Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Duet. 6: 6-9
I was in the bathroom this morning getting ready for work. Little A had just received this awesome birthday gift in the mail yesterday and had been busy playing with her when I heard a little knock on the bathroom door.
Her: Look what I made!
Me: Oh cool. What is that?
Her: It’s Elsa’s book!
Me (thinking): Neat. Why does that title sound so familiar?
Her: Look! It’s your book!
Sure enough Elsa of Erendelle was enjoying the same Richard Foster title I had been reading at the beach a few days ago. Do our kids really watch us that closely? Yep, they sure do.
Early this morning, before dawn, while reading the Bible, I thought about all the moments I’ve spent on my knees in the dark, wondering what God was doing while I poured out my questions and my anger and my tears. Still, these days, I wonder what He’s up to in my life, but there are fewer tears and less anger and despair now.
But still, I’m in the dark.
I will always be in the dark until that glorious day when He reveals His face to me.
And all these thoughts about being in the dark made me think about the morning I gave birth to my daughter. My first child–my only child–so no explanation, no idea about those first labor pains starting around 1:30–were they the real thing? They kept happening, and there was a tearful call to the midwife of, “What’s happening to me?!” Like it or not, they were real.
Her dad kept time on the contractions while I slipped into the hot running water of the tub. After a while the lights were too much, so I sat in the dark, with the door slightly ajar so I could yell/whimper into the bedroom that the contractions had started and stopped.
Thank goodness for online contraction timing programs.
And, after the initial drama, things got quiet again, I settled into the water, and bore down, contraction after contraction. Her dad fell asleep after a while and I stayed in the water, in the dark and pulled down hard with each contraction on the towel that was draped around the towel rod above my head. I spent about five hours here, and around 5:30/6:00 we headed out to the hospital in the semi-dark to welcome our little one into the world.
Maybe it’s my personality, but that day I preferred to suffer there in the dark, to myself, not knowing exactly what was happening. In many ways, it was a good thing, even the midwife said so when she examined me after arriving at the hospital, my body was getting ready and by the time I arrived at the hospital, I was close to that transition point your read and hear about. Still, we kept the lights low for as long as we could after I languished in the shower for a while and heaved myself up on the bed for the delivery.
And all these thoughts about the darkness were on the brain when I read this morning of Jonah. It feels that there are epic amounts of information and dialogue that are left out of this story, but this is the Word of God, so we trust that what it written is what we need. So chapter 2 of this book begins with a prayer by Jonah from the belly of the whale–just one–and I’m guessing this was his very best prayer, by virtue of the fact that it is beautiful and yielding and thankful, almost other-worldly when you imagine the circumstances.
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:2-9)
And maybe your darkness has been three days, or thirty or 3, 372 days and your prayers are beginning to change, you are beginning to sense the beauty that is coming–like labor pains, you know something good is happening because you can feel it and there are people on the other side telling you, you’re almost there, just keep working, keep going because it’s all going to be worth it. And they’re right, because when that baby arrived or that giant something spits you back up, you are grateful to be alive to see this gift of life right in front of you, whether it’s a baby or a new beginning, or a restored relationship or the job of your dreams, it’s happened and suddenly there is light.
…the Heavenly Father comes to Elijah like a good father would come to his son, tenderly, patiently, with love: in a gentle whisper, reassuring Elijah, that he is listening and he does love him and that he wants him to keep going.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (I Kings 19:10, NIV) Does that refrain sound slightly familiar? Do we see ourselves as the “only” one going through a particular trial? Have we isolated ourselves to that extent?