For awhile I’ve been struggling, having a very tenuous hold on God. I can’t identify exactly where or when it happened, but I've felt powerless to change it. In fact, while I was bothered by it, the desire to do anything about this disconnect was almost completely absent.
Because every time I came before God I felt condemnation. Key word here being felt. Feelings lie.
I’d be working in the kitchen and suddenly things from my childhood or teen years would come to my mind. Things that I’d said or done that I shouldn’t have. Sometimes they were seemingly small things and other times things that made me literally wince in pain. And the voice grew louder and louder telling me that no matter how far I tried to run, or how much I tried to hide myself under this Christian missionary cloak, the person I was then is still the person I am now. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life felt a weight so heavy.
But I have to go through the motions and requirements of the day. I have kids to love on and jobs that need doing. So while I’ve been being assaulted by these voices in my head, I had to push past it and keep going.
Notice, however, what I didn’t say. I didn’t say I had to step away for a moment and hand it all over to God. Or confess past sins or ask Him to make me new with a pure heart. For sure, I was praying, but they’ve been more cursory prayers that kept me from stepping too close into His presence.
Evil can’t live in the presence of God and I’ve been absolutely convinced that includes me.
Almost five weeks ago now our children’s home campus was struck by covid. And because we have school children, it became a very public thing and the government has been heavily involved since. With few exceptions, the people have been extremely nice. But covid is a constantly changing monster and there isn’t much unity anywhere across the globe as to how to deal with it. And so we’ve been given conflicting rules and mandates by the hospital, the health officer, and the schools. One doesn’t agree with the other and so it’s been a dance trying to stay obedient to them all.
Almost everyone has had very mild symptoms and no trouble recovering. Two of our staff got really bad, sustained headaches and we were concerned about blood clotting but that didn’t prove out. The only other person to not bounce back pretty easily was our 10 year old asthmatic son, Levi.
He handled things great at first but then developed a concerning cough which slowly transitioned into a wheezy one. A wheezy cough is always unsettling. I studied and asked people for advice on ways to support his system and help him over the hump. I’ve tried everything I knew and things I didn’t know. He’d show progress and then relapse. I'd repeat the treatments and pray and hope the tide was about to turn.
For nearly five weeks we’ve been fighting this but my struggle began before the virus reared its ugly head. Mine is a spiritual battle far more than a physical one. My son is still like a yo-yo and I’m still over here trying to pull a string I have no control over. I’m tired.
Several days ago I’d say I hit near to bottom spiritually. I did so quietly and kept it concealed as best I could. I felt such contempt for myself and I knew that I was the reason Levi wasn’t being healed. God was keeping him stable but also fragile for a reason. I knew it and rather than wanting to listen, I just felt frustrated and locked out.
My choice to be stubborn is clearly more dangerous than I enjoy admitting.
Intermission here to clarify, I don't believe God plays games with people's lives. But I do believe that our choices to live surrendered affect far more than we want to believe. God often allows difficult circumstances because He knows it's how He'll get our attention. This is mercy.
Fast forward to yesterday morning. I begged God to give me some indication that He wasn’t through with me. For some relief from my mental anguish. For some glimpse of that mercy and maybe even favor. I wanted to know He wasn’t standing with His back to me. It felt like a big ask and I didn’t honestly expect an answer.
I was wrong.
Last night I posted a message in one of the missionary chat groups. I asked if anyone knew anything I was missing in the treatment of Levi. Was there something I should or shouldn’t be doing? There were no responses. I figured they were all sick of my covid questions.
But then I got a message asking if I was available for prayer. I wearily said yes and not a minute later my phone rang.
It was a whole group of missionaries who’d been gathered together for a camp meeting that was actually originally scheduled for our property. Obviously, it couldn’t happen here, but God provided a perfect location and they’d gathered anyway. The meetings were over but some had remained for another night. When they’d seen my post they’d prayed together for us and then decided to call and pray WITH us.
But first they offered the asked-for advice.
One or two additional ideas for natural helps were passed along and then something happened that I’ve never experienced before. Ever. It’s hard to put it to words but I knew I needed to before the details faded.
During this prolonged spiritual struggle I’d sense God telling me things. Pointing out areas that needed to be addressed. Sometimes His voice was so loud I actually thought I could hear Him audibly. But as I was shrugging out of His presence, I was also apparently hiding from His voice. I’m clearly not a very wise missionary.
During this group call, one very familiar voice came across the line reminding me not only to not put my faith in remedies without recognizing the actual healing power comes from God, but also to check myself for anything standing between God and I. He was telling me to search myself for unconfessed sin.
I felt exposed. Gutted, almost. Because how did he know? Why would he say that if he didn’t know?
And then another voice came across the line, soft and kind. He, too, told me (in so many words) that while I was clearly all in as I fought for the health of my son, I was forgetting that I’m not the healer and he reminded me that my connection to God was possibly the missing link.
Mind you, that’s a rough, rough paraphrase of the wisdom-filled words these men spoke, but that’s how they translated to my heart.
At this point I was basically undone. I couldn’t even pretend to hold it together when I was audibly hearing the voice of God coming through human voices. Others affirmed our efforts on the campus and gave us license to be tired but not defeated. His voice came through to my ears with such tenderness, compassion and pity and also gentle rebuke.
He was still there. He was waiting. He was helping and fighting and holding the line as only God can. It was my choice whether to walk back to Him or not.
But I audibly heard him calling me.
And as those voices prayed over our family and this campus, in the most physical way I’ve ever experienced, I knew God had leaned right in so close I could feel Him. This morning I’m still shaken and overwhelmed by it.
He had answered my desperate prayer using a group of people that could have chosen to go to bed instead. But not only did he give me more than a glimpse of that mercy I’d begged for, He sat and talked with me as He put words on their hearts to speak.
He didn’t sit stroking my ego or telling me I was wonderful or validating my self-pity. He called me out in the gentlest conceivable way. I didn’t even know a rebuke could feel so much like a hug.
I hung up and talked with my husband for a bit. And then, though it was 10pm and everyone else was in bed, I slipped out of the house into the moonlit night and began walking. Because one of the men had shared a brief story about the importance of praise. I knew I wanted to build a wall of praise around us.
And so I walked for a good long while, praying but not asking. Instead I was praising Him for what He’d already done and what He yet plans to do. As I walked by the dorms and houses on the property, I lifted up each person’s name in praise. Gratitude, long since absent, welled up within me.
Because nothing can hold us captive when we know who holds the key.