This is a re-post of an article written during one of the most trying points of my life. It has been a “Private” post for a long time…but now in honor of the Lenten Season, here it is in its Revised Rendition (aka excessively unpleasant details have been removed for you). I offer it as a story of Faith over Fear…of Life over Death…of Love. I think of the words of a song that my cousin sang one Easter Sunday at church. As Jesus as our example…us His followers, He promises that we will have abundant life…Joy filled life. And no power on earth can stop it. Not even death. As a preacher once said to me, there are more ways for a person to die than just a physical death. I hope that if you are afraid or feeling hopeless that this story will give you faith and courage.
Before dawns early light in the wee hours of Saturday morning I woke up… then in my weariness and bone-tired exhaustion I fell back to sleep. The gruesome battle of divorce and the ugliness that came with that has been my life for the past year. It has worn me down and beaten me up. I woke up again… and again chose to escape my feelings. Then I had a dream.
To say that Friday, the day before, was traumatic would be an understatement of epic proportion. It was, without a doubt, one of the worst days of my life. It was not the type of terrible that I felt when I lost my Grandfather… I knew that his death was imminent… I had a chance to spend his last days with him. I sang hymns to him and talked to him, although he couldn’t talk back. My heart was broken knowing that the man who showed God’s love to all, who was a Saint to everyone who knew him, would no longer walk with us mere mortals down here on this earth was crushing. But Daddy John was in pain, and he was suffering, and I knew that we all had to let him go. He had lived a miraculous life. He would give anyone in need the shirt off of his back or the last few dollars in his pocket. He adopted a child although he had children of his own because he loved God’s little one’s. He worked hard but never had much… but he always had enough and was always willing to share if he had anything extra. He spoke softly, and rarely spoke at all… but when he did everyone strained to hear because while his words were few they were thoughtful and full of love. He has a sparkle in his eye and a sweet grin…The legacy that he left for all who were blessed to know him and to learn from him was “It truly is in giving that we received…” as Jesus said, “Every thing is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23. My Grandfather believed, and his belief was the seed that he planted in us all.
My aunt Mitzi was born in 1938… months pre-mature. My Grand momma stepped on a nest of bees. Being deathly allergic, she developed such a high fever that her taste buds literally burned away. Miraculously my Grand momma lived… but from that time on she could only tell whether food was salty or spicy or sweet… that didn’t prevent her from being the best cook I have ever known even though she couldn’t even taste the flavor of her own food! My aunt lived too…although she only weighed 2 pounds… in 1938! My grandparents, at the recommendation of the wise doctors of the day, fed her Eagle Brand milk with a dropper day and night to keep her alive. We all have stories of survival… and stories of sacrifice. But sacrifice for people we love is not a burden but a gift freely given… with nothing expected in return but that the gift be accepted, and that the love that comes from it to be shared.
My Grandfather fell off of a barn and broke his back when my mother was a baby. When the rescue workers came they were amazed that he was alive considering he was snapped in two…the back of his head was touching his rear…his back was broken. He was totally paralyzed. He was driven the long hours on winding bumpy roads, before any interstate systems made traveling what we know it to be today… in 1948 he was transported to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota from Greeneville, Tennessee. He had three young children at home; the love of his entire life, my Grand momma; a farm with crops and cattle to tend… and he wished he were dead. He didn’t want to be a burden. But God had plans for him… God had much more for him to do.So Daddy John laid on a board, perfectly still… enduring surgeries that he couldn’t afford and being away from everyone and everything that he knew… for months and months. But he lived. And he came back. And he walked. And he farmed his land, and loved his wife, and took care of his family and community and left memories that touched lives of hundreds if not thousands of people who he met over his 90 years of life. He was my hero.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”
Nido Qubein said, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”
I know sad. I’ve known the deaths of people who I loved. I have had miscarriages. That was a terrible grief …the loss of someone who was my own that would never be… a future ended before it even began… a loss of something wanted yet unknown. The unfulfilled possibilities. Friday afternoon I felt a similar kind of grief and loss that I felt when I miscarried… But this time it was my own heart that seemed to stop beating. I was so shocked I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t cry. I thought that my “situation” would be so obvious, so grave that even a person who had no prior knowledge of my last 20 years would somehow be able to see… would divinely have their mind and heart opened. That was my prayer… that the judge would hear, and be discerning and see the truth… but she is a human judge and can only make a decision on what her human ears hears… and what her human eyes see and what her human understanding knows. I keep learning lessons about good and evil. I have some peace knowing that there is a higher Judge that knows all and sees all and He will be the one that each of us must be accountable to one day.
I had a dream in those Saturday morning early hours, and this is what happened: I knew I was dreaming because I had over the years often had a dream about driving a car with faulty brakes. Sometimes the brakes were slow to stop… I would have to pump them or slam my foot on them. Eventually the car will stop, although it might be several feet from where I meant to stop… or sometimes the car will skid into something and stop… another car, a tree, a curb.
“I can’t find anything wrong with them” the guy at the shop would always tell me.. so I leave frustrated and worried because I know that it will just happen again… and I don’t know when or where, but I know that my brakes don’t work right… and it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens.
Saturday morning my dream took a brand new twist. This time there was a passenger in my car… my mom. I was also in a parking lot high up on a hill-top. I tried to pull into a space to park, but my car kept rolling toward the edge of the lot. I knew that we were high. The car did its regular routine of not stopping when I wanted it to, so we rolled closer and closer to the edge…but in the past it had always stopped, and I was certain that it would stop again. I took comfort in knowing that even if I couldn’t control the brakes, even if I was frustrated and worried, that it would be ok… it always had been ok. Not good, but no terrible damage done except making me scared. So, when we slowed at the edge I sighed a big “Whew!”
But the car didn’t stop. We went right over the edge. It was a sheer rocky cliff with nothing to stop the fall. But we didn’t nose dive as a car would have done in real life… we flew off the cliff… going fast and descending and out-of-control… and I knew that when people fell off of high cliffs that meant that a crash was imminent, and that death was likely, so in my mind… because I was too scared to make a sound… I said to my mom, “I love you.” and she said back without words, “I know.” Then before the car landed I woke up. My heart was racing and my initial reaction was that I had just had a very bad dream… but then I started to calm down and breath and within seconds the quote by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. came to me. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
I realized that it didn’t end. I didn’t crash or die. I didn’t know what was going to happen but even with the fear and the uncertainty, even with the knowledge that I was completely in a situation that was out of my control, that the prevalent, dominant, last feelings I remembered before I woke were hope and love.
Rev. King also said this, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Ella Baker said, “Give light and people will find the way.”
Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.”
We will make it through. My children and I… and my new beautiful husband will make it through. We will do it with light and laughter and faith and hope and most of all love. It might take time, but I have learned to wait. I trust that God is at work to give me the desires of my heart in His perfect time… not in my impatient time. I am terribly sad, but I know that there is a reason that I just cannot see right now… maybe it is to get finances settled, or to have a transition period to put all things in order before so many new things happen at one time. I don’t know, but I have faith that if God leads me to it, He will see me through it… and I have gotten this far following Him. I will hold tightly to His hand even if I cannot see where he leads and KNOW that where He will take me is far better than anything that I can imagine.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me onto glory.” Psalm 73:23
As the old prayer ends “And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” Peace. Light. And Love.