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 few weeks have made up what felt like one of those months…you know, the kind that if something could go wrong, it did go wrong. Well, for me anyway. And while there’ve been a couple major hurdles to cross, the truth is that a lot the stuff that went wrong wasn’t even stuff you’d expect to 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 this Thanksgiving and every day is that, no matter how life-altering my emotions perceived the 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 – 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 one on the stack, I just need to hear from you, Lord.With a resolved sigh, 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 the water covers
I know you’re busy, but don’t forget to rest some, too.
And the closing that all-at-once drove me to a long-overdue cry and reiterated to me the unshakable fact that I serve a living God; one Who is in control of my life and smoothes every single wrinkle out 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.
Something similar happened yesterday as I took an inventory of some recent taxing events. I thought back to 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’ve been concerned about lately. I know he’s okay, but asked God again to continue looking after him. 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 one I’m carrying as we speak.
I hadn’t thought of the poem in a long 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 warmth and 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 – not only of my four-pawed friend – but also on behalf of every lost, lonely, confused creature in this world, even human individuals.
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.
That’s a promise worth fervent thanksgiving.
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.