Sometimes life gets complicated. Most times we make it more complicated than it has to be.
When there’s so much piled on our shoulders, it’s really easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all. We lose focus and feel out of control.
Our spirits lose a little more of that precious peace we need so badly. If we stay in that kind of chaos, spinning aimlessly, we will inevitably spin right out of Gods will.
Not long ago I was feeling buried. I’d taken on too much. My mind was on a constant loop. With several projects going at once, I was consumed with keeping all these different plates spinning.
I was tired.
I was worried.
I was distracted.
When I finally asked God for clarity, to simplify things for me, He led me to Deuteronomy 6.
Not the entire passage but the simple title above the chapter in my bible.
It leapt off the page with a life of its own. It happens every time God speaks through the word. His message comes with a profound gift of understanding.
It’s like God is shining a holy light into our personal situation. He is an unmoving lighthouse of truth in the darkness of an ever-changing storm.
Love The Lord Your God
Love. The. Lord.
All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him.
Keep loving Him more than anything or anyone else.
Keep seeking Him for guidance and wisdom.
Keep trusting Him to work out all things for my good.
I hold her against my chest and stroke her hair while she cries. She says she has no friends. She says every time she asks one of her classmates to “be her friend”, they say no so she runs away.
My heart breaks into a thousand pieces inside my chest and I can’t think of the right thing to say.
So instead I try to buy time by asking her questions like, “Who says no? Which kids? What are their names?” Like somehow this makes a difference. Like somehow that’s going to help me zero in on some way to turn that no into a yes.
She takes a few minutes because she doesn’t want to tell me or maybe she’s just trying to formulate her thoughts into words, which is hard for her even with the four sessions of speech therapy a week.
Finally she mentions the name of a girl I know. I’ve noticed her while chaperoning field trips, or helping with classroom parties. She’s the popular one. The leader. The one all the other girls clamor around. The one who, Annie says, tells her to “stop” whenever she tries to join in. The social gatekeeper.
And I feel the anger simmering in my belly. I wish I could just grab this girl by the arm and make her be friends with Annie. But that’s not the way to make friends, so I say nothing.
Does this nonsense really start as early as first grade? Are these the same sweet little munchkins that circled around her last year, full of welcoming hugs and kisses, when two months into the school year, she was placed back into a kindergarten class for the second time around because she wasn’t keeping up with the first grade curriculum? How did they grow fangs already?
So I squeeze her a little tighter, and say, “Forget those girls. There must be other girls in the class you could try to make friends with.” Other girls looking in from the outside, like her. Yes, that’s it. Outsiders unite!
“But I want to be friends with ________!” and she breaks into breathless sobs again because another wave of humiliation and rejection crashes over her.
I’m at a total loss. As a mother, I don’t know what to do to make this better. I have not the slightest clue how to ease these emotions she’s processing. As a person in general, who’s lived and functioned in this society for nearly 41 years, I’m baffled by my social skill set deficit. How the heck do you make friends with the popular girl?
I’m desperate so I say, “Maybe if you bring her a present, she will be nicer to you.” As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I sense there’s something really off about this approach. It doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like bribery and it’s pathetic but it’s all I’ve got so I roll with it. “I just bought some really pretty lollipops for our treasure box. You can bring her one of those tomorrow.”
She lifts her head and her eyes brighten a bit.
Uh-oh. I can see I’ve given her some hope.
Oh God, please let this work. And God, if it doesn’t, please give me the words to get her through it.
It was 4 A.M. and I was on my knees in the dark, face to the floor and forehead pressed against the worn leather cover of my bible. In recent months, I’d allowed so many things to take priority over my relationship with God. I was feeling guilty about dabbling in those familiar
destructive behaviors I’d left behind when I began this Christian walk. That old Michelle was beginning to rise up in me again. Through my tears, I begged God to save me from myself.
Do anything it takes to get me back on track, Lord. Turn my focus back to You no matter what.
