Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Dry, Dry, Dry. But, Not Forever!
This painting is by Morgan Wiestling
It's been a very dry season for me. I'm not talking about lack of rain, either. All of my plans have been rearranged by the LORD and I have been struggling through the process.
In early April my plans were all set. Rachel, my oldest, would be turning 16 this summer and heading to tenth grade at her wonderful private Christian school. Gracie, my very active five year old, was already tested for Kindergarten at the same school and was enrolled to begin in the Fall. She had just finished preschool there and absolutely loved it. And I loved the idea of them both going there. It's a great school. Full of teachers and staff who openly love the LORD. These are people who have had struggles in their lives and share with zeal how the Lord brought them through those hard times. It's one way we overcome the enemy: the word of your testimony.
On April 20th everything turned upside down. It was going to be a difficult day anyway. I knew this before I woke up that morning. It was the one year anniversary of my father's suicide. God has blessed me with assurance countless times that my believing father is with Him. I cling, cling, cling to these assurances. I KNOW that my earthly father is with my Heavenly One even at this moment. Still, the date was there. It's hard to forget.
But, one year later, that afternoon my husband came home from work early and announced that he'd been laid off from his first paying ministry job. He's been a custodian and a laborer all of his life until God finally opened the door for him to get PAID to minister. What a blessing! But, now after a year and a half of that, God had closed the door. Yes. God did it. We were well aware.
By mid-July Rod still had not been able to secure work. He had applied for janitorial jobs at the hospitals and schools, yet no interviews, let alone, phone calls came out of this. My dear brother offered him good paying, hard laboring construction demo work out of town. Rod went. He worked. He ministered to hurting people with conversation and prayer. He made enough money to get us through July's stack of bills, except the first payment for Gracie's school.
It was evident that we were going to have to let that go. Like I said to begin with, God was rearranging my plans. I wept, at first. Gracie did, too. "This is God's plan for now, Grace. This is what God has for us. We have to be flexible in His hands." She admitted she would keep praying. She did not want to be homeschooled. I did not want to do it, either. Even if it is only Kindergarten.
Okay. After four months of my husband being unemployed I got mad at God. I withdrew and felt the ground around my heart get real hard like a dirt road in a dry summer. I kept going through the motions: morning devotions, Bible study (I can't get out of this because Rod wakes me up every morning at 6:30 with a steaming cup of coffee at my bedside and gently demands that I get up and study my Bible). I kept up with prayer. Inside I was ticked off, really, because I got to that hard place of: "Why pray? He isn't listening, anyway?" I felt myself getting madder. I knew I had a choice to make. I knew I was making the wrong one. With my mouth I praised the LORD but my heart was far from Him. You don't fool God and you only hurt yourself with this behavior. Still, I felt very much like a spoiled child. My spiritual arms were crossed angrily across my heart and my face was scrunched up with displeasure.
One night I could not sleep. I was so dry. I was so tight with emptiness. Without Him I am nothing. Without Him I cannot function. If I am not for Him, then I am against Him. I got to a quiet place where I just fell to my knees and admitted my anger at Him. I let it all out. It had been quite a stretch of time for me. I try to make this a regular practice: casting all my cares upon Him because He cares for me. But, I couldn't bear this dry, heavy load anymore and I felt His gentle quiet voice remind me that I was never designed to. I didn't feel much better once I got off my knees, though. I was still dry. Deep inside, I kept thinking, "Now, He'll give me my way." Dangerous. Pride is the biggest sin of all. I was trying to play a game with Him and He doesn't play games. I forgot that, momentarily.
More bad news came. I was sent for tests. I need surgery. Because Rod is unemployed we actually qualify for me to have the tests and the surgery for free. (A Silver Lining to unemployment.) I struggled with the idea of this surgery, too. It means the absolute end to the eight year old hope that someday I will give birth to Rod's son. The end of that hope. The tests also reveal the reason Rod and I have never been able to conceive. Mystery solved. Surgery needed. Life is changing in unexpected ways.
