I’d like to welcome my friend Bridget back to the author’s chair. It’s been a while. As you will see in her piece, she’s been slogging through some valleys since her last post. God is walking alongside her in her pain. Her writing comes from a raw place. Her trust is shaky. She is vulnerable as she shares her heart with us here.
I don’t mind vulnerable. This blog is not for perfect people to tell others how to get it right. This little community is for struggling people to share their “experience, strength and hope,” as Alcoholics Anonymous so perfectly puts it. If you connect with Bridget’s pain, please give her some feedback in the comments section. Perhaps you can be the one to share hope with her as she chooses trust over doubt and faith over fear.
“Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation]
under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,
Casting the whole of your care
[all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all]
on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”
1 Peter 5:6-7 (AMP)
No more, Lord.
Tired, no – exhausted and emotionally drained, I throw myself onto my bed. Tears stream down my face as I beg for the day to end.
I awake the next morning, my eyes heavy, my body exhausted, my mind scrambling—trying to distinguish dream from reality. I start searching around, only to discover that my fear is reality. My friend, my buddy, is really gone. My losses are all true. This one is just the most recent, a fresh wound.
As tears well up in my eyes, my heart begins to ache. I can’t breathe. My eyes search the room in the hope of finding him. Instead, my gaze is captured by a picture on the wall—a picture of Jesus carrying a black sheep on His shoulders. I cry out to the Lord, “No more Lord, no more! Am I the black sheep of your family, Lord?”
Blinded by pain, I can’t see God. The heartbreak of the past few months is suffocating me. I feel my physical strength declining, and I’m not sure how I can endure the emotional and mental anguish any longer. I feel lost. Abandoned.
The famous phrase, “The Lord will not give us more than we can bear” rings loud in my ears. For many years I’ve believed this saying to be true, but as I write this today, I’m not so sure I believe the truth. It’s obvious to me, because of the pain He has allowed to pass through in my life, that God sees me as stronger than I see myself. My heart is so heavy from the weight of my burdens. My struggles crush me. I can feel God’s Spirit slipping away…
Where is God? Does He see me? Does He know my pain?
Matthew 11:28 (MSG) comes to mind; “Cometome, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, andIwillgiveyourest.”
Rest? That sounds wonderful. I’d love to have rest. I would love to have peace of mind. I want this rest, but it seems out of reach. I desire it. I long for it. I seek after it, but every time I get close I am faced with another trial. Rest disappears—like a figment of my imagination. Once again, hope is lost and oceans of pain come flooding back in. Despair becomes my reality.
In the mist of the chaos of my mind, I hear a still small voice saying, “Come to me. Just come. I’m here.” It dawns on me that I desire rest, but I do not desire surrender. Then truth hits me. “Rest” is given when surrender is received. God will give me rest when I come to Him and surrender myself, my burdens, and my pain.
I have to Trust God’s promises—even when there’s no evidence or proof of truth in them. It’s not God who walked away, it was me who turned from Him. It was not God’s Spirit slipping away, it was me turning away from His Spirit. I now know that God does give us more than we can handle so that we will give Him the handle to steer our lives! He allows for burdens to be placed on our shoulders temporarily, hoping that we will turn around and give them to Him to carry. It is through our unwillingness to surrender, to “come” and release our struggles to Him, that we continue to carry our burdens and suffer underneath the weight of them. By not surrendering, we prevent ourselves from experiencing the rest He promised us.
So… Am I ready to turn my burdens over to God in full surrender? Truthfully, I am not sure. I am crippled by fear and pain, but what I do know is that He’s waiting for me (and you) to cast my (our) cares upon Him, for God cares for me. He cares for you, too. Will you let Him?
Bridget writes from Orange Park, Florida where she serves her community as an educator, her church as an elder, and her family as wife, mother, and “grammy.”
I’m excited to introduce my guest blogger to you. He’s passionate about God and people, and spends much of his time ministering to the discouraged, helping the hopeless find hope again, and being “salt and light” in his local community. He also pastors a small church in North Florida where I sit in the front pew each week, cheering him on as he share’s God’s Word in interesting and innovative ways. His name? André Van Heerden. I’m proud to call him my husband and friend. Here’s what he has to share with us:
Isn’t it a tremendous blessing to go to a spiritual retreat, sit back and listen to the Word of God being preached, spend time praying with like-minded people, go for walks in nature, and so forth? Sometimes we can be tempted to think that the feelings and emotions we experience during those ‘mountain-top’ encounters are what we should be experiencing at all times. Then when we don’t experience those ‘spiritual highs’ we think God is far from us.
