Thursday, May 17, 2012

Never stop learning

A letter to my church family, and to anyone else who might be struggling with this lesson:

First of all, I want to tell the whole church “thank you”.  Some prepared meals, which were dearly appreciated, but all have shared love, support, and prayers in one way or another.

We are so very grateful, and that is also what God laid on my heart to share.

Nick and I both grew up with parents that were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Though those stories turned out differently for the parents concerned, it was much the same in how it affected us- further proof that God really is preparing you for your mate long before you ever even meet.

 Because of our parents’ illnesses, there were often situations where our parents had to depend on someone else to help take care of the children. That meant that we saw Christian charity in action, on our behalves, pretty early on. However, as we learned a few weeks ago in our Sunday school curriculum, our heart intentions are even more important than our actual actions. While I don’t doubt that caring for us was an added burden to our church family, or that some of the church members did indeed have their hearts set on Christ, we were children, with little listening ears, and when church family and blood family complained about having to take us into their homes, it hurt us.

 As our Pastor has often said, it is often not what hurt a person that leads them away from the church, but who hurt them. This was the case for us; we saw Christians caring for one another, but their attitudes made it clear to us that we were a burden. At different times in our lives, this has either made us leery of relationships with other Christians, or absolutely unwilling to accept help.

I did not want help-not when my husband was deployed and I had my first baby all by myself, or when I was living overseas with no family, no friends, and  no husband, or when I was trying to finish school, with 1,2,3…almost 4 little kids and a husband frequently gone. I would rather struggle along by myself than ask for help- and have to bear feeling like a burden again, like I had as a child.

So two weeks ago, when we were waiting on the Lord to show us the right path for how our new little boy should arrive, things took a significantly different turn than we had envisioned. God promised to show us the way, and he did, and he answered every prayer we lifted up along the way. There were even prayers going up that we didn’t even know about, from people who didn’t even know what was going on at the time. Prayer is powerful, and our God really answers.

Yet, there were so many unexpected turns; the kinds of turns that at first might not appear to be part of answered prayers at all. In the end though, the things that count most were accounted for- namely our little boy’s life. True to his form, God also showed us how those frightening moments were part of his perfect plan.

 I still wasn’t ready to accept help, and wasn’t willing to ask for it. So the Lord allowed complications that would put us in a position where we needed help more than we ever had after one of our babies has arrived. For the first several days, this spinal fluid leak made it hard for me to even look down at Mack to take care of him.

I still didn’t want help- I told the nurse I had a little bit of a head ache. Then Mack was cleared to come home, and Pastor asked if we wanted any help, and true to form, we refused it.

But Pastor in all of his wisdom, and Holy Spirit leading, wouldn’t let us; And all of you stepped up and helped us….and a healing took place.

Not just of our physical bodies (Mack and me) but our spirits (Nick and me).

We felt loved-  And no one made us feel like a burden.

Pastor and Mrs. Layson reminded us, that it is a blessing to give, but if we refuse to receive, we rob others of the chance to bless us and in doing so be blessed.

Then the Lord opened my eyes even wider.

We didn’t want to share with everyone about Mack’s arm or how very close we came to not bringing a baby home at all. We trusted that God had a plan for it, and since we felt faithful, we didn’t want to burden anyone else with it. Again, this is our modus operandi.

Unless we are in a place where our faith is faltering, we almost never share our prayer requests. We keep them to ourselves, to one another. Recall, we don’t like being a burden, or sounding like we are not grateful for all the good we do have.

But this time, regardless of our own peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), God used this other situation to impress on us that not sharing our prayer requests is like robbing others of the joy of giving.

If we don’t share our petitions and hurts, even when we are confident that God is caring for them, how can others share in the joy of watching prayers answered?

I justified it thinking that if our prayers weren’t answered in the way that we would expect,  it might hurt someone else’s faith, even if we could appreciate how God might be using the situation.

But I realized that even then, we should all be sharing with one another- the joys of answered prayers and the lessons of prayers answered in God’s time and God’s own way.

So thank you. Not just for how you have taken care of my family in the last couple of weeks, or how you have welcomed our sweet little boy along with us, but for allowing yourselves to be used by the Holy Spirit to heal something in us that we have struggled with for so long. We can already see God working in our tiny boy’s life- healing him and using what happened to him to pull us closer to our church family and closer to him.

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