In April, I didn't see this coming. I didn't give all my anxieties to the LORD about these things. I mourned over what I've done to my body in my pre-Christ life, AGAIN. I mourned over never being able to give this precious husband of mine his own son. I heard my enemy whisper, "He got a real clunker when he married you, huh?" I waved him away like an annoying gnat instead of resisting him like I should have. I carried these worries and burdens around on my shoulders and then, finally, I got sick. All the what-if's in the middle of the night. All the regrets over things I can never ever change (that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, by the way...only I forgot because I ran out into the desert like Hagar, thinking I can handle this on my own.)
I wandered around my house one agonizingly sleepless night just coughing, wheezing and unable to breathe freely. I began muttering, "Dry, dry, dry. Oh, God, I'm so dry. Dry, LORD, I'm dry. I'm just so dry and I can't get any relief. Where are you? Why are you so silent? I'm dying of thirst here. I can't breathe. I can't catch a single breath, LORD. It's so dry." And then, in the dark I remembered Ezekiel 37. I flipped on the lamp and opened my Bible.
"The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley and indeed they were very dry.
And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So, I answered, "O LORD GOD, You know."
Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the LORD GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD'."
So, I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied , there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together bone to bone.
Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Also, He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, "Thus says the LORD GOD: 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.'"
So, I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army."
And this verse I had marked on the opposite page in my Bible from Ezekiel 36:26-27,
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."
It was my "word in season". The next morning I was new and revived in my spirit, but my flesh was wheezing, coughing and perishing. Rod sent me back to the doctor. I didn't want to go. A voice kept whispering, "Haven't they seen enough of you?" But, I went back. When I checked in the receptionist dodged my covered cough and instructed me to wear a mask so that others wouldn't be contaminated.
I was thoroughly humiliated at having to wear this mask in a room full of people, but I put in on and casually leafed through a copy of a parenting magazine. Soon enough a sweet young, face in pink scrubs came through the door and called out my name. She took one look at me in my mask of shame and her face was filled with the compassion of Christ. As soon as I stepped through the door she said softly, "Take that off, now."
She took me into the examining room and began asking me all the necessary questions as she gently checked my vitals. I was grateful to the Lord for sending me a tender-hearted girl to nurse me that day. It's a Christian clinic that I go to, so I felt completely at ease as I started to shed my complaints both the worries about my upcoming surgery (couldn't this be a contributor to my current illness?) and then my fears at homeschooling Gracie because we can't afford to send her to her school.
Here is the LORD at work. This girl. This eighteen, maybe nineteen year old girl reveals to me that she is currently enrolled in a fine college and attending nursing school, pursuing her dream, only because of her diligent homeschooling mother. "I would never have been able to get into college and become a nurse without my mother as my teacher. Never."
All the weights dropped off of me, right there at that moment, in that room. She smiled sweetly at me and confessed that she's been really "dry" lately and was just struggling with how to get past it. I laughed between choking and coughing spells as I told her about Ezekiel 37. She asked me twice what the reference was. We talked some more and I thanked her for her kindness. Before she rose to leave she said, "I want you to know that I was praying that God would send me someone tangible, someone with flesh on, to encourage me in my walk. He sent me you. Thank you."
I have been praying for her. Her name is Sarah. The LORD blessed both of us that day. It may be dry at times but it won't last forever. (It just occurred to me, as I typed her name, that when Hagar ran away into the desert, God told her to go back and submit herself to Sarah. Hmmm. Hagar and Sarah were both having the same struggle of unexpected things in life that the LORD had for them.)
I had to go to a dry place of my own choosing. God didn't leave me alone there. (He didn't leave Hagar alone, either. She called Him "the God who sees me.") He waited patiently for me to realize, it's not my will, but His that matters. I must get past my ideas about how my life and the life of my family "should be" and accept what He has for us. It is the only way to maintain a peaceful heart. Jesus did this same struggle in the Garden hours before his Divine Suffering. We all must remember "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up." James 4:10