(first published May 2010, in “The Evangelist”)
The Marions were happy to see 2009 go – the last half of the year was a blur. First there was my husband’s broken and re-broken leg, then my teenage daughter’s traumatic accident just a week and a half after returning from a domestic service camp with church.
Looking back it is hard to imagine how we made it through, but by the grace of God we did. In a large part due to the prayers, love and support showered on us by our family, friends and the community of believers in which our lives are immersed. Before this summer I had never spent more than 2 weeks away from home. My mind is befuddled when I imagine that I stayed at the hospital for 70 days, sleeping in make-shift beds and fold out chairs.
Since returning home from that extended stay in the hospital at my daughter’s side, our lives have become complete chaos. And I must confess, I am finding it difficult to be still and find peace. You would think that after all the trials we’ve recently been through that I would have learned a lesson that would be strong enough to last through all other temptations and heartaches that come into my life.
Well, not so – in an odd way it was easy to find peace while we were in the hospital; perhaps because EVERYTHING was out of my control. I could do nothing more for our daughter, than I was doing and that wasn’t much. The doctors knew far more than they were telling me and I watched helplessly in awe of the nurses who cared for her. I was left to sit … and watch. The few times I became anxious, she became anxious. Even in a coma she could sense my fear and anxiety. I had to behave bravely and handle myself as though everything would be fine. And in that environment it was easy to do. I knew that God was there and working in ways I could see, the evidence was right before my eyes.
Since we’ve been home, the cares and worries of daily life have quietly crept back into my heart and mind. I can no longer depend on expert doctors or nurses, I’ve stepped back into the role of expert, manager, scheduler, coordinator … and although this is real life, I don’t like it. Of course I wouldn’t want my daughter to suffer again, or anymore, but sometimes I think it would be easier to go back there, to the hospital.
I’ve struggled wondering how I could possibly want to return to what, at the time, seemed like torture. Yet, I remember a peace there that I’ve only experienced a few times in my life. It is the paradoxical peace of the Christian life that comes from being completely helpless and completely dependent. Like a child, I trusted my Daddy to take care of things. This of peace was given in exchange for my self-will, a gift to me when I let go of thinking I knew better, or that I could actually do something to remedy the situation.
There is so much going on in our lives now. Days are filled with therapies, doctor appointments, school, dinner, bills. And always lurking in the back of my mind are worries of the economy, the war, my daughter, my family. Earlier this month I found myself very preoccupied with all these worries, , almost unable to think. I beginning to panic, dread had a hold of me and my insides were churning.
A wise friend suggested that I stop and take some time in the church. One of the beautiful benefits of being on-staff at a Church is that I can go into the empty Sanctuary and sit. There I attempt to reason with God (and sometimes myself) about things. I find if I stop and give him time, he is faithful to provide an answer or direction to the issues on my heart. I’m not sure why this hadn’t occurred to me on this particular day, but I’m thankful my friend knew what I needed.
The readings appointed for Morning Prayer that day were: Psalm 56, Genesis 11: 1-9 and Mark 9:2:13. The Holy Spirit wove these passages together to provide me an answer to my inability to find peace and trust.
I began with the psalm reading:
“Nevertheless, though I am sometime afraid, yet put I my trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3
These words went straight to my heart. The psalmist revealed the truth about my struggle: I am struggling with trust because I am afraid. It is true, I’m afraid of so many things that “could” happen. Not things that “are” happening, but that “could happen”. My mind is constantly a whirl with the “What if this,” “What if that.” The scenarios I imagine are frightening, I’ve got a good imagination.
I’m not sure why I don’t create positive scenarios, or wonderful outcomes. I’m bewildered at my own pessimism. In order to avoid these imagined outcomes I’m consumed with anxiety about my own lack of action. My brain then takes me through a list of things I feel I should do (or get others to do). I’m thankful that the psalmist was honest enough to admit that he was afraid. I realize that although I do worry, I’m in good company.
I continued to read on this particular morning:
The story of the Tower of Babel. It is recounted in the 11th chapter of the Book of Genesis. The nations of the earth, united by a common language decide to make a monument for themselves by erecting a tower. They weren’t making a monument to God, but to themselves — they weren’t seeking God or his will for their lives, this was a mighty nation of people bound by a common language, a common thought, I’m sure they thought they could do great things without God.
Huh! This is me, attempting to create the life that I desire, that I want. How often do I proceed with my plans without consulting God or even first examining my motives? I read on:
“… and they had slime for mortar”
The imagery is strong. Slime for mortar. I am using slime as the building materials in my life. The thought was revolting. What materials would God provide for me if I let him? Or even at least if I came along side him and helped him work, instead of doing things my way. What precious building resources does he want to provide for me? If I knew … I’m certain I wouldn’t choose slime over his elements. Yet, herein lies the rub; he already knows the outcome, and I don’t. He decidedly has an advantage over me. He knows what he’s building. But I insist on introducing my suggestions.
I’m like Peter in the final reading of the day; the account of the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2:13). In a miraculous turn of events, Peter witnesses the true glory of Christ, transfigured in intensely white garments. And at the same time he finds himself in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Instead of being still in this phenomenal moment, Peter interrupts Christ’s conversation. He’s got a great idea, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” The next line in Scripture explains why Peter said this. “For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.”
I have to laugh at Peter because that is me. Christ is preparing his heart for the impending torture he must suffer and Peter thinks it is a good idea to build a more permanent dwelling for him, Moses and Elijah. How often do I miss God’s hand in a circumstance and, in fear, offer him a puny idea. Yet in everything situation, God in his greatness, has a more magnificent, fully developed plan in mind. My role is to be present and to be quiet. There isn’t anything that I can think of that he hasn’t already considered. If, in my fear I insist on having my way I waste my time building a deficient monument from the slime. In my willfulness, I miss his orchestration of a fuller masterpiece.
I’ve been a Christian long enough to have a great many memories of God’s provision in dark, needful moments. Why don’t those memories sustain me? Why does the feeling of peace seem so transient? I’ve gone round and around with myself on this and I believe it comes down to one simple truth;
Day-by-day I must make a decision to trust God.
I have to stop anticipating that the feeling of trust will engulf me. I must find peace in knowing that, although sometimes I’m afraid, I must make a decision to put my trust in God. All I can do is pray; take action where I can, then simply trust that God take care of the rest. He may not have devised the ending that I desire, but He has never, nor will he ever, let me down.