There are some moments in life that pass by quickly and get covered by the dust of passing time, only to be re-discovered years later as a pivotal moment in your life.
Not too long ago, I found myself driving through my old college campus, and as I rounded the backside of the parking lot, I suddenly felt like I had stepped back in time about 20 years…
I was walking back to my Mission Ave apartments after an evening class with Dr. Dorsett. I don’t remember what class was about that night, only that I was talking with God as I walked. And then I heard something stirring in my heart. It sounded like the voice of my God, and it asked me this: “ Will you speak for me? Will you go where I ask and say what I want you to say?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.
I heard the same question again. And my heart leapt at the possibilities – of where God may take me and what I might live for Him … and yet my lips uttered a quiet, resigned “I can’t”. My heart desperately wanted to, and yet my head was clamoring with all the insecurities, questions, self-doubts … all the reasons why I would mess everything up. “I want to,” I found myself muttering under my breath, “but don’t you see I just can’t?”
And quietly life went on. I found myself wandering a bit. From Minnesota, down to a handsome young man on a reservation in Arizona, and then away… far away to Amsterdam.
There my heart was stripped bare. Like Aslan with Eustace, the strong claws of my God cut deep through my dragon skin and I was given new skin, a new life.1 And Jesus quietly whispered to my heart, “here, in this rawness, in the pain of finding your way, I will walk with you”
I wandered some more. Back to the US, back to Minnesota, and on until I finally found my home with that handsome young man in Arizona. I found my home among a beautiful brown skinned people, so similar in heart and culture to the dark-skinned people I had grown up with in Africa. I love them as my own family – I got married among them and had my first two children among them.
In the midst of such wonder and joy, I found myself in the middle of a wilderness I had never imagined for myself. A vast, dark, consuming cloud of fear descended on my life. A barrage of worry, a fear of loss, of death, of life – this world that I had always been enamored with now just seemed to hold threats, and I thought at times I was losing my way. And in the swirling madness, my sweet Jesus, gave me His Word, showed me the way out by the power of His promises, and whispered to my heart, “here, in this darkness, I will walk with you”
Then came those words a mother dreads. In the dark of the ultrasound room, the doctor told us that there was an “anomaly” with our baby boy (a boy! We were going to have a boy!) Next came the barrage of tests to determine exactly what the “anomaly” was – the doctors called my baby a “fetus” and offered to run tests to see if we should end the pregnancy – the horror of such words still make me shudder. Months of tests and monitoring and not knowing, until that beautiful day my baby boy exploded into our world and it has never been the same since. We experienced the truth that there are no “anomalies”, only perfect creations of God, knit together as He sees fit. We saw miracles, unexplained healings and parts held together by invisible hands – and yet God saw fit to use the hands of doctors to do more healing. Surgery on my 3 day old, 10 days in NICU, a baby having to go home with oxygen tubes in his nose – swirling confusion, loneliness – nothing makes a mother feel smaller than knowing she can do nothing for her baby but pray.
But pray! There is nothing a mother can do that is more powerful than that – pray! And in those exhausting, breathless days, my Jesus came close and whispered to my heart, “here, in this place, I will walk with you”
Life has moved on, as it always does. Years have passed, that fragile little baby boy with a weak heart is now a strong big boy with an irrepressible belly laugh that takes over a room. We have different scenery out our front door than we did back then. Our days are filled with all the joy and stress, laughter, tears, and busy-ness of full time marriage-ing, all-consuming parenting, and constant ministry. But some things will never change. He continues to whisper to me, “here, in this place, I will walk with you”
And so when I found myself in that parking lot last year, the memory – those words- came flooding back and took my breath away. “Will you speak for me? Will you go where I send you?” And my heart knelt, and I saw Him in a new way. He didn’t give up on me, on my halting and ashamed “I can’t”. He didn’t move on to the next better candidate. He just kept walking with me. And as He walked with me, I discovered that He was never asking if I could … He was simply asking if I would. He, who walked with me in the brazen streets of Amsterdam, through the swirling darkness of fear, in the midst of such confusion and pain in the NICU, in the daily pressures of now, will continue to walk with me through whatever He asks of me. And He will give me the words to speak.
And so today I echo the words of Moses in Exodus 33:15 when He begged God to simply walk with him.– And I rest on the promise of God that followed his bold request: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33) There is no other life for me.