Moving day had finally come. After 17 years, we were leaving Wisconsin. And we were leaving, not in strength for a bigger and better home, but in weakness as we had become so aware of our physical ill health. The picture before me only emphasized what I had come to know:
I had never been the strong one. I may have thought that I was the one managing the home or the gardens, but truthfully, I knew that only God had given me the strength to move the rocks and cook the meals and weed the vegetables and sew the clothes and pray the prayers.
And only God could have allowed that small internet connection, the last piece of our home-life not yet moved, to be the conduit from which I would share my stories over this blogosphere.
I was the most surprised of all when the years passed, and the words continued to pour forth through the keyboard. From the corner of that Wisconsin room, God dug deep in my heart and asked me to share the process of discovering more intimately that only HE was my true strength. And He displayed His power in me through the days when the enemy tried to speak the loudest utterances of shame:
You are too ill to find the strength to write!
You are too shut-in to understand what the world is really like!
You have too much of your own sickness to carry, how could you possibly find compassion for others?!
But the care of my Jesus was too great to let the enemy’s taunts remain. I felt His arms lift me above the battle lines so that I could boast, not in myself, but only in the strength of my Lord.
So that on the day after we had begun to settle into the new place provided for us in Illinois, I cried out to my Lord from my weakness. Over and over again my heart had trembled to visit one last Wisconsin Doctor. The tests could be long and difficult, and I wasn’t ready to face this last trial.
But my Jesus beckoned me to come with Him, to lay my stubborn reluctance at His feet, and to let Him once again carry me through the day. The first 2 hours proved to be grueling, but the last 2 hours held a surprise I had not expected, not after the many hard and minimizing visits that had come to define most of my Wisconsin healthcare experiences.
As the Doctor painstakingly placed one electrode after another, she and I fell into a discussion about health and respecting the bodies given to us by God. She was a Jesus follower also, and was thankful to find a kindred heart. She was overwhelmed that I had actually prayed for her the night before my appointment. And I was overjoyed to find a Doctor who understood what I was feeling and supported me in my journey. As she ended the visit by repeatedly telling me that I had been an encouragement to her, I expressed the same of how she had encouraged me.
But we both knew. And we both expressed the thought out loud. Everything that we have been given, every encouragement we might offer, is only from the Lord. Our boast is in Christ alone.
I had come full circle in the Wisconsin journey of beginning this Chronic Illness life. I was reminded of the words that were spoken to me in a dream (read about that here,) during the first few months after my RA diagnosis: “All of this that you are going through is MINE, because YOU are Mine, and this will be for GOD’S GLORY. Obey what I am asking of you, and walk with ME through this time of Brokenness and Prayer.”
And I was reminded of the time, almost 30 years before, when God had called me to pray from within another place of weakness . . .
Our Story, Chapter 7. ~~1993 – 1996~~
If you have missed any of the previous chapters, click here to catch up.
“Silly foot stopping me!” was my journal entry that had led me down a winding trail of questions, stubborn reluctance, and finally, my lifting up to God. Earlier that week, my husband had water-baptized our oldest son. And on that same night we had received a phone call from the church which had considered choosing us as their Pastor. And even earlier that week, I had severely sprained my ankle as I tried to protect our younger son from being injured himself.
It had been a long week, after a long summer.
Even though the move had proven to be difficult, our children made new friends in the schools that they attended. We had already left homeschooling behind as we were told “it isn’t possible in the state of Illinois.” Later we found that out to be untrue.
However, God was using it all to show me another area of His strength, as He led me again to find His connections with the Moms in the school lines. Fellowship and true ministry were taking place on the front porches as we gathered for the morning walk to school.
While I found myself being drawn back into places of teaching, areas that we thought we had laid down were being stirred up in new ways. When my children’s teachers asked me why I wasn’t teaching, something asleep was awakened.
Could God actually be asking us to pick up teaching ministry again? Could official ministry walk side by side with unofficial serving?
