This was written last May for my professional blog. I’ve decided to share it here today as my niece Annalee is joining the Marines same day she graduates from h.s., which is two short days from now, and has 12 weeks of bootcamp awaiting her. I know God uses bootcamp of all shapes and sizes, and I know he has a plan for her as well. Blessings to my niece.
Profound thoughts, for me, seem to show up in the middle my mundane. It happened yesterday as I was tackling a task called ‘cutting lawn’. When I say I was out cutting the lawn, please don’t picture a postage stamp turn-about. Picture a rolling random football field that never ends. Now picture a rather tottery set of legs, pasty lady, gloved fists all trying hard to shove forward another shaved swath. As the lush green blades shot sideways, so did my glee at all I was getting done. I found myself irritated at the moisture, so soppy-damp, that even with the shocking arrival of sunshine, warm on my shoulders, I was still unable to use the bagger for more than a couple feet without it clogging into a spongy ball of clippings.
The last few months have been, shall we say, un-fun. Just recently I have taken on the challenge to act on the belief that God inhabits praise, and to praise God, even when my circumstances aren’t praiseworthy. And so atop the roar of the mower, there in wet grass I started praising the Lord for His goodness to me, for His goodness to the land around me. For being the God of provision. That He provides cloud and drizzle in “*$#@*%!! FREAKING EXCESS….. GOD OF SUCH GRAND GIFTS, GOD, YOU MAKE SURE THIS SPOILED ROTTEN SUPER SIZED PIG OF A YARD HAS ALL IT EVER WANTED – !!!!”. Ya, sometimes even my praise sessions turn earthy. God being the father of many, He’s use to fit-throwing. From me, anyway. Well, as I kept up my praise service out there in the back 400, my heart started experiencing an actual shift. Praise for God became real. God hovered nearby. And all around me. The grey cloud that had dampened my spirits, and over-dampened the grass, was now warming me, it was noticing me. On slippery hill downward, with mower in race to the bottom, it steadied and strengthened me, giving balance and protection. ‘I’m cracking’, I think to myself. Grey clouds do not warm peoples spirits.
And then I remember the story. The Israelites had, by the thousands, been led on foot away from a country in which they had been enslaved. A land where they were unable to function fully as humans. They had been rescued from a meaningless life of being used. From a death unnoticed.
And for the journey, God used a pillar of cloud to guide them for their daytime travels. A cloud to guide and protect? Why not a bucket full of sunshine? Couldn’t God have used cut crystals hanging on ribbons from heaven? If He’d have asked me, I would have suggested rainbow shivers for really freaking out the bad guys. But He didn’t.
Toward a better place, the Israelites were routed through misery. With intention, God arranged a journey with healing opportunities in mind. Each hopeless situation, a desert march with no water, no food, power struggles, snakes, belly aches, each cloudy trial offered one opportunity after another to build trust in God, learn to love, learn to trust less in what is seen and more in who God is. The journey was to provide deep healing for these rescued slaves, and for generations after them.
I ponder these ideas, row by row, grass looking better by the hour. I think of all the ways the grey of life has protected me, and brought God near. The deep depression and anxiety as a little kid. Would I have known God as early as I did, had I not hung on for dear life during those early suicidal times? What was I protected from while hiding in the black hole of pain, hiding next to God?
The eating disorder. Would I ever have know the freedom of an addiction if I had never experienced one? Would I have misjudged others who struggle with addiction if I had never had to fight for years with something bigger than my own smarts?
The struggling to read. What kind of evil could I have perpetrated onto others if there had been no struggle to recall what I read, requiring me to read the same materiel over and over again, even throughout college? Would I have been condescending to others who struggle to understand if everything about learning came easy to me?
Early Miscarriage. Would I have had opinions about others pain which I knew nothing of if I’d never had one, let alone six? I can never say that the loss of a child would bring a blessing. It is a pain I have never experienced, and pray I never do. And still, each of us, in our own painful travels, notices the Lord near by, even in the cloud.
Marriage Pain. Would I have even found the time – busy with life, four kids, work and all, to pray, if my heart had not been raw so much of the time? Would I have ever discovered on a knowing level what PTSD looks like, and how healing occurs if I’d never been in an intimate relationship that rattled the cage of monsters past?
Would I have anything of substance to offer my clients if my understanding was exclusively derived from a book? Trust me Lord, I prefer not knowing beyond course work all of what a human is capable of suffering from and experiencing. I thought I’d throw that out… just incase you decide to read this:)
Allergies. Would I have learned to let go of the toxic nature of being a “pleaser” if I had not been forced to impose, irritate and annoy others using the boundary of “no thank you”, otherwise embarrassing myself by way of anaphylactic drama?
Cancer. Would the reality of the brevity of this life have been as real as it is now, if I’d not had my breast cut off my body, my thyroid cut out, my body scanned and scanned some more for a look at where the cancer has traveled?
Stroke. Would I have laughed at the way God took the pain of the bone on skin where breast used to be, and with one quick stroke, remedied by TPA all deficits but left-side numbing, removing this irritation, just because He wanted to?
Brain Fog. Well, this is the other stroke deficit still remaining. It has turned up the brain fog dial that already existed. Remembering paper-work kinds of details, remembering names, reading manuals, working computers. Would I know God was always hanging about, following me throughout the day if He didn’t have to constantly help me in my pathetic state, over and over and over. I’m talking about getting lost driving to some location I’ve driven to a dozen times. Loosing the car keys today, my shoe the next. Forgetting we make kids lunches every day, remembering to go to bed, remembering to pay the bills, remembering to wear my prosthesis, remember to stop singing when I’m in the Costco public restroom. Would I find myself too special to love others who struggle with the details?
Step, and another forward, the mower moving on ahead, I recall my own clouds, and the clouds of others. It’s obvious that God works to rescue each one of us from the meaningless life. Ask someone to tell you their story. If you have a heart to hold what they tell you with care, you will hear the pattern. That of God intentionally routing one, then another and another along a personalized bootcamp journey. All challenges personally designed to remove each one of us far from anything that would prevent us from being fully human, and fully alive. The gloves are still gripping, but lighter. Stride steady. I praise God for being the God of the Cloud. Hovering near, He and I, we cut another line of hearty green grass.
“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Exodus 13: 21 and 22
Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW