Lake Superior laps in stretches, miles long, coming in and out of view between spindled evergreens and colorful houses. The moving water is the only thing not frozen, including our toes and windows. I scratch a backwards Minnesota shape in the frost on the window, and my mother’s protests to my window art from all my childhood car rides echo in my memory, but Charity doesn’t say a thing about it. We’ve been driving for over two hours by the time the sun rises, music static but conversation steady, listening with itching ears for the depth of dialogue that a morning spent like this seems to foster.
Interstate 35W is blissfully dry after days of icy and snow-packed road conditions. My big toe, which went numb from ice skating last weekend, has taken all week to regain feeling, and, in keeping with every other Minnesota January, I am aching for the above-freezing temperatures that will most likely not return for months. It’s been another long week in a string of longest weeks, and already annual resolutions to exercise more and work harder have been disrupted by sickness and and fear. Grandma isn’t doing well–again. I’ve downed more NyQuil than actual food in the past 9 days. Last minute travel to the Bahamas for the woman for whom I nanny means a 50 hour work week for me. I’ve barely written anything in three weeks. It’s really, really cold.
I said yes to this North-bound day trip despite an exhausted mind and body screaming for a morning without an alarm clock, an entire day of rest, mainly because the louder scream within me says to go–anywhere. My even realer resolution than the one to lace up running shoes more often is to work and play and rest well and purposefully, and I know that one of these days I’ve got to grow up and start acting on my inward resolve to be better. I tell myself that I’ll wear sweatpants and write on Sunday, and I get up in the quiet dark to fill my backpack and shove numb feet into wool socks and Duck boots. I lock the door behind me and, though I’ve been frantically looking at plane tickets to anywhere South for the past week as the temperatures plummet and the piles of snow alongside the road rise, I get into the car and we go North.
The day is one of those filled ones where you feel like you’ve earned the food you eat and you know your lungs are working. We talk about knowing ourselves and we marvel at the way the Earth’s shadow arcs, getting in the way of itself as the sun dips its way out of the day, and I think a lot about pain. I never want to run from anything, anchored with loyalty to my experiences. I want to feel and know loneliness and suffering and dependency just as much as joy and peace and freedom. To be driven deeper and deeper into Christ by every stinging doubt and monotonous consistency. To, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”
I’ve spent my life feeling everything and fleeing the things that made me feel pain because that’s what made the most logical sense to me. I’ve spent the last few years learning that Christ doesn’t ask us to do what is logical and painless. He wants me driven to Himself with a desperation far more deep-seated than I realize. To press into pain, swirl it on my tongue and let it touch every taste bud before swallowing, letting it burn on the way down and burn when it comes back up. To feel and experience as thoroughly as I’m so naturally inclined to do. Not to run away, but to find Him in the lonely, stark shorelines and the long work hours. And when it gets cold, to go North.
words and photo by Abby Sorensen