Eighteen hours later, I was in an ambulance headed to Memorial Hospital where I would undergo emergency surgery. All rational thinking, faith, or peace had evaporated in a sweltering fear when the doctor revealed I would need immediate surgery to remove my swollen appendix. At that time of my life, I was afraid of most things and death was at the top of the list. What if there were complications? Years ago, on some rare lazy afternoon, television on in the background, I’d caught a talk show interview with a patient who claimed that despite the anesthesia, she’d felt every single incision. Something had gone terribly wrong with the dosage or her body’s reaction to it, leaving her essentially paralyzed, unable to convey her cognizance to the surgeon as he sliced into her flesh. Unintended inoperative awareness, they called it.
“That’s not going to happen to you,” consoled my husband.
Even while the staff assured us that it was a safe routine surgery, I was positive I would be dead in a few hours. In a blind panic, I tried to remember every detail of my last interaction with each of my three children. Had I kissed them all good night or yelled at them for not staying in bed? My youngest daughter was still just a toddler. She wouldn’t even remember me. Why had I been so consumed with chores that day instead of taking them to the park when they’d asked? Would my husband remarry eventually? Would she love him and my children the way I did? Better than I had?
I’d faced Goliath sized fear before. When I couldn’t handle the circumstances, I have always been able to fall back on the fortitude of God through prayer and bible verses so distinct, they spoke directly to my heart, reminding me that I am safe in His loving hands. God had always been generous in the way He’s poured peace into my spirit; however this night would be terrifically different.
I wept in my hospital bed, frantically thumbing through my bible, praying for a promise that God would not make, a promise that I could not hear. The words on the page were flat, empty symbols and offered none of the solace they’d generously given in the past. God was silent. He’d withdrawn into an eclipse. It seemed He’d abandoned me, leaving me in total darkness, alone. Desperate, I sought empty reassurances from everyone around me, the nurses, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist. My husband sat beside me, stroking my hand until it was time but it did nothing to tame the wild swallowing dread. Finally, they wheeled me away and I gave myself over to the anesthesia, still silently praying for God to show up.
My first thought when my consciousness re-surfaced was, I’m alive; sweet relief. I lived. I saw my husband leaning over my bed in the recovery room, smiling at me. I was groggy and thirsty but I’d survived. He offered me some ice chips and I gratefully accepted. I closed my eyes and dove back down into the depths of restful unconsciousness.
Later that day, once I was established in my hospital room, my husband left to relieve my parents of their baby sitting duties. Alone in my space, I surveyed my home for the next twenty-four hours. I replayed the night in my mind. I looked at my bible on the nightstand next to the bed.
I reached for it but kept it in my lap unopened. It sat heavy on my thighs like a boulder.
Thank you God for not making me die, but what happened to you last night? Where were you?
His words hit me like a bolt of lightning.
You asked me to refocus your heart. I showed you what life is without Me.
In an instant, I understood it all; the horror of uncertainty, the helpless desperation of having nothing to cleave to, the bleak, looming intimidation of facing circumstance without a savior, without a hero. Allowing me to experience the darkness of His absence was a gentle reminder of the despair He had rescued me from years ago. A momentary glimpse into a future without Him was all the motivation I needed to re-prioritize. Nothing I’d put before Him, sustained me when it came down to the wire. None of it, not friendships or lovers, not drugs or alcohol, not even my family could give the security and peace that comes in Him.
All at once, the betrayal melted away and I sat in awe of how He loved me, how He would fight for me and not allow me to slip away from Him easily. I was a lost child who’d caught sight of her father hiding just around the corner. Relief and gratitude flooded my soul and all I wanted to do was run back into his open arms.
Zephaniah 3:17 says; The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
I leaned back in the bed, closed my eyes and prayed.
I choose you God, only you, first, above everything. How blessed I am that even though my eyes turn so easily to other things, you are so faithful in your love for me. Strengthen me in times of my physical and spiritual weakness so that I can rise up against any distractions that would cause my focus to stray. Help me to always feel your glorious loving presence. Amen