Today it hit me. It ain’t rocket science. It’s knowing.
Mark 9:24: “24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
So not so long ago, as she was describing the very real injustices that have befallen her lately, a friend said to me, “I pray and pray, but nothing. I just hear nothing. God’s not here.”
And my first response was, “God IS here, even when He is quiet.” I am so strong in my belief; how can she not be? But my friend looked at me, disappointment written all over her face. Where was my own ability to share His Word?
Although Romans 8:28 scrolls across the LED readout in my mind’s eye each time calamity hits, I felt sure my friend was not headed to her Bible when she got home.
“All things work together for good… to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.”
But for my friend, that means everyone except her. Except now.
And Lord knows I was her at one time. Lord also knows unbelief sometimes still catches me unawares, in moments of anger and frustration. So there’s that. But there’s more.
This past Friday, after months of anticipation, I was ready to go to a spiritual retreat in the mountains. Abe was looking forward (really, he was) to fixing something guy-like for dinner and hanging out with the dog for a couple of days.
Arrangements had been made with My Ladies, who would sing their Sunday hymns with a CD instead of Pastor Kathleen. They’re so solid in His Word that although I’m certain they miss our time of fellowship and communion, they don’t miss a beat in worshiping and giving Him the glory.
Another notification was to my friend who’s seriously ill and whose personal resolve and reliance on God have become very evident in the past weeks. We’re spending more time together, my friend and spouse and I, treasuring the laughter and sharing bits of life. I told them I’d be gone for the weekend. They wished me well and said to get in touch when I got home, but something tugged when I hung up the phone. What was that?
Then on Thursday a spring storm hit, and all things being equal — which is to say I drive a Prius, and sloppy, slushy roads are the bane of a low-rider like that Toyota — I contacted my dear friends at the helm of the retreat and let them know I’d not be coming. In the flesh, I was bummed. I’d been waiting for a long time to fellowship and worship with this church. But in my spirit there was actually peace. Interesting, I thought. Tug tug.
Saturday dawned clear(er), and my flesh and I told Abe, “I’m going!” It didn’t take long to pack the Prius and, two hours later, my little toboggan-hybrid and I were slip-sliding through some serious mud uphill to the lodge. We made it in fine stead, and I joined the service late but in time for powerful prayer. After settling into my sweet room and reconnecting with a great roommate, I walked down a fairly steep hill to the cafeteria to meet up more friends.
And then, oh hallelujah, I was so blessed to spend well over an hour in quiet, personal contemplative worship, letting the music move me through Isaiah 60.
“1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”
Wow oh wow oh wow. The balm of Gilead was covering every part of me, and a sense of renewal, of His power and of my own worth in Christ Jesus rose inside.
As I climbed the stairs to my room for a quick bite of lunch and, yes, a quick glance at emails, peace was in that mountain breeze.
Now, right here is where all things really and truly do work together for good, where I start coming full circle to my hurting friend: Lunch was warming in the microwave, and I was sitting on the sofa, iPhone email tone dinging softly as I scrolled down. The microwave also dinged, so I arose. And then… and then my back dinged loudest of all.
The spasm was so intense I saw stars. Seriously, white bursts of pain going off in my head from what was happening between fourth and fifth lumbar, a place of chronic stuff in my body. To keep from hitting the floor, I grabbed a chair back and held on tight.
These waker-uppers are not uncommon and happen a few times a month — but this one was way off the Richter scale. Nothing like this had swept over me since the disk herniation nearly three years ago.
It seemed like forever before the spasm itself subsided, but I suspect it was more like a minute. OK, now what? I went on auto-pilot and got my lunch out. It would be really easy to insert metaphor about losing my lunch at this juncture, but I’ll forego. Just be advised it was close.
“You need to go home” Someone whispered in my ear. A few minutes later my roommate walked in.
All I could tell her was that this hurt, and and I didn’t want to make a big announcement. So I asked her if she’d help me with my bags — I had envisioned myself kicking them down the stairs and moving them with my feet to the car, but what to do when them when I got them there hadn’t quite been worked out in my mind. I also asked her to tell my friends I was sorry.
Soon I was headed down the hill, a physical and emotional mess. But that tug I’d felt when talking to my friend’s spouse was growing stronger as I drove, and like gravity, it was pulling pulling pulling me home. I was a little afraid. OK. I was a lot afraid.
Don’t you know that fear and pain can combine to really put the whammy on a person, and I was whammied up like all get out. But don’t you also know that prayer is the most powerful healer, and as I drove, I thankfully received the prescribed dosage.
Later on at home, with heat on my back and my legs elevated to relieve pressure, I continued giving thanks and let God be God, He Whose knitting put me together in the first place, and He who had whispered, “You need to go home.”
And it turns out my friend’s spouse had called, and I would have missed it by more than a day if I hadn’t returned. Every call from them is hugely important right now, and I was glad to get back to them. It was a knowing, that tug, knowing where I was needed to be and what I myself was needing.
As the evening deepened, I could actually feel the lower back muscles release and my spine move back into alignment. My legs relaxed, and my knees felt a “whoosh!” as the fluid that had built up drained.
Closer to my noggin, the muscles that had caused my cervical spine to go all cattywampas also released, and my neck and shoulders eased back onto the bed rather than arching upward and outward.
The circulation returned to my hands, and my fingers flexed.
If you think I didn’t say out loud, “Yes! Praise be to my God!” let me reassure you: Indeed I did!
Now, do I believe God caused my back to spasm so I’d look like an idiot and leave a wonderful retreat after being there for only a few hours? No, I do not. I believe more than likely my slipping on a patch of sloppy mud and instinctively bracing myself as I walked caused that. But do I believe He gave me this opportunity to know that I know that I know exactly how He can use a really bad situation to illustrate His power and His Glory?
Absolutely I do. Nothing is too big for God, and nothing is too small. Nothing is coincidental, either.
It just so happens my friend who’s struggling to hear the Voice of God understands physicality and injury, and she treats my back symptoms. She shares her knowledge of exercises to align my spine. I, in doing what I do, share my faith.
This coming week we have much to share, not the least of which is that both she and know what we know. She knows the exercises work; I know God speaks to me.
She knows for the exercises TO work, we must DO them. I know to HEAR God, we must LISTEN. Both of us know that our knowing IS our belief. For each of us, belief is inward. It ain’t rocket science.
“Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.”
And aren’t we thankful that for God, even rocket science ain’t rocket science? Amen.