Where is God when we are alone in the dark valley and far away from those thrilling mountain top encounters? God is right beside us, as close, or closer, than He was during those spiritual highs. Yes, we can feel God’s Presence with us when we are in a spiritual environment where the conditions are all centered around God, but what happens when conditions aren’t centered around God—when we are at work, or in traffic, or trying to fix a water leak at home, or trying to resolve an interpersonal conflict?
Paul counsels us 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight.” We love to see, feel and touch miraculous signs and wonders all around us. When we are in the dark and cannot see, feel or touch the tangible evidences that God is moving, we tend to think that God is not with us—that He has pulled back from us for some reason. More often than not, we believe that God has pulled back from us due to our sinfulness and because we have fallen back into habitual sin or an addiction.
The enemy of our souls comes alongside us and tells us God is not with us. He tells us we are too sinful to have God be close to us and accept us as we are. He tells us we have to stop sinning before God will come close to us. During these times in the dark valley, we must walk by faith—faith in God’s promises, faith in who God is and faith that God is with us. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29, “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Dear friends, we cannot survive spiritually by using a physical or emotional measure! We survive spiritually by using a spiritual measure! If God said it, I believe it, and that’s enough for me. The simple, well-known words of Psalm 23 are powerful to carry us through those dark valleys—“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” We need to repeat these words to ourselves, over and over—“you are with me.”
Having the promises of God on the tip of our tongues will prevent the spiritual slump we experience in the dark valleys. When we don’t see, touch or feel the spiritual thrill we experience on the mountain-top, we are still to ‘walk by faith.’ We stay confident that ‘God is with us,’ that He loves us and that He understands that we are but dust.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 9 He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:8-14.
You see, as Psalm 119:105 says, the Word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s a lot easier to walk over rocky ground at midday than at midnight. But, when there is no light, we keep on walking because we have light. So whether we are in the dark valley, on a dark rocky path, or in the dark woods, we keep on walking. The enemy of our souls wants to shut out the light. He wants us to stumble, doubt and be confused. God gives us sure footing, confidence and clarity. He makes a sure pathway open before us on which we can keep walking.
Prayer – Father in heaven, You are All-wise, All-Powerful and Ever-present. There is nothing that I can think of that You can’t solve. Please remind me that YOU ARE WITH ME, irrespective of my sin and my weakness. Please give me the confidence and the boldness to keep walking in spite of the obstacles that lie in my pathway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You can read Pastor André’s blog at http://andrevanheerden.org/ where he shares how God guided him into ministry in our local community. Some of the stories are amazing and encouraging. If you are interested in impacting your local community for Christ, but feel so small, perhaps his stories will encourage you.
Yellow orange light crept across the sky just as I finished typing. From my seat in our loft, I saw the sun rising red through the round window overlooking our scrubby three acres. I had been up all night, pouring my heart into letters that made words and paragraphs and pages of explanations and apologies and pleas for mercy. In a desperate attempt to appeal to the head director of the adoption placement agency, I had written our entire story, including the part about how we loved this child as if she were our own flesh and blood, promising that we would never do anything to intentionally cause her pain.
Our meeting with the director was scheduled for nine o’clock that morning. Please Lord God, I prayed as the printer spit out page after page, Please let him have compassion on us.
That’s how Chapter Eight begins – with me in a position of begging: begging God for mercy after I had compromised the truth by turning a blind eye to dishonesty. Begging the director for a second chance. Begging my spouse to stay present through the pain, rather than turning to the numbing comfort of his addiction. The begging did no good. I was broken.
Recently I read the story of King David, after he was approached by the prophet Nathan and forced to face his sin concerning beautiful Bathsheba (See 2 Samuel 12). It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a man who allowed his own desires to supercede his good sense, his calling, and his conscience. He got rebuked by the prophet and suffered some painful consequences, one being the death of his firstborn with Bathsheba. In verses 16-18, we find King David in the posture of pleading. He refused to eat for seven days, choosing instead to lie on the ground and allow himself to weep.
I understand his anguish. His guilt. His shame. King David’s moral failure resulted in devastating loss. So did mine.
The first time I walked through the dreaded Fourth Step in a recovery group, I was struck by the words “searching” and “fearless.” If you are unfamiliar with Step 4, it says, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
I was terrified. I was also determined that there would be no skeletons in my closet and that I would ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything I needed to add to my list. Although I had long ago repented of the sin of being dishonest on our adoption paperwork by neglecting to admit my knowledge of my spouse’s chemical dependency history, I had not allowed God to search the recesses of my heart for the motive behind my dishonesty.
During the process of making my fearless and searching moral inventory, I asked God to reveal the motives of my heart that had led to past moral failures. When He did, I was surprised to learn that FEAR was at the root of my failure to report the truth on our paperwork. That dishonesty was a fruit that could be traced down to a root of fear in my life and a distrust of God’s ability to handle a situation without me manipulating it.
When the Holy Spirit revealed that truth to me, I realized that FEAR also operated in other areas of my life, manifesting itself in unhealthy ways. Working Step 4 allowed me to take a deeper look at what seemed like a one-time incident. It allowed me to see patterns of thinking and behaving that could be traced back to FEAR. It allowed me to come face to face with myself and face to face with my faith.
Can FEAR and FAITH operate simultaneously in our lives?
We are each invited to do a thorough self-examination. Lamentations 3:40 (NKJV) says, “Let us search out and examine our ways.” But, it doesn’t stop there. After we examine our ways, God invites us to turn our backs on the past and turn back to Him. Here’s verse 41: “And turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”
David is a good example of someone who does this well. After being confronted by the prophet, here’s what happens next: “So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Samuel 12:13). Isn’t God gracious? After all that David had done to lust, commit adultery, impregnate another man’s wife, and have him murdered! Still, The Lord “put away his sin!”
After David pled with God for days, begging in vain to be that sinfully-conceived child’s father, he accepted his harsh reality. The baby would not live. Did not live. When he realized this truth, the Bible says, “David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20).
That’s a hard pill to swallow. But he took it like a man who trusted the heart of his heavenly Father. I cannot say that I completely understand this passage, nor can I fathom the reasons that an innocent child could not live. Even so, I choose to trust the heart of The Father.
I choose to trust Him now, and I chose the same, all those years ago when I was not allowed to raise the child I loved more than anything. Did I always choose worship as the avenue for healing? No. But sometimes I did. And when I did, those were the moments that gave me the courage to take one more step out of the valley of the shadow of death – the death of my dreams, the death of my marriage, the death of my life as I knew it.
Whatever your circumstance, whatever giants you face today, will you choose to fight your FEAR with FAITH? As you make your own “fearless and searching moral inventory,” will you simply ask God to show you the root of your sin and trust Him to love you anyway and restore you to wholeness? Will you choose to trust your Father’s heart with your Step 4?
P.S. If this post ministers to you, please FOLLOW & SHARE. I’d love to grow our readership! Thank you!
“Well I knoooooow my Redeemer lives!” I inhale the stale air in my Pontiac Fiero so I can bellow the next lines along with Nicole C. Mullen as she blows my tiny speakers with her powerhouse lyrics. “I know my Redeemer lives. All of creation testifies…This life within me cries. I know….my Redeemer lives.”
It’s 2001. I believe my life is calming down and things will be “normal” again. School is over. My students have disappeared and I am pulling out of the parking lot. Leaving early for a change. The afternoon is too perfect to stay indoors, grading papers. Texas weather will surprise you like that. Even in wintertime.
This song has become my personal anthem after surviving the shock of discovering my spouse’s life-threatening chemical dependency and subsequent stint in a rehabilitation center. I sing it LOUD, lifting both hands to heaven in an unrehearsed act of worship… “I know that, I know that, I know that, I know that, I know…I know my Redeemer lives…Because He lives I can face tomorrow. He lives, I know, I know, I know. He lives…I spoke with Him this morning.”
That was thirteen years ago. Almost everything in my life has changed. New work (I’m no longer queen of my own classroom, but flit from school to school in our county as a substitute teacher), new husband (God redeemed the things I thought were lost after my first husband chose a path that led him away from our marriage), and a new passion for sharing hope with hearts wounded by addiction. Yes. A lot has changed, but there is one constant. One never ending consistent, prevailing thing that I KNOW today, knew yesterday and will firmly believe until I see Him face-to-face: My Redeemer lives!
After years of riding shotgun on the insane train of cocaine addiction, I felt a little crazy myself. The patterns of hiding, covering, enabling, and codependent-controlling left me in need of my own recovery program. That’s when I began consciously applying Step 2 to my own life, rather than simply pointing the finger of blame at the “addict” in the family.
It goes like this: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
God, are You able to restore me in the midst of this crazy? Can I truly be sane, regardless of the choices he makes? I prayed and plead with the Jesus I’d known since childhood as season after season, hope after hope came and went.
“Yes.” His answer came quietly. “I can. Are you willing to let go of control and let me?”
It took a long time. And some cash I didn’t really have. But, God used a kind Christian counselor to hold up the mirror and invite me to take an unflinching look at myself. I got it. I learned how to hold the hand of the One who would walk me through the minefield that is living with an addicted person. I learned to trust Him more than I ever had. I learned to release the shame that accompanies the fear of exposure when a Christian family suffers a secret like that.
Today, I search the faces of people in pews and I see that once-familiar pain. They come to church, week after week, longing for some kind of relief from the hell they are suffering. I want to take them by the hand, tilt their chins upward and say, “Lift up thine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh thy help. Your help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (see Psalm 121:1 KJV). I long for them, for you, for all of us, to know – beyond every shadow of doubt, “Our Redeemer lives!” He only is the Power greater than ourselves who can restore us to sanity. Whether we are the addicted person, or the person who loves the addicted person, it is only our Redeemer who can give us HOPE and the tools to walk through this valley that feels like the shadow of death. May I invite you sing along with me?
The second is my favorite because it demonstrates so beautifully the Father’s love for His children. We are as weak and helpless as that well-loved son. Our Father carries us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF7Bv9Rjl0E
I’m so excited about the guest blog posts I’ll be sharing for the next few weeks as I complete my manuscript! This one is from my friend, Melissa Merritt. I’ve had the privilege of photographing her sweet miracle for the first year of life, and have been so BLESSED to witness Melissa’s faith in action. After reading this, I know I will never eat a grapefruit without thinking of FAITH, maybe you won’t either. (Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your heart with us.) Enjoy! Juliet
It’s one of those “Christian” words that we throw around quite a bit. I was raised in the church, so the terms “Praise God,” “Hallelujah,” “Grace,” “Faith,” they just roll off my tongue naturally. And there is a familiar rhythm to hearing them used by others. One would assume, that a 25 year-old raised in the church would have a strong understanding of all of these terms, that she would be able to define in English, Hebrew, and Greek, a concept as fundamental as Faith.
In the spirit of recent posts on vulnerability, I am going to share a little of my journey with you. It is truly a humble journey. The truth is, my whole life, faith was something I dwelt on, but was too scared to truly reflect upon.
Here’s a little background on my “walk” with faith: When I a kid, there were adults in my home church who spoke about “faith” quite strongly, they prayed with expectation of God handing them exactly what they wanted because, “they had faith.” This was intriguing to my 9-year-old mind, because my parents taught me that we are subject to the divine will of God and that we should request and submit to His will in our lives. I was taught that our Father God was not a Santa Claus. I was taught that however disappointing, I should actually give thanks for unanswered prayers. I am grateful that my parents taught me this, because, around that time, one of my relatives died. I prayed for her. My parents had prayed for her. But under the theory of the people in the church – her death could have been prevented if we had a little more faith. “Have faith” became a phrase I always cringed at a little for most of my life, because I was afraid of the great disappointment that follows the, “All you need is Faith” bandwagon.
Another area of discomfort for me was reading a particular verse in Matthew 17:20, where Jesus tells the disciples, “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.” Don’t get me wrong, it was encouraging to me that God only required me to have small faith. In 26 years of church every weekend, community service, and mission trips, I felt comfortable that I had earned my mustard seed of faith. But doesn’t it sound like Jesus is telling the disciples to have some faith (even a little) and then anything you ask for you shall receive?
Then there are the miracles Jesus performed on earth – the centurion at whose faith Jesus “marveled.” In Matthew 8: 5, a Centurion comes to Jesus, and tells him of his servant paralyzed at home and Jesus offers to come heal him but the centurion refuses saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soliders under me. And I say go he goes and come or do this and they do it.” This was truly remarkable because the centurion was a Roman, a secular, not Jewish – not awaiting a Savior. Yet, he understood the dominion of God better than even the 12 disciples did! Jesus said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” and He healed the servant.
He told the bleeding woman “by your faith you are healed.”
I read these words in the Bible, and they troubled me… were those “expectant Christians” from my childhood right? Was I praying all wrong?
It wasn’t until a recent season of my life, that I truly spent time reflecting on faith. As it turns out, this growth, came during a season of pain and tribulation. Which, for many of us “Christians,” (you know, the ones who make good decisions and are free from many of the “consequences of sin” that “worldly” people engage in) these seasons are supposed to be nonexistent. We save our money so we can buy nice homes, and drive nice cars. We spend our early adult years praying for Godly spouses we can marry so we can raise happy, Godly families. We eat healthy food so we can live long, healthy lives, and look back on our faithful, happy life and thank God for the counsel of His word. If we are truly honest with ourselves, the only part of the Word that bothers us are the prophecies that the end is coming – the world is ending, and we might not be able to live out our dream lives! We might actually have to go to the real heaven. In my walk, I have found that I have, in essence, traded in the promise of our heavenly mansion for perfecting my earthly home!
I was 25 years old, when my season of tribulation came. At that time, I had been gratefully reaping the benefits of good decisions sown. I had a great career (because I listened to my parents and went to school). I had a healthy marriage (because we abided by God’s design for marriage). And, before long, God was blessing us with a baby. I had no fear that anything bad would happen, because I was healthy and happy. I didn’t eat “unclean meat,” I didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Oh, and of course, I had faith.
So, I had my baby. She was a gift from God. But, things were far from perfect. The sunshine-y bubble surrounding my life up until that time had popped.
She was sick, she needed healing. This season in my life was not a short one, there were weeks of mostly bad news. As with most times of trouble, there are some blessings. For me, I was blessed to have so many people petitioning God on our behalves. And there truly is power in prayer. I could literally feel the love and support of those praying for us. I’m so grateful for every prayer and every person who lifted us up at that time, but in the trenches of it all, there were times I could not help but slide into this idea that my lack of faith was failing my daughter.
Right in the midst of the painful confusion about our little girl’s future, people with very good hearts and kind intentions encouraged us not to worry but to “have faith.” In the craziness, I just started grabbing for faith like some sort of good luck charm – I claimed faith – I prayed for faith. If I could eat faith, I would have, and I repeatedly asked my husband if this was all somehow my fault.
He wisely directed me to what is now what I consider one of the dearest passages in the Bible. John 9 begins with a story of Jesus passing by a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responds (and this is my favorite part), “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
See! I was completely seeing my situation with worldly eyes: do good things to get good things. This is not how God works! In fact, the disciple James wrote the exact opposite, he said, falling into various trials should be all joy! In fact, the testing of our faith produces patience!
News flash: We are not in heaven!
Bad things are going to happen to us, we are subject to the harsh conditions of this sin-full world. But, as God strengthens us through trials we grow in faith – and according to James, we can ask in faith, for wisdom!
After my baby came home from the hospital, every morning I would eat a grapefruit. I developed a ritual, I would slice the fruit in half, carve around the fruit, then force myself to swallow some of the bitter juice. I would then generously cover the whole face of the fruit with a heaping tablespoon full of sugar! I loved watching the sugar form a sweet syrupy substance right there on the face of the grapefruit! Grapefruits are gorgeous; they look like giant oranges with the added bonus of being pink! But, it never ceases to amaze me how sour they are! But… if you sprinkle that sugar on, it’s not only edible, it’s tasty!
As I sat at the table one morning, reflecting on the storm that had rocked my whole world, I just stared at the grapefruit covered in sugar, and said to myself, “That’s faith!
It’s like sugar on grapefruit!”
Sugar does not change the grapefruit to an apple – it just makes it more bearable!
It’s scary to imagine the bad things all the bad things that could happen to us. It’s scary not knowing the trials and tribulations that may test us – the seasons of grapefruits in life we will have to endure. But, if every Christian had perfect lives free from any problems, would we really need faith?
God doesn’t want us to live in fear of harm, He wants us to live by faith. What does that look like? Hebrews 11 gives us the definition of faith:“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
For me, faith is realizing that we don’t understand and can’t see everything – it means accepting that there is a divine design, that God has ultimate authority over everything. If we truly had a mustard seed of this type of faith we wouldn’t really go around re-choreographing the geography of earth by relocating mountains, but we would be about His work – and not even a mountain could stand in our way. We would live like the Bible heroes listed in Hebrews 11 who endured trials and tribulations not with the promises of earthly prosperity, but with the promise of a homeland, a God, and a heavenly city.
So, let us not be fair-weather Christians. Let us not turn to the magic faith umbrella, the one you want to pull out at the first sign of trouble. Let us be men and women of faith who praise Him, even in the midst of hurricanes which threaten everything we hold dear. Because, our faith, our promise in things unseen, our promise of a true and perfect heaven, makes even the bitterest trials bearable.
