When we moved in January, three years ago, there was a lot going on. In many ways the move was the unraveling of my soul.
I was barely recovered from the hysterectomy I had in the Fall, which is not much more than a blur in my memory, because it was overshadowed by the sickness and eventual death of a close friend (Summer Kempfer, for those of you who don’t know).
Two things keep the memory of my surgery alive. One is that it coincided with the Auburn Early Ed. lice outbreak from hell. Riley fell victim and it took weeks to finally get rid of the little demon bugs. I remember bending my freshly stitched up belly over her head, treating and picking through her hair.
Also, Summer had an emergency situation while I was in surgery and when I came out of anesthesia I heard that she had gone into the ICU. I was trapped in a bed, unable to get there, and it was awful.
In addition to that, I was homeschooling Caeley for her 9th grade year. With all the distractions, I did a pretty terrible job as a homeschool mom. Our relationship grew, though, so I count it a win.
In late October, Summer passed away. Watching a loved one suffer and then take her last breath does something to you. I wasn’t the one who had to endure the suffering, but I was deeply impacted and changed. I’m still sorting through all of that.
In November and December we celebrated the holidays and packed up our home in Auburn. January 19, 2013 we left for Kansas City.
It’s difficult to explain some things to a person who has no grid for hearing God, or who has been told God doesn’t communicate with us. So, if that’s you just try to take my word for this: I believe God led me to agree to move to Kansas City. I didn’t feel called to any particular thing, just to go. I felt it was for the good of our family. It also wasn’t something I wanted to do, at all.
I felt like I was setting out for the wilderness – the Biblical kind of wilderness, not the Bear Grylls adventure kind of wilderness. This was not a positive thing, in my mind.
I’ve found, however, that being alone, separated from family, friends, and my church – all the familiar things that I can too easily lean upon – has driven me to know Him in a deeper way.
As I got here and began to unravel, the grief, the guilt, the loneliness, the difficulties of motherhood, the relational difficulties, the questions, all gushed out.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt like I had PTSD. Between what happened with Summer and a long, really difficult season of parenting one of our kids, I was not in good shape. I didn’t have any human around that I felt safe to talk to about all of it.
But (this is the important part)…
God was there. The Holy Spirit was a very present help in my trouble. When He leads you somewhere, He doesn’t abandon you when you get there.
Isaiah 26:3 says of God, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
The “stayed” mind isn’t simply the mind that stays focused on Him. No, it’s the mind that is supported, upheld and sustained by Him. It’s the mind propped up by Him, by His character. It’s the mind that chooses to lean itself upon Him for support.
It’s why I am unashamed to say, yes, I do need a crutch. Yes, I am weak. Yes, I need help.
I couldn’t always stay focused on Him in a conscious way, because my thoughts were often overwhelming. It can be difficult to forcefully redirect painful thoughts. But I was very dependent upon Him and was aware of His presence.
He is the reason I’m sane (some of you may argue that!). He is my peace. He has sustained me through many things. He has guided me, taught me, protected me, sent people to me, and He has changed me.
When we think of Jesus spending forty days in the Wilderness, fasting and praying, we often assume He was weak at the end of it. When He was tempted by satan we imagine it was because He was tired out.
Dallas Willard pointed out that, in reality, He would have been spiritually strong by the end of forty days of fasting and prayer. He may have been physically weak and hungry, but the inner man was fully equipped for the fight.
I think in a sense that’s what happens to us when we go through difficulties, if our minds are stayed on Him.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1
We don’t become strong without some resistance. We don’t become mature without time and experience.
We don’t really know God until we experience Him. And often, that doesn’t happen outside of difficulty.
I don’t claim to be strong or mature, yet, but I’m stronger and more mature than I was three and a half years ago. I trust Him more. I lean on Him more. I love Him more. I am more peaceful.
If you’re in a hard place, look to Him. Trust Him. Lean on Him for support. Your circumstance might not change but you will.