Friday, July 17, 2009
As you may recall from an earlier post, my daughter and her family have been staying with me while they have relocated to North Carolina and could find a home of their own. This week they moved into a lovely cottage home in the country with plenty of space for the boys to play, lots of trees for the boys to climb, and, in addition, only a few miles from our church. I am so grateful to the Lord for making a way for them to move close to me--I have missed them so very much.
Now that they have a home of their own and have moved out of mine, however, I find myself feeling very alone. I did not realize that I would become so accustomed to their presence in my home and I certainly did not anticipate the empty feeling I would have now that they are gone. I miss the sound of Gabe's laughter and Mikey's hugs and kisses. I miss the companionship of the lovely woman my daughter has become. I miss Mark keeping fresh coffee available and taking out the garbage for me (always a chore I have dreaded). I miss them all.
All of this has served to dredge up a fear I have struggled with for most of my adult life---the fear of being alone. As you know, I grew up in a close and tight-knit family. There was very little alone time and we were constantly in each other's way. Even after growing up and leaving our parent's home, we all flocked back at every opportunity to enjoy the company of family---to remember we were not alone as long as we had each other. When life's circumstances put me in a position of facing life alone, I found it difficult. In fact, I found it almost intoler-
able. Alone was not what I wanted to be.
I tried filling the time in every way I knew how. I worked a lot of overtime, I went to seminars and workshops, I enrolled in online Bible studies---all in an effort to fill my time to the max so that I wouldn't have to face being alone. I accompanied my father on his speaking engagements, I did a lot of speaking on my own and took on more responsibilities in my local church--again, just to fill my time. Looking back, I realize that by filling all the empty time I had with whatever I could find to do, I left no time for God to teach me the real lesson, WE ARE NEVER ALONE. When I fell on my knees one morning after work, weeping from weariness of mind and body, begging God to help me, I heard the inner voice I knew so well. It was not an audible voice but more like an intense thought that took over my mind and spoke one thing, loud and clear: "You are not alone. I am here. Let me help you.". I understood, in a way I never had before, the meaning of Jesus' words, "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavyladen and I will give you rest.". Oh, how I wanted rest, how I wanted God's help, how I wanted to know it was okay to be alone. I was ready for God to show me--to teach me--to heal me--to give me peace. I wanted alone to be a state of being, not a state of mind. Physically, I was alone. Spiritually, I had a constant companion, a cherished friend, a refuge. I was sheltered in the arms of God.
Life since those days has not been easy. There are times when I have said to God, "This time you have given me too much to handle.". There are still days when I cry and feel so alone. But God never fails to remind me that, though He is not tangible--though He is not visible--though He is not flesh--HE IS STILL THERE. It is His healing presence that enables me to live alone. It is His guiding hand that prevents me from falling. It is His love that keeps me secure. He is, indeed, everything I need.
I am sure that, though my daughter and her family are not physically in my home, they will always be as close as a phone call. Video games and children's movies are tucked carefully away just waiting for the hands of two little boys to bring it all back to life. In the meantime, God and I are getting along famously. He holds me secure in the palm of His hand, His voice stills my doubts and fears, He meets me at every turn. Every now and then I still hear the Godly whisper in my heart and mind, "You are not alone. I am here. Let me help you.". It becomes my mantra that I repat over and over to myself--never alone, never alone, never alone. He promised never to leave me and God always keeps His promises.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Recently I have faced a number of situations for which I have found no immediate solution. Along with personal illness, and related time off work, I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted by it all. My mind was numb and my body weary---I knew I needed help. In crying out to God I was reminded of the one place I had always found peace and comfort in times like this. I was reminded of the church--the house of God--the earthly sanctuary.
As a young Christian, I had always had access to the church. My father being the Pastor provided me with unlimited opportunity to have time alone with God whenever I needed it. When life became too much for me to handle, the church became my sanctuary--my refuge--my calm in the midst of the storm. It was as if God were saying to me, "It's alright. I am here and I will stay as long as you need me to". I felt cradled by a force greater than myself. I felt safe.
So, when the recent events of my life became overwhelming, I went to the one place I had always felt secure. I went to my church. The minute I walked in, I felt the presence of God welcoming me. I felt the same peace and quietness come over my spirit that I remembered from my youth. I knew that, even if I left with no solution to my problems, I would still leave refreshed and encouraged.
I knelt at the altar and began to pray. I asked God for forgiveness for my earthly shortcomings and, like David, I asked Him to restore to me the joy of my salvation. I prayed for guidance and direction. I prayed for strength and endurance. I prayed for the peace that passes all understanding. As hard as it was, I asked God to show me what I was doing, if anything, that would prevent me from receiving the answers to my prayers. It was a prayer that was unrushed and unhurried--a prayer accompanied by many tears--a prayer from the heart.
I rose from the altar with no change in my circumstances. The problems and situations were still there--still unchanged. But, I was changed. My heart was filled with joy and my mind knew peace for the first time in many weeks. I had come to my sanctuary with a heavy heart, a cluttered mind, a wounded spirit. I had received comfort, encouragement and healing. I was refreshed by the washing of His Spirit and renewed by the power of His Presence.
There will always be problems, heartbreaks, illness, betrayals and sorrows in this life. I may not always be able to go to the church and bow at the altar, seeking His beloved comfort. But, for now, for this time, I found a haven. I found an altar of mercy and a God of unlimited grace. I found a refuge from the storm. It was there all the time--my earthly sanctuary.