Life’s Barriers

Margaret Feinberg

The first book is also the story of various barriers that we keep running into, in our relationship with God, each other, and creation, as well as God’s loving decision to tear down those walls, redeem a mad world, and draw us closer to him.

Strewn across the white comforter on the Scottish hotel bed, I breezed through the first few chapters of Genesis and sensed the sacred echo “It is good” with regard to my plan of sharing from these passages over the upcoming week.

Realizing I was a few minutes late for dinner, I rushed down to the restaurant where the group gathered around a series of small tables pushed up against each other. We were the only ones in the hotel’s dining hall, and when a perky young waitress appeared, she greeted us with unintelligible words that sounded like an encrypted form of English.

One of the team members, Katie, interpreted: the chef was running late. Throughout the evening I only understood every third word the waitress spoke and resorted to nodding and smiling through the other two. I managed to navigate the menu with help from the team.

The less adventurous among us, ahem, skipped the Scottish standards of haggis and blood sausage for more familiar fare like salad, steak, salmon, and a selection of potatoes cooked a hundred different ways.

Our bellies full, we searched for the quietest room we could find. One of the team members urged us into a vacant card room attached to the hotel lobby. Because the room held only a single brown leather couch and two red leather chairs, we pulled in extra seating from the lobby so we could gather around a narrow glass table.

After explaining my personal journey through Genesis, we took turns reading portions of the first chapter of the Bible. Then we discussed the theological facets the words reveal about our God – a God in whom all things are made and held together.

A God who creates goodness and celebrates it at every turn, a God of profound order who triumphs over chaos, a God of boundless generosity and unfathomable power has been revealed.

As we examined the passage, I sensed the familiar scripture awaken something deep inside me. I asked everyone to share personal hopes, dreams and desires for the trip as a springboard for a time of prayer.

I listened intently. In secret I hoped someone would give words to the thoughts somersaulting through my mind, but no one did. Then my turn came. “My hope . . . my prayer,” I stammered.

I felt the iron weight of the pause as I grasped for the perfect way to express what I desired from God. I took a deep breath and plunged.

“This sounds strange,” I apologized, “but I’m praying for pixie dust.”

I might as well have vacuumed all the air out of the room. While a few stared uncomfortably at me, more than a dozen eyes darted back and forth in an almost unanimous expression: What have we gotten ourselves into?

I kept talking.

“More than anything, what I long for is our God, the One who bedazzled the heavens and razzle-dazzled the earth, to meet us in such a way during our time in Scotland that we find ourselves awestruck by his goodness and generosity, his provision and presence. I’m praying for pixie dust. I want to leave here with a sense of wonderment as we encounter and experience things only God can do.”

One by one the members of the team exhaled, a welcome sign they were extending grace to me. A few even smiled. Louie, a pastor whose short grey hair and mustache framed twinkling youthful eyes, broke the silence.

“Margaret, I think what you’re asking for is something me and my boys pray for often. You’re asking for the favor of God. We pray for God’s favor both in good times and bad – that we’d sense the reality that we’re one of God’s children, one of God’s favorites, and wait expectantly for what God will do.”

With those words, Louie became one of my favorite members of the team. In closing our devotional time together, we prayed with boldness for pixie dust.

When I returned to my room that night, I tucked myself into bed. The European down comforter left me feeling warm, snug and enveloped by a thousand feathers.

God had reawakened a sense of divine expectation. Though God had been at work in my life in countless ways – revealing so many wonders – I realized that deep down inside I still backed away from living each day with holy anticipation.

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