In which Aaron texts {and I have an epiphany}

...having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (II Timothy 3:5-7)

Do you ever have the sense that you have just witnessed worlds colliding in such an explosive manner that, had you been living in a sci-fi film instead of reality, there would have been some giant sucking noise as one world was pulled into a black hole of unknown dimensions?  I could almost hear the giant swirling-the-drain sound effect when I received a text message from my husband. Who was in a deer stand dressed in blaze orange as he typed it. And the text was about Scripture. Three very different worlds, colliding in a single moment - and sentence - on my old-school, non-3G, no-data, phone that only has NUMBERS. Numbers, people. Not letters - not a half-Qwerty or a full-Qwerty, just numbers. Strange, I know.

But - trust me on this - it's even stranger that my old-school phone should be the receptacle for something as rare as a text message from Aaron - my mountain man, wilderness tamer, knife wielding, wool flannel plaid clad lover. The fact that he was reading his Bible in the deer stand is normal, par for the course. The fact that he is hunting these first two weeks of November is his last stand as a man against the inexorable tide of competing commitments as father, husband, and faithful provider. The thing he won't give up. Unless someone is dying.

I read the words over and over and wished that what I felt deep in my soul wasn't real. That it would dissipate if I just read the words again. In fact, it took me two whole days of reading these verses before I consented to the God of the universe and wrote this.  Conviction. Do you know conviction? The thing we used to call conscience when we were kids - our parents said it was like a rubber band that snaps you back to home base, unless you stretch it too many times and intentionally lessen the elasticity and snap! of this valuable internal tool of discernment.

I don't want verses 6 and 7 of II Timothy 3 to be the definition of me as a woman. However, at age 31, I feel like it is an apt description. I accepted Christ as Savior when I was 4. I studied more about the Bible and Jesus than any other subject for about 14 years. I have piles of notebooks full of notes on different books of the Bible, sermons I listened to, books on theology and doctrine and Christian living I read. Journals full of questions and answers and ideas and wonderment and curiosity and angst and obligation. I walked away, in the opposite direction, exhausted by study and lured by the promise of entertainment, during my college years.  And slowly came back. And today, the stacks of notes and the different versions of the Bible and I read many, many great books. Craig and Strobel's On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, Keller's The Reason for God, Driscoll's Doctrine, and Book III of Calvin's Institutes have all made their way onto and off of my nightstand in the past month.  Whole books of the Bible have been pored over (Jeremiah, Lamentations, I and II Kings, I and II Samuel, Psalms, Proverbs, the Corinthian letters, Thessalonian letters, and I and II Timothy have been especially rich).

I have knowledge. I am always learning. But how often am I arriving at the knowledge of truth?

(I have the knowledge it takes to operate a fancy camera, for instance. And I didn't absorb the beauty of this symmetrical leaf in frost-white until I was editing the photos. My daughter...without the knowledge or learning to "see" through a camera...sees the leaf in her hands. I need to see the leaf...and the daughter...instead of just developing a Pavlovian pick-up-the-camera twitch.)

Sometimes the knowledge of truth is the deep in your bones conviction that your family is going to trick or treat. A conviction so sure that you don't even bother to research how other Christians approach this holiday and feel some confusion at the confusion surrounding the issue.

Every year, we get our costumes on, and we see a dozen people we only see once a year, on Halloween, when we go around our old neighborhood in the city we left and visit old friends. The woman who greeted me with a smile and a hug on the day I moved into my very first house is a shut-in now, crippled by a hereditary disease she prays daily won't kill her own daughter. There were years when it was difficult to bring my kids into her home, unsure how fresh the candy was and pretty sure there were other things that weren't fresh as this dear woman tried to cope as long as possible without outsiders helping her to live.

Knowledge of the truth is...not missing an opportunity to hug someone who won't long be with us and slipping I John 5:13 in her ear while she squeezes me tight.

We did miss Halloween last year. Half of Amelia's body didn't work and she was bed-bound and near-comatose on October 30th. October 31st dawned on a little girl in isolation - and nurses kind enough to crack the door for my kids so they could "visit" from the doorway, and at least see their sister on what was supposed to be a joy-filled day of family and fun.

Knowledge of the truth is...praise God for Amelia standing up and spunky in her bee costume this year.

I have a holy fear of the woman burdened by sin (laziness, self-love, pride, malice, discontent) and led astray by various passions (blogging, research, freelance work, crafts for Christmas, a clean floor, some time alone), always learning (researching, reading, searching online) but never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. I can see her reflection, clear as day, twenty years hence.

Paunch around the middle, still trying to find the right jeans, an infrequent but revered hostess of all-out dinner parties and able to quote a thousand pieces of Scripture.

A PhD-prepared professor more comfortable in a peer-reviewed journal and business suit than serving up cafeteria food at the soup kitchen. Dishing advice and learning to young people because inviting them in to your messy home on Sunday afternoon isn't as agreeable.

Someone who always wanted to adopt a baby and soothes quelled ambition with a hundred dollars in the jar on Orphan Sunday.

What do I really want to be in life?

A cancer survivor?

An amazing mom whose kids tell tall tales of childhood memories for decades to come?

The wife who always serves beef for dinner and has the happiest husband on the block?

A writer memorialized for her way with words?

A nurse scientist whose name goes down in the theory books for generations to come?

A woman whose floors were always clean?

In the end, there is only one thing I want to be.  A daughter of the King. A praiser of the Most High God. (not that I'm giving up on serving beef for dinner, sweetheart.) Can you ever really go wrong praising God? Ecclesiastes 3 is the only passage that comes to mind. What cancer has taught me is that you can praise God in all the situations listed in Ecclesiates 3 (birthing/dying, planting/plucking, killing/healing, mourning/dancing, silent/speaking...).

And there is the rub. I wouldn't have holy fear of the II Timothy 3 woman if I hadn't read my Bible these past 25 years and had cancer for the last 2 1/2. It took all 25 years - and probably a hundred times reading that one passage - for God to bring me to the place I am today. It took cancer to stop me in my tracks and have me really asking, "Who do I want to be?", to bring me to a place of more purpose and less reaction. The learning is important, too - the reading, and some of those things I mentioned as "various passions" above. But I need to balance here on this scale. And the easiest way to do that is lift holy hands in prayer and praise and offer it all back to Him.

To you, Giver of passion, I give back my passions. May the fruit of my passions be fruit useful and beautiful in your sight, Lord. Keep me from being an empty shell of learning and meaningless passion and fill me more every day with the knowledge of truth.