As I awoke on a sunny spring day in May, my mind felt cluttered. Deadlines loomed for my daughter’s home school materials to be completed in time for graduation. Paperwork still needed to be completed for submission to two different colleges. My father’s health issues demanded my attention and energy. Of course, the day to day tasks of shopping, phone calls, and trying to carve out moments for myself and the rest of my family vied for a place in my agenda.
I felt overwhelmed. My energy felt zapped.
I prepared for work. On the one hand, I looked forward to engaging with the students in the classroom where I would be substitute teaching. Yet, I wondered how I would be able to focus on the tasks of the day when the concerns of my mind seemed so pressing.
I said a quick prayer asking for peace “that passes all understanding” as I headed toward the school. I anticipated that, at some point, peace would wash over me. Traditionally, when I remind myself that God is in control, I am relieved of the tension that grips my body. Yet, in my humanity, I wondered if I could really trust God to come through again. Read more here: https://www.redbudwritersguild.com/healing-laughter/
Sometimes, life leaves your brain full and your mouth empty.
A season of life two years ago encompassed one of those times for me. The thing is-these seasons don’t just end with a nice and tidy resolution. They don’t leave us with an instant epiphany of profound theological insight. Rather, we are left with a reminder-:spiritual, physical, emotional- that we are humans wrestling with the realities of living in a place of in-between.
It is not yet Heaven.
The days of December 2013 quickly filled up with preparations for Christmas as well as doctor’s appointments. My eldest son became increasingly ill. A periodic problem with an upset stomach evolved into a daily issue. Watching your child feeling sick packs a punch to the stomach and the heart. The immediate desire is to fix it.
Yet, beginning in October, we sought an answer from many physicians and no one could fix it. How can that happen? We live near Chicago; a mecca of renowned and state-of-the art medical centers. A gold mine of wisdom on the complexities of the human body. Yet, each visit to a different specialist yielded more questions. We just wanted answers.
Emergency room doctors ruled out some things But nothing made him better. Daily, he made the trek to school with virtually nothing in his stomach except a bit of protein shake. Sometimes, he couldn’t gather the stamina to make it to school. My husband and I worried. The school pressured. The bills mounted.
We prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. But there were no answers.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV).
Embracing the peace of Christ in the midst of uncertainty challenged me.
Finally, after many tests and procedures, a diagnosis was reached. Whew! Finally a name and a course of treatment. Finally, an answer! Medicine would bring healing and resolve the problem. I grabbed hold of the answer and felt a sense of relief; control; no uncertainty. How easy is it to acknowledge the “peace that passes all understanding” when circumstances line up according to our expectations?
But would that peace permeate if the circumstances change? The events of the next day confronted me with that question.
Following dinner, upon preparing to study for finals, he fell to the couch and began to seize. Never having witnessed a seizure, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. The limp look of his body; the lifeless look in his eyes, will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Those five minutes led me to a profound realization as my mind grasped to acknowledge the surreal reality spinning around me: there are many things I can control-but death may not be one of them.
Fortunately, he came out of the seizure, was quickly rushed to the hospital, and the scans came out clear. But, more questions arose...and yet no answers. In my frustration, I hesitated to let go of what I thought to be a resolution. I didn’t want to believe that our lives were once more catapulted into the abyss. “How do you embrace the peace that transcends all understanding when God’s movement does not align with Earthly expectation?
As we dealt with the uncertainty in his health, we attempted to proceed with the rhythms of life. That wrenching moment rewound in my mind in the midst of my days. Ambulance sounds caused shivers down my back. Yet, I attempted to let Jesus, not me, guard my heart.
The dark, frigid winter painted an appropriate backdrop to the events and feelings over those next several months. While we continued to hold on to the glimmer of light held out for us through scriptural promises, the realities of living in the “not yet” continued to speak into our lives. How does one live in the truth of new life in the resurrection, yet, face the reality of destruction and death of the things of this world?
My heart and my mind bear the scars of living in a kingdom that is both now and not yet. But I am keenly aware that I am not the only one. In one way or another, all of us feel that paradox. Circumstances may differ. Our expectations and God’s answers may or may not merge. Yet, the testimony and scars of others bear witness to the peace that Christ offers, while living in a kingdom that unfolds toward completion.
It’s the peace that Jesus promised to his disciples, who had given up everything for him. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLV).
Eventually, the winter season yielded to the brighter, warmer days of spring; not just meteorologically, but symbolically as well. My son’s health improved. I am aware that I am bound to encounter those seasons of restlessness again. They too are promises of Jesus. But He also imparts a peace that “transcends all understanding” as we navigate through them.
Four years ago, I wrote a post about the struggle I experienced as I acknowledged that my oldest child was about to enter high school. http://stephaniejthompson.com/2012/07/13/as-my-child-grows-i-am-learning-to-surrender-control/ Disappointment surfaced as I began to realize that all of the dreams I had for him before he graduated from high school may not come to fruition… at least not in the tangible ways I had envisioned. The Grand Canyon, Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore, mission trips, and experiencing other countries all held spots on my dream destination list for him. How could he have reached this milestone already?
The “Ifs” quickly pressed on me: “If we would have had more money”, “if we hadn’t faced health issues”, “If……..” I felt like time was trekking forward and I was grieving the loss of expectations. My expectations. And while I wish some of those items on the list could have been checked off, I am aware that God’s hand at work in his life far exceeds any of my expectations.
Today, he entered his last year of high school. And you know what? I was not the mess that I thought I would become on this day. In fact, I embraced it. And I prayed God’s blessings on it. This summer, he had a ton of fun. Amusement parks, movies, lazy hot days drinking cold beverages, family gatherings, a life-changing, church youth group event all grabbed a spot in his life. And throughout those weeks, I noticed something: he’s ready for a new season-in life.
Gone are the days of finding joy in a trek to the park, splashing in the sprinkler, a ride in the wagon(he wouldn’t fit in it anyway). It’s as it should be. Scripture bears witness to Jesus’s life as a boy: ” And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people” (Luke 2:52 MSG).
Present are days of spontaneous, thought provoking discussions, seeing his maturity unfold in various moments of life, watching his identity as a follower of Christ affect his choices and questions about the future, and experiencing new journeys together.
It’s been said of those early days of child rearing that the days are long and the years are short. I don’t know if he would agree with that quote but, as a parent, it rings oh so true. In those “short” years, I have seen God’s hand at work in answers to my hopes and prayers for him. Sometimes, those answers came through “big” moments such as his decision to be baptized, receiving awards for musical skills or grades. Often, my blessings came through the witness of his resilience and hope through challenging moments, words of wisdom or clarity, the revelation of character strengths which unfold in ordinary moments of life. All of which point to the big picture that is being weaved; of which these past 18 years are just a small part.
I find comfort in knowing that many parents have traveled this journey before me. I’m not referring just to the sisterhood of moms that I know, but sisters of long ago that had to let go of their kids and let God navigate their lives. Sisters like Hannah (mother of Samuel), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), Mary and Eunice (mother of Timothy). Each of them came to a spot when they had to acknowledge that their children ultimately belonged to their God.
I’ve realized that this year is just as significant as any other year of his life with us. Yes, it is his Senior year and there will be unique milestones to mark. But, God will continue to be at work just like in previous years. He will “mature, grow up in both body and Spirit, and be blessed by both God and people.”
And, like Mary, I will “treasure these things in my heart (Luke 2:52).”