Freeman's Simply Tuesday and Sara Hagerty's Unseen. If you'd like to read more on this topic I recommend both those books wholeheartedly.