When I got back to New England, I began the painstaking process of reestablishing the life we had here before my dad’s diagnosis turned everything upside down. The kids went back to swim lessons and basketball practice and gymnastics. I went to the grocery store, cooked suppers, folded laundry, and resumed my position as the queen of our castle. Meanwhile back in the South, the doctors weren’t sure why my dad’s labs were still lousy and for the first time since any of this started, my dad started to seem depressed. He couldn’t even talk to me on the phone. He ended up back in the hospital when his platelets and white blood cell count dropped even lower. So I put one foot in front of the other, updated my dad’s CaringBridge site for my mom so she would have one less thing to worry about and trusted that even though this way seemed difficult, God had planned it for us.
Since we first found out that we were moving to New England, my family has been excited about the chance to experience a true winter with snow. My oldest was born in Rhode Island but we moved to Hawaii before he was even a year old, so he doesn’t remember living there at all. My youngest two were born in Hawaii and then lived in the South, so they’d never even seen snow. Since we’d spent the coldest part of the winter with my parents after Christmas, we were afraid that we might have missed our opportunity to do all the “snow activities” we had planned. My husband had desperately wanted to take the kids skiing at one of the small ski areas near our house, but we weren’t sure if we’d missed our chance or not. We made it home on a Friday and that weekend God sent about ten inches of beautiful snow for us. What a neat gift!
We planned a trip to go skiing that week and on the way, I was discussing details about the move home that had been tumbling around in my head. K, my husband listened quietly. Too quietly. I felt pretty sure that he wasn’t that deep in thought about whether or not I should go ahead and sign the kids up for swim lessons this summer or wait until the fall, and by the time I realized that something else was going on in his head, I don’t think even I was listening to what I was saying.
“I wasn’t sure if I should say anything now or just wait until I knew something more certain.” Those were the next words that he spoke.
“I don’t know what he’s going to say but I wish he just wouldn’t say it.” Those were the next words that popped into my head. But he said it anyway.
When I’d told a few close friends that we were moving back home, I’d said, “Now it’s not official so we can’t tell everyone. But really the only way this wouldn’t happen is if there’s some general somewhere that we know nothing about who has some other job picked out for K that we know nothing about which just doesn’t seem likely. Ha, ha, ha.”
Well, guess what? Some general (one that had been K’s boss for all of two weeks one time) had hand selected K for a brand new job in a brand new area that was just in the process of being created. This was such a brand new job that the final selection had not even been made as to where the new job would be located. The city where my parents live was on the list of possibilities, as were five other cities. Five other cities that are not anywhere remotely close to the city where my parents live.
And that’s when I hit the wall or maybe a better way to say it is the wall hit me. In case you haven’t guessed, my husband’s in the military so he doesn’t have a whole lot of say in where he goes or what he does. But this was an enormously good deal for K, and I felt so sorry that instead of celebrating that he’d been chosen for a great assignment he was feeling horrible that he might be responsible for moving us even further away from my family.
I stared out the front window of the minivan and just tried to get a coherent thought to form. K didn’t know what to say to make it better. At one point, he looked over and said, “I guess we just have to keep trusting God.” At the moment those words rolled out of my sweet husband’s mouth, from the man who’d been willing to sacrifice his career for my family if he’d been given any choice, all I could think was, “If he tells me to trust God one more time or quotes one word of a single Bible verse to me I will lose my ever loving mind.” What I actually said wasn’t a whole lot nicer. I just said, “Please just let’s don’t talk at all right now.” So we didn’t. And I began to build from a simmer to a full rolling boil.
Up until this point I’d piously patted myself on the back and congratulated for myself for handling this whole situation so well. I acknowledged that I didn’t understand why my family was walking down this road but affirmed that I had full confidence that God would get us through whatever we faced. I’d proclaimed to anyone who would listen that God is good all the time even when our circumstances don’t seem fair. I had pointed everyone who asked how we were able to do as well as we were doing to the strength and peace and love of my heavenly Father Who would walk us through every step of what He had called us to do.
