Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The message

As I stood in the shower covered in soap and shampoo, my mind went wild.  It started by recalling events of the previous baseball practice that Blake had, when in some sort of twist, connected in ways that even I don't understand, I found myself thinking about God, His voice and His will for us, and how we are to recognize it.

Seems like a stretch, doesn't it?  Imagine living in my head...

I stood there in the shower with water running down my back, reliving moments in the past.  Many moments of my past I wish I could forget, and the time since Steven's diagnosis takes up a space all it's own... Thinking about some of the things that we have been through, and seen, can be a stumbling block for me.  If I keep my eyes on today, the present, I do fairly well.  Usually.  However, the past and it's heartache, and the future and it's uncertainty, leaves me shaken. 

I have found that life leaves you two alternatives: finding strength, and the resolve to plant your feet to withstand the current or simply allowing the current to carry you away.  The current is powerful and comes in many forms.  Sometimes it is lethargy...and allowing the world to reduce you to a form that sits and observes as life passes you by.  Sometimes it is avoidance and denial...where you refuse to consider what 'might be'.  Sometimes the current is made up of the world and the desire to just wrap yourself up in the promises of what life offers if only your life had taken a different turn...and the emotions that envelope you when confronted with the fact that your life is what it is.  Yet your life is yours alone to determine what you do with it.

In the end, that is all that matters, right?  What we've done with this life we have been given.

*****

So, again, I was asking myself if I would know God's words, and will for me, when and if I heard them.  I was wondering if that unmistakable path of communication really existed for us...

This train of thought led me to, once more, think about the preacher and his visit to our house last August.  I put myself in his shoes and I thought about the anxiety that I would feel, pulling up to a home where two people I had never met lived...where one of them was inside, currently dying.  I thought about the awkwardness of introducing yourself to these people, only to declare that the Lord had sent you to tell them that cancer wouldn't win, and that the sick would be healed...  I thought about the nervousness that the drive over would contain, the mind spinning thoughts that played out every possible reception that might be given.  I imagined that I would wonder if the worries and the pain they were experiencing would cloud both their vision and hearing and that, instead of hope, blame might instead take root.

Then my mind settled on the fact that, despite anxiety, nervousness and uncertainty, something stronger had been at play that day in August.  Something was stronger than the possible ridicule, embarrassment, and backlash that he, the unknown preacher, might face, and that something, or someone, told him to "go".  And he listened...

*****

I have found that over time, it has become increasingly obvious that not everyone's mind works like mine does.  Not everyone thinks about the effect that actions, words, and attitudes have on others.  Not everyone thinks about the motives, and situations that push others to act a certain way.  Not everyone has their mind running wild trying to understand people and why they do what they do.  Not everyone would think about the preacher and what he was feeling when he knocked on our door, because they would be busy thinking about what they were feeling...

And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

Maybe those people are more free to do and say what they feel and think. Maybe there is a certain freedom in that way of thinking...or not thinking.

But my mind thinks.  Constantly.  And generally, it's in an attempt to understand. 

However, that day, in the shower, I wondered if I would ever be able to be like that preacher and cast all the doubts, and worries, and over-analyzing aside and find myself able to listen to, obey, and truly understand what I believed to be the voice, and will, of God

Surely His words could pierce through my scattered, never ending thoughts.  But would I hear Him?

Almost as if in an answer to my heart and mind's questioning, an image, almost like in a movie, flashed through my mind.  The memory was so clear and vivid. In that instance I knew that, without a doubt, God could speak to, and be heard by, me.  Yes.  Even me.

In fact, He already had.  How could I have forgotten...?

I saw myself sitting in a pew at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis. I had came to the 8 a.m. mass with my mom and dad, while Lakyn and Blake stayed back at the hospital with Steven.  It was the Sunday morning following our surprise admittance in October 2014, when we found that the chemo hadn't worked, and prior to Steven's first transplant.  That morning, in church, I am not sure that I heard much of anything that the priest said.  My thoughts were racing and my fears had me under their control.

I was in tears before the mass even started.  Shortly after it did I remember looking back as a young family, with four small kids, entered the pew behind us.  I wondered at their choice of seat considering the activity level of their children, their late entrance, and the open pews in many other places...places much less visible and in much further proximity from other church goers.  Still, I had other things to think about...meMy life.  My husband.  My kids.

I remember spending the entire mass praying and trying to make bargains with God although I was pretty sure He didn't work that way.  I promised to bridge gaps in relationships.  I promised to reach out to loved ones that I had let grow distant.  I promised to forgive those who I felt had done unforgivable things.  I promised so much...  I begged God to save my husband and each time I gave a reason why he deserved to be spared, it seemed as if God pointed me elsewhere.  As much as I tried to tell God why I needed Steven, and what I needed from Him, God kept showing me what others needed from me.

I cried.  I sat there during mass surrounded by a chapel full of strangers, and I cried.  I hated being weak and I tried to keep it under control.  I didn't want sympathy from my mom and dad, or even gentle touches of their reassurance.  I knew they couldn't give me the peace I needed and kindness made it even harder to keep myself in check. 