Melissa Merritt was a litigator with a heart for being at home. The Lord granted her the desires of her heart, and today, she shares her heart and her home with her husband (a mighty man of God), her miracle baby, and a Golden Retriever. Relying fully on God, Melissa was able to earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Florida, the same weekend she married her best friend. Holding her husband’s hand, morning cuddles with her baby, and coming home from a great trip to a clean house are a few of her favorite things!
Last night I said good-bye to my neighbor for the last time. I hadn’t wanted to go to Haven Hospice. Don’t like the scent of death that lingers there beneath the gorgeous new building with its beautiful furnishings and loving nurses.
Sitting in my driveway, I semi-pleaded with God to let me off the hook. It was past 9:30, I was just arriving home from a season of prayer with my vigilant sisters in the Mercy Support Services Prayer Room, warring sisters on their knees. We had just prayed for my neighbor. Called her name before our loving Heavenly Father. Asked Him to give her comfort and peace as she closes her eyes for the last time on earth. Asking the Holy Spirit to draw her heart to the heart of God so that His goodness would give her the courage to believe that He exists. Begging for her leap of faith. Asking Him to move mountains in the last moments of her life.
I thought about those mountains, believing the Bible that says it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move them. But what could happen in 51 years that would cause a person to build a mountain of denial toward the existence of a loving God? What layers of pain and hurt can build a barrier between a person and their Creator? What opportunities have I, who call myself “Christian,” had to show Christ to my neighbor? Did she see something, anything, in me that ever made her wonder about the God I serve, as for almost four years now, I’ve dragged my trash to the curb and parked my car across from hers and waved as I chased my daily exercise around the block?
Giving in to God, I backed out of our driveway and headed toward Haven Hospice. It was 9:54 when I arrived to an empty parking lot and a locked front door. Still, I got in. Visiting hours are flexible in hospice, where time seems to stand perfectly still. Pushing open the door to her room, I discovered her loved ones surrounding her there. Four precious women, holding her until the very end. The room was quiet and darkened as my neighbor fought death. “We thought she would let go earlier, but she’s still clinging desperately to life,” one of them said. It made me think, as I watched her lying there, breathing with her whole chest. Am I clinging to LIFE like that? Jesus says that He is The WAY, The TRUTH, and The LIFE. Do I cling to Him with every breath? When everything else is gone and not one thing matters in this life but my relationship with Him, am I willing to hold on to that with every cell in my being?
I held her hand. Told her that I wanted to see her again. Be neighbors in heaven. I shared that God’s love for her is an everlasting love. That He carefully formed her in her mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and that He loved her before she ever took her first breath and would continue to love her after she breathed her last. I shared Revelation 3:20 almost as a prayer, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock…” I invited her to choose Jesus, the Door of salvation. I kissed her on the forehead. I said, “Goodbye.” Then I got into my car and wept with hope.
Today she may breathe her last breath. She held on through the night. I heard it from her loved ones. I do not know what she decided to do with the mountain of unbelief held up by a lifetime of hurt or ambivalence or oblivion, or whatever. I just pray to my Jesus that He breaks through all barriers, that His love plants just one mustard seed in her heart and that she will choose to water that seed with a drop of faith. That’s all it takes to move a mountain.
Photo Credit: winter_can_wait
Today would have been my cousin Casey’s birthday. He died as the pilot in a small plane crash in 2010, at an age too tender to fathom. No one was prepared for the shock. And every year on the anniversaries of Casey’s birth and death, we who loved him come together on social media and mourn; a little community of hearts with a Casey-shaped hole in them. As I reflect today on death, I remember that my husband calls it the “culmination of our faith.”
In my heart, I choose to believe in a loving God who knows our mustard seeds. Who has witnessed the tragedies of our lives. Who has loved us since before time began. Who paid the price for our foolishness with the blood of His own Son, and who gives each person every opportunity to choose Him. Whether it’s choosing Him daily for a lifetime, or choosing Him in the last seconds before our plane hits the unforgiving Texas soil or in our last moments of coherency before Cancer and the medication that fights it causes us to succumb to the thing we’ve been fighting for years, that ONE choice stands for eternity. It counts. Believe that with me tonight and regardless of the ache that death has created in our souls, together we can shout, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”1 Corinthians 15:55-56 (KJV). Rest in peace, my neighbor. Rest in peace, my cousin. Your Savior saw your mustard seed.