First, let me share something that was cut from my devotional. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 there is one word in the original Greek New Testament that reveals the surprising hope God offers us in adversity. It comes where Paul says “…but with the testing he will also provide the way out, so that you may be able to endure it” (NRSV). The word translated as “a way out” is ekbasis.
In Greek, ekbasis refers to a means of escape from temptation, a way through, an exit in a closed situation, or a rescue. Ekbasis was used to describe a company of soldiers who were surrounded and threatened with grave danger and suddenly discovered a hidden path of escape—over treacherous terrain—to reach safety. For us, ekbasis means a godsend of hope, a gift of God when we’re forsaken and feel all is lost.
When our maps show no path forward, when our GPS keeps re-routing us to obstacles, God’s ekbasis comes to surprise us. When we see the way out that God provides, we are given a courage that is deeper than our own bravery. We are given a new, broader vantage point that allows us to see alternative possibilities and long-term meaning. The divine ekbasis will lead us along new paths and into new geographies of faith, walking hand in hand with the One who will guide us until we reach a place called Promise.
Secondly, let me share one of the treasures of my personal life: a pure-white dove named Gracie that lives in our living room on the mantle. Whenever I open her cage to let her fly around, she wings her way forward and immediately lands on my head. She’s such a show-off! (She does this at church as well, and people are amazed.) Then as I start to move around the house doing my chores, I shift her onto my shoulder and she keeps me company. But it’s Gracie’s cooing that’s most soothing. Waking up in the morning, I can hear her “coo-coo-coo-COOOOO” from our bedroom upstairs, and I smile at the Spirit’s blessings.
How did I get Gracie? My first dove, Isaiah, was given to me by my soon-to-be father-in-law (whose hobby was as a magician) as a gift at my ordination to the ministry. Isaiah lived 30 years, delighting children, youth, and adults in all the churches in which I served. One of the people who most adored Isaiah was a middle-aged woman named Cheryl. She used to visit Isaiah in my study at the church. One day, the idea came to me to give Cher her own dove since she lived alone, struggled with depression, and had no pets. So that Christmas Eve during worship, I surprised Cher with a dove. She named her Gracie, loved her dearly, and cuddled her as one might cuddle a cat.
Tragically, just four years later Cher was killed in a car crash. Her son told me Cher would want me to have Gracie for my ministry. Shortly after this, eight homeless teenage boys came to our church for a program, and I brought Gracie out for them to see, pet, and hold. It was a healing moment. Since then, Gracie has delighted and inspired people at weddings, funerals, church camps, nursing homes, and every church where I’ve been supply preacher. And as I type these last words, guess who is perched on my shoulder? Coo-coo-coo-COOOOOO!
If you know someone in a time of struggle who might like a dove feather from Gracie, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find my professional Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/PastorHopeHarleMould/.
“I believe with all my heart that vulnerability and authenticity are the only way to find wholeness in Jesus Christ. … I believe in the holistic, healing love and salvation in Jesus Christ, who walks with us in the valleys and brings beauty from ash heaps again and again and again. I am here to tell you that I have been on the mountaintops and in the valleys, and I have discovered that we need a reset in our souls. We need to share stories so that others will too. When we’re free to be real, that’s when the real joy comes.” Read more.