But it has been hard, and we’ve been learning to abide in ways we never thought to before. In the midst of other life happenings (because drama never has the courtesy to make an appointment), we have walked many places this year that we honestly did not want to go. We still walk to some of those places every week. Usually, every day…often, more than once.
It’s a grisly battle and there’s nothing romantic or pretty about it.
There have been mornings that I don’t want to leave the bedroom. There are chaotic afternoons that taunt and harass with the voice of the enemy saying, “I told you so.” There are middle-of-the-nights that I fight bloody hell for joy and peace.
It is hardest when I forget that He’s right there in those hard places with us. Sometimes I forget to see the beautiful, I forget that He makes quiet resting places in the chaos, and I forget that He’s holding the needle.
But He reminds me over and over and over. He’s always with me. This verse has been taped to our shower wall in a plastic sheet protector for the past several months:
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
– Isaiah 26:3
In the wee hours one morning recently, I gave up trying to get back to sleep. I was tired, but tired of trying, too.
We’d been fighting illness and there were eight loads of laundry in queue. I thought I’d get some of it done in a quiet house, drink a glass of water, and go back to bed in an hour or so once I was tired enough to fall back asleep.
Tiptoed downstairs. Two cats, one striped and one solid, came padding behind me.
One of them in particular follows me everywhere, every day. White as a cue ball, she’s everywhere I go.
Where can I go from my Sophie? Or where can I flee from her presence? If ascend up the stairs, she is there. If I make my bed in the morning, she is climbing all over the pillows. If I take the wash out of the dryer, behold, she is there. If I hide in the remotest part of the house, even there she will follow me, her right paw will lay hold of the sandwich I am trying to eat for lunch.
– Psalm 139:7-10, modified considerably
The girl knows what it is to abide, to pursue the presence of the one she loves. To follow the person who loves her best. She loves to be with me, and I love that, too – though sometimes I’d like to keep my bowl of ice cream to myself.
Despite my grand intentions, the laundry in the dryer was still damp. I set it to running again, wondering what to do. Fold a few blankets. Wipe the counter. Tell the cats to be quiet because it’s not breakfast time yet…in this house, at least.
I looked for my Bible but couldn’t find it. I remembered that it was by the bed, but didn’t want to risk waking up small humans by going back upstairs to get it.
I grab another book instead, and read this:
The Spirit must break our practice of the presence of self, and He does this by forging Himself into our inner being. How often these last years have I been filled with that burning? There were times when I literally felt as though He grabbed my soul with His holy fist and lifted me up before His face with my feet dangling in midair and my tongue protesting, “No, Lord, I can’t take anymore. No more, Lord. I’m weary of the painful growth.”
And I realize that the laundry was just a ruse to get me down here to read this, today, this morning, right now. Because I need more of Him urgently.
I am learning about those flames which burn but do not consume. I am learning about that fire which releases the odor and fragrance of roses and about that Guest who inhabits the parlor of our souls, who banks the fireplace with ashes to keep the burning low or who uses the billows when the room has grown cold.
– Karen Burton Mains, Open Heart, Open Home
I check the laundry. Pull out dry things that are wadded around damp towels and reset the dryer. Fold a pillowcase and some underwear, a set of sheets. It is the Sabbath without rest right now – Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and we need healing. But it is quiet and the spirit is resting even when the body isn’t.
Sophie is here, quietly accepting the wait for breakfast, though Gus still loiters in the kitchen. It is just me and them and Him and the laundry, breathing in peace and fellowship. It is the day of Communion.
The towels are dry and another load goes in. I finish folding warm clothes in a cold room, in bare feet on a hard floor. Put away my empty glass. Stack sheets and towels and underwear, triumphant over another load of laundry, and head upstairs, two little cats following me.
He has used His billows to relight the fire, and He banks me in with a down comforter. Victorious, glorious.
Contentedly exhausted, I go back to sleep…and He is right there in that place, too.