Throughout mass, my prayers were only interrupted by the sound of cries, talking, playing and banging on the wooden pew behind me, coming from the four young, restless children: the oldest, maybe four, and the youngest in a baby carrier.  I marveled at the young parents, and the number of kids with so few years separating them.  I would glance backwards, occasionally, wondering if there was any discipline that the parents would exercise, because the distraction was becoming increasingly apparent.  Here I was, in a church, begging for God's grace...and yet I was barely able to sort my thoughts for the sound of squeals behind me.  My mom looked over and gave me a knowing glance, letting me know that the kids were as big of a distraction to her as they had been to me.  I lowered my eyes, and again bowed my head.

During my prayers, I truly felt that God, by refusing to give me peace about Steven's situation, must be telling me that He wasn't going to see him through.  I wanted to hear Him, and feel Him say that Steven would be ok.  However, that morning, all I felt was desperate.  And alone.  

After mass I knelt down and said my final prayers.  I raised up and prepared to go.  I needed to get back to the hospital to make sure Steven, and the kids, were still ok.  The anxiety of being away from them had almost gotten too much to stand and I felt an urgency to get to them. I picked up my purse as the kids behind me were being wrangled by their parents in an effort to get them bundled up and out the door.

I turned to leave and it was then that I felt God speaking...and I knew it.  It made me uncomfortable and I didn't want to believe that it was Him.  So I hurried myself and mentally told myself all the reasons why I couldn't do what He wanted, or why I must have misunderstood Him, and began to leave. 

In that moment, the feeling was so strong it was almost as if someone had put their hand out and stopped me in my tracks.  I knew then that I had to follow through, or I would have a feeling of disobedience all day.  If not longer...

With mascara trailing down my cheeks, red eyes, and a face swollen from all the tears that had been shed over the previous five days, I turned and faced the overwhelmed young mother.  As she saw that I was turning and directing myself to her, she looked up at me with questioning and a bit of apprehension.  Rightly so.  I had glanced back throughout church, generally with tears in my eyes, and pain on my face, and I am sure that the sight hadn't felt overly warm or welcoming. 

Shamefully, maybe I hadn't intended it to be.

But in that instant I knew, with no doubts, what God wanted me to do and what I needed to say.  I looked at her and then looked at her children.  With tears in my eyes, I commented on how beautiful her children were, and I told her how amazing I thought it was that she made a point to get up, get her four small children ready for church, and come attend the 8 a.m. mass with her children and her husband at her side. 

As I continued talking, I could see her start to visibly relax, although she had to be wondering why this crazy woman, with crying eyes, had decided to start up conversation.  I told her that I had two children of my own, years older than hers, and that I knew what a struggle it was to get everybody ready and out the door on time.  I told her that I admired the determination she had to make sure that they made it to church, and that I was sure this importance would not be lost on her children.

She smiled and let out her breath which she had held, and nodded, seemingly both in acceptance of the compliment and in acceptance of the strain that she carried and held all through mass, when she knew that it would have been easier if they had just stayed home. In that moment, I could almost see the relief and I hope that my words fired her  determination to continue the Sunday morning battle, and beat the stress that, no doubt, attending services brought.  I believe that is what God intended my words to do...because they weren't my words.  They were His words and I was the voice.

I was the voice that didn't want to be used and had many reasons why:  I was physically a mess and I couldn't keep the tears from flooding my eyes.  I had my own problems.  I, myself, had fought irritation over their lack of obedience, and restlessness, while I was trying earnestly to talk to God.

Yet, God used those children, and their parents, to talk to me

In my life, I have never had a conviction as strong as that one and there was no doubt  who  was convicting me.

*****

I pray that the same held true for the preacher who claimed Steven's healing.  Despite a million reasons he had to stay away...he knocked on our door and shared his experience.  I often think about him and his words- the words that I have to believe were God's.

I hope that the woman and her children still attend church.  I hope that love and understanding floods everyone that sits near to them.  I pray that my heart may be open to hear the voice of God more often, because there has never been more peace than I had in that moment-the moment when I knew I had done as He willed me to do.

Although my words were meant for that family, I believe that God intended for my actions, and the humbling of myself, to be a lesson for me.  God, in that instant, showed me that it wasn't about what He could do for me, but rather, what I should do for Him.

I hope I never lose sight of that.

What hope, and what encouragement, would we all bring to others if we listened to God, and did as he asked?  What would our conversation looked like if we "talked" to God about someone other than ourselves? 

He is there.  I believe that if He is able to speak to me, through my strung together, and far off thoughts, He is able to speak to us all.

How has God spoken to you?




1 comment:

Amy said...

It was roughly two years after my dad had died. Even though I still went to church every week I didn't truly believe in God at the time. I too, had bargained with God to spare my dad, to heal his body but that was not Gods plan. For roughly two years I would sit in church and have a conversation in my own mind about why was I there, was there a God, why didn't he answer my prayers and in a moment of clarity during a sermon, by Father Tom of all people, it was as if God was talking directly to me saying my dad was no longer in pain and that he was where he was intended to be. For two years I had being thinking only about what I had lost and not about the fact that my dad was no longer suffering, and he had been through a lot of suffering during his cancer treatments. As you said, I stopped thinking about myself and thought about others. It was in that moment that I knew God did in fact talk to us BUT we have to be willing to listen for him, which is something I hadn't been doing. I am sure he had been trying to convey this message to me for some time, I just wasn't listening. Now I hear him in many different places at all times of the day. It has sometimes been hard to listen to him, especially if it is not something I want to hear, but I have grown to trust in his decisions.