What Revelation Has To Do With the Cheshire Cat (And Other Things I Didn’t Know)

Cheshire-Cat

The thing about a revelation is, it’s something you didn’t know before. If you were already clued in on this, you should have told me, because I totally missed the memo.

Knowledge is my thing. It’s, like, my thing. If I want to accomplish something, or I want to recover something, or I want to take action on something, pretty much always the first thing I do about any of it is read a book. I take notes in my books, too. It’s a very powerful technique. If I know everything about a thing, then everything will be under control, and I’ll be able to manage everything and everything will be okay. This is my entire mode of operation. Which I guess is why I was so not clued in on the nature of revelation.

Now I’ve been carried by revelations these last six years. God came for me with a long arm, like Jesus calling. I wasn’t asking in any way that felt to me like asking. I mean, I was asking, come to think of it, pretty desperately. But I was asking for knowledge that I could control. I was not asking for this other kind of knowledge, the kind that comes in backwards and tells you things that you don’t believe.

This is like a tree appearing from the top down. This is like the Cheshire Cat, with only its grin showing. And let’s be clear, I didn’t like it one bit. Who likes the Cheshire Cat? What a creepy character!

But that is how it happened to me. God came for me, with a long arm. Like the road to Damascus. I saw the top of the tree before the trunk. And I believed because I had no other choice. Since then I’ve been moved nearly two thousand miles by the same kind of discovery. It’s grown on me.  

I could never have told you ten years ago that I would be anywhere near where I am now. If it were up to me and my taking notes in the margins of beloved books, I wouldn’t be here. If it were up to me and the beautiful vision I had for my life—which, incidentally, crumbled into spectacular failures and other similar clumps of dust along the way—I would never have made this journey into being who I really am.

For many, these New Year days are full of celebrating new beginnings, or at least pretending to. But I never forget that every new beginning is a death of what came before. For those of us who have lost our fantasies to gain precious new truths, the new year is also a time for grief.

Just this evening I found myself in a strange moment of nostalgia, remembering some beautiful places that I’ve been. I’ve been many beautiful places. And I have so many old versions of myself now, to grieve. But they were collateral damage. They had to go. They had to be shed so that I could be the one that I am now. And I guess this onion has a few layers yet to be peeled. Who knows, what else I’m going to learn that I was completely sure I already knew? 

I’d love to be the one to write the next chapter of my story. I’d write it beautiful as can be. But then I’d be limited to what I can imagine, and what I can know. I’d be limited to my own worries and my own insecurities. That’s too high a price!

Just think. I might only be able to value gold, where God can value sunflowers. I might only be able to value neon lights, while God never tires of the miracles of rising sun and glittering stars. I might get it all wrong.

I still think the Cheshire cat is a creepy character. But these days I’ll take my truth upside down and in flashes and glimpses. I’ll take it that way because that’s the way it’s true. 

I’ll trust in revelation. 

Esther Emery

Esther Emery

Esther lives with her husband and three children on three acres of Idaho mountainside, in a yurt her husband designed and built himself. She's out there in pursuit of self-sufficiency, integrity living and solidarity economy.
Esther Emery
  • Sonja Bachl-Weber

    Thank you, Esther, for allowing space for grief in all of this new.

  • Our pastor challenged to ask God to “break in” this year. Day? Month? I kind of whispered it. Part of me really wants to shout it. The other part says, the boat is rocking enough, we don’t have to step out onto the water for god’s sake. We’ll see. Maybe I’m just afraid he won’t trust me with a break in. And this is beautiful, Esther: God came for me, with a long arm. Like the road to Damascus. I saw the top of the tree before the trunk.

    • I love that. We don’t have to step out onto the water. It’s true. Letting go is sometimes the risk, and letting go is sometimes accepting rest and security. What makes me crazy is that I never know which one is which! But letting go of that, too. 🙂

      • Maybe neither is exactly “wrong.” Tho I think if something is drawing us again and again and we ask for clarity and guidance and move forward, that’s ok. My friend got me thinking about “reluctant obedience” for a blog post, but I’m thinking what I experience is “tentative” or maybe tip-toe obedience. “Here is the path, walk” ever so slightly in that direction until maybe you come to a cliff or yellow bricks… OK, obviously I need coffee…

  • This! Yes: that if we had to write our own revelation it would be the dull stuff that cages us. May we all be open to seeing the impossible vision God sets before us and jumping to catch those tree-tops.

  • Jessica

    The word choice here is so important. If the writer had said anything approaching: I would never have become this wonderful person I am today, I would have passed. But she doesn’t. She says she’s in progress to becoming “who I really am.” And sometimes becoming who we really are really SUCKS. Sometimes it hurts something vicious as we have so much we think we want and need brutally cut away from us. But getting to be real is a very good thing, as we learned in the Velveteen Rabbit.

    • So wise, Jessica. I think becoming who we are is always more about letting go than building up. But then…maybe that’s just telling you exactly how old I am. Thanks for bringing up the Velveteen Rabbit!

      • Jessica

        Yes, letting go, not building up. That sounds like truth to me.

      • Yes! I’m learning this too. I find I can so fight the letting go. You paint such a beautiful picture of freedom here, Esther, but also the pain of it all. Thank you.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    This touched a place in me I didn’t know was covered, Esther. And now I’m crying in the library. I blame you.

    • So much room for you, Jody. I hope it was a good, cleansing cry. <3

  • Sat across from you at lunch at Faith and Culture. Reading this and getting to know more of your story blessed me.

  • Patrick Bowman

    The shattering of little dreams and knowns and want to bes so we can see the need for bigger dreams of unknowns and can it bes. Thanks Esther.

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  • “God came for me with a long arm, like Jesus calling.” I love this, Esther. Your words are always so full of truth and you share from your heart. I think it is hard sometimes to realize that we can’t always be in control and we can’t know everything. But it’s also true that if we wrote our stories like you said we’d be limited to only what we know, but there is so much more with God, more than we can ever imagine. I also appreciate the fact that you talk about how we have to let some of our past selves go as we continue to peel off layers in becoming who we really are. Esther, you are a blessing. Love you!