And I had given Him the glory and praise for what I thought was an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even thought to pray. I had told my friends and family that we were moving home because God had shown favor to us and had heard the cries of my heart. So now how was I going to explain that He might be taking His gift back? How would I ever save God’s reputation? What if He didn’t come through after all? How would I ever explain this and get Him out of this mess? As ridiculous as that sounds, I truly wondered how this would reflect back on God. Like He needs me to make Him look good or explain what He does.
But even deeper than my concern about God’s reputation was this nagging feeling that this was just about more than I could take. It just seemed mean. Initially, I’d never even thought we could possibly go home after this assignment. It wasn’t really a likely scenario and I was okay with that. How cruel to let me think it was a possibility only to take away my hope just when I needed it the most! My feelings were just so very hurt.
I couldn’t tell my parents about this. My dad was in the hospital again fighting for his life and battling depression. My mom had more than enough on her plate. I couldn’t tell my friends back home until we knew something a little more certain.
The weight of everything I hadn’t dealt with for the last few months brought me to my knees. But not to pray. I couldn’t pray. The words just wouldn’t come. And I didn’t want to talk to God. I didn’t want to talk to anyone for that matter. I didn’t answer my emails or my phone. I created excuses to skip church and our community group. I took everything personally and used my sensitivities as an excuse to retreat deeper and deeper into my cave. And even though I didn’t deserve their grace, my friends graciously let me do what I needed to do.
The only ones I thought I could even attempt to connect with were the ones in The Club. Are you in The Club? I hope not. I have a group of friends whose parents and/or child either have or have had Cancer. Big C because it’s like having the most trollific (made it up) person you can imagine marry into your family. The friends in my Club are men and women of different ages. Some of them know others in my Club and some have never met. I love them with all my heart but I hate so much that we are in this Club. When I had about reached as low as I could go, I texted and emailed a few of them and asked them to “stand in the gap” for me. Most of them didn’t even have the details of what was happening. I just asked them to intercede to our Father on my behalf. I asked them to please just pray for me. And they did. How do I know? Because I felt the difference that their prayers made.
My circumstances didn’t change. My dad didn’t immediately start feeling better. No one called to tell us where we were moving. But suddenly, the ice that had built up around my heart begin to melt away. I still didn’t have the words to pray, but I started listening to music and the words begin to touch my heart almost like little doctors and nurses healing my wounds. One day I was listening to K-LOVE online while I cleaned house. I was on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor scrubbing up cereal pieces that had turned into little pieces of cement under the table when Selah’s version of “You Raise Me Up” started playing.
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.
I’ve heard that song a million times. It’s a beautiful song, but on this day, it felt like Emmanuel, God With Us, came and sit down with me in the middle of my kitchen floor. All I wanted to do was to crawl into my heavenly Father’s lap and have a good cry. So I did. Right there on my kitchen floor. I poured my heart out to Him and gave Him my confusion and my hurt and my fear. I told Him that even if He didn’t take me where I wanted to go, that I was saying the same thing Moses said in Exodus 33: “Lord, if Your presence doesn’t go with me, then I ain’t going” (Whimzie paraphrase from the Snoodlings Bible).
I think there’s a huge difference between laying your heart open before the Lord and complaining to Him. A few weeks ago, Beth Moore’s daughter Melissa wrote a great blog post on expressing our emotions before God without being irreverent. I truly believe God wants us to tell Him how we feel. After all, He knows anyway. However, I do think we need to keep in mind just Who we’re addressing. It’s like I tell my kids, “You can tell me how you feel, but you still need to be respectful of how you say it.”
God didn’t write in the dust on my TV His plan for the next few months of my life. He didn’t spell it out in the kids’ alphabet soup. He did affirm to me that whatever He did would be His perfect plan and would be for His glory. I see stories in my head, and in my mind it was like I had been riding on God’s shoulders down this new path for the past few months. As long as I had a pretty good idea where we were headed, I was okay to hold on tight and ride. But after my meeting with the wall, I felt like all of a sudden we were walking through low lying branches in the dark and down roads I didn’t think we had any business traveling. So I slid right down and decided to sit on a rock on the side of the road and pout for a little while. But it’s scary sitting on the side of the road in the dark. God hadn’t moved away; He was right there with me, but I realized I felt much safer on His shoulders. Gradually, day by day, I began to return to the land of the living. And then we waited to see where God would take us next….
When God Un-Answers a Prayer, Part Three: We Wrestle