There were too many Scriptures, words, and calls for us to ignore. We knew the Lord was asking us to face what we had laid down years before. The heart for teaching children was still burning inside of us, but there was also a longing to see everyone, young to old, come to a place of walking with Jesus through the ordinary moments of their days.
As my husband pursued the path to renew his ministerial credentials, we sought and prayed over many different positions. And then we were asked to interview for the Senior Pastor position from a small church in Michigan.
And so, on that week of my journal entry about my silly foot, I hobbled on crutches to the evening service where our son would be baptized. At that very time, across the miles, the elders in a small Michigan town gathered to pray over choosing their next pastor.
When the answer for us was “no,” I wasn’t too surprised. I had felt the Lord was leading us into the unknown, and it had not been uncovered yet. But as I sat listening to my husband’s words a few days later, the pain in my ankle kept me from interrupting him with my own arguments. My “silly foot” did stop me. Sometimes I think that God’s sense of humor is bigger than we have realized.
I heard my husband asking me to pray about entering the field of drama as our ministry. It was the one subject that we both had thought was “hands-off” because God had called him away from entering training in drama when He called him into training for ministry. Neither of us had ever considered that God might have a purpose in my husband’s dramatic side.
Could God really have full use of something that we thought shut away? Would God ask for full surrender in an area that we thought was only worldly, or fleshly?
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:27-31 NIV
Dramatic creativity was the part of my husband that he had held onto as his greatest talent before He came to the Lord. But now God was asking us to see that in the surrender to Him, He was the one who would bring His own life into things thought long dead. Only God can bring about HIS wisdom through things that seem foolish to the world.
And we were thought pretty foolish as we began to share that God had called us to write and share a drama about the Apostle Thomas—the doubting one. We were thought even more foolish as the temp jobs became sporadic while my husband and I prayed and researched for many months before one word was ever written on that drama.
When the words were at last finalized, and the time came to share the presentation, we knew the heart of God was stirring us to take the message to more churches than just our own. But that meant I would need to call Pastors and actually ask them if we could share the drama with their church. Reference letters were written, brochures were made, and I had yet to call anyone.
Another surrender stared me down, eye-to-eye, as I looked at the phone on the desk. Visions of all of those old hurts of being thought foolish for listening to the call of God to pick up and move, all of those official ministries that had failed in the sight of the church, and all of those places where programs seemed a higher priority than people, were swimming in my mind. How could I step back into it all?
Then God asked me a question. . . .
“Will you pray for my Shepherds?”
He didn’t take away the hurts first, He didn’t answer all of the questions, and He did not make the faulty programs disappear. He just asked me to pray and to love. I knew what the answer would be.
For you see, He had already been taking me deeper into the life of an intercessor. In those suburbs of Chicago, He had brought before me two very different women, and plunged my heart into a kind of praying and bearing of burdens that I had barely glimpsed before. Waking in the middle of the night with Scriptures and words, praying over the phone with these women at odd hours when the pain of the burden was too great, and loving them when I did not know where the love had even come from, had become a way of life for me. So when He asked me if I would pray for His Shepherds, the answer overflowed from a heart that had already become His place of prayer.
When I spent my afternoons tucked away in my room making those calls, it became a holy place. Most of the Pastors were shocked that I was not calling to just push our agenda. When I asked if I could pray for them, invariably there would be a pause, and a “Sure!” across the phone line. Many times they told me that God had sent my call at just the time they most needed encouragement. There came the day I paused myself, and realized my own heart had changed. The hurt and anguish in my heart toward those Pastors had been replaced by a deep love from God. The weak and smallest places of my own heart had been washed by the wisdom and mercy of our Loving Father.
Is there a weak and foolish-seeming question before you now?
Is something long-thought-dead being stirred alive in your heart?
Does it seem that there is no way to compete with the wisdom of the world?
Perhaps God is asking you to set aside those foolish and wise ways and look up. He wants to bring the lowly to the place of boasting in HIM.
I am linking with: #RememberMeMonday