I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
John 14:18-21 NIV
I’m going to be blatantly honest with you about something: the past seven days made up what felt like one of those weeks…you know, the kind that if something could go wrong, it did go wrong. Well, for me anyway. And the stuff that went wrong wasn’t even stuff that you’d expect go wrong: minute stuff, stupid stuff, but stuff that – once it did go wrong – pierced my heart and mind and rocked me to my core. If you can relate, you have my sympathy.
Out of the entire paragraph you just read, though, the operative word is felt. The God-given truth for which I’m unendingly and increasingly grateful is that, no matter how life-altering my emotions perceived my circumstances to be – forgive the dramatics here – so much more could have gone wrong than what actually went wrong. Ironically, even among the confusion, frustration and at times sheer disbelief of these experiences – the majority of which are still alive and feel like shards of glass slicing into my heart and amplifying the ache – I was and remain continually aware of the tender, overwhelming presence of Jesus Christ through His Spirit around me and within me.
They’re endearing and sometimes amusing, you know, the ways God chooses to remind you of His presence when you most desperately need reminding. I once heard a teacher say that when you fall in love with Jesus, He’ll “romance” you spiritually in the sweetest of ways, and I remember the first time I experienced that aspect of His love myself. It happened during another one of “those” seasons. While sorting through some books to discard on this particular afternoon, I wiped a tear away and said aloud to God as I reached for the next book, “I just need to hear from you, Lord.” When I opened the book, out slid a tattered envelope addressed to me. My grandmother’s handwriting almost took my breath away. It had been four years since her passing; her memory had tugged at me more than usual in recent days. The envelope had a postmark from a couple of summers prior to her death, but when I unfolded the pages of the letter that Monday afternoon, I was captivated.
Where the date of the letter would normally appear, Monday was simply scrawled in Granny’s handwriting, followed by her usual greeting of Hey there before she got down to the business of filling me in on what I had missed while I was away from little town in North Carolina. Among the eye-opening highlights were comments like these:
“How is your weather down there? It’s comfortable up here with a nice breeze today.”
“Be sure when you’re swimming that you don’t go so far out that that water covers
“I know you’re busy, but don’t forget to rest some too. You know you tend to get sick easy when you get so tired.”
And the closing that drove me to a long-overdue cry but reiterated to me the unshakable fact that I serve a living God who is in control of my life and smoothes every single wrinkle out of it to His perfect purpose and my best interest:
“I hope you don’t have to stay down there too long…I know you’re ok but I sure do miss
you up here.”
you up here.”
Something similar happened yesterday as I took an inventory of the past week’s taxing events. I thought back the day that was supposed to be celebratory but ended on a bad note when I encountered – I kid you not – Satan in human flesh. (Well, if it wasn’t Satan it had to be one of his close relatives; the family resemblance was astounding.) I thought of the confusion left in the wake of someone who just stops talking to you and you don’t know why. I felt a stab of uneasy concern for a four-pawed friend I haven’t seen lately and went for one more look out the door just in case… But she still wasn’t there so I asked God again to please look after her wherever she is. Back in the kitchen, I apparently brushed past the table closer than I intended because that’s when the slip of paper fell from Mom’s personal Bible onto the floor.
I remember how surprised and touched I was when I realized a year or so ago that she had tucked a copy of the poem below inside the pages of her Bible. When I wrote it in 2011 – a couple months before we received Henry, our Miniature Pinscher rescue – I actually didn’t share it with family because it was terribly personal to me and spoke of a burden not unlike the one I’ve carried this past week and carry as we speak.
I hadn’t thought of the poem in quite some time until I picked it up from the floor yesterday. The timing was perfect, as God’s timing is, and through its words came not only the same warm comfort and reiteration of His love that He gave me through the words scrawled by my grandmother, but also the assurance that He heard and would honor the request made on behalf of my four-pawed friend.
Please don’t cry.
My tears are enough.
Wherever you are,
Whatever it is,
God sees and knows and understands.
Please hold on.
His timing is perfect.
Wherever you’ve been,
Whatever it takes,
He’s bringing you to your forever home.
And you will know His Love.
In the words of the hymnist, in His arms He’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.
– Copyright 2017 Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.