Psalm 119:71 & 72 (NRSV), is on my bulletin board. It says, “It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
I have this up as a reminder to me.
A year ago marks one night in a series of the longest nights of my life. Only days before I had told my husband that I could no longer go in public. I could not sit any longer without extreme pain, which meant driving was out of the question. Unbeknownst to us, we were only four weeks away from back surgery. My “injury”, which was basically waking up one day with my pelvis about three inches to the right of its normal home, had happened in March. I was on a steady decline.
What I can say about my experience…I was humbled. I needed it. I had been in seminary for almost four years and had never read scripture from such a distant viewpoint. I was a good student and, yet, I would characterize my experience as “getting by”. It was, as though, the only way that I could finish this period of my life was to make it a task.
The problem with this strategy was the intent of seminary. From the beginning, I had understood my seminary career as an intensive. It was a set time for me to sit at the Lord’s feet and share in a much greater dialogue than I could conjure up on my own. It was a time for me to understand the burdens of Jesus in an invasive way. That happened on a good day.
Life certainly did not help. Some highlights…during seminary my dad faced health problems of which I became a primary caregiver, I started dating my husband, got a six month thyroid virus which did crazy things to me, I got engaged and married, and I graduated one week before this night a year ago. It was a time of constant trial. Sometimes, it was just easier to go cerebral so my heart could endure the rest of my life. I withdrew.
Let me tell you about the pain on this night a year ago. It was excruciating. I have never known anything as cruel as that. I slept on a mattress on the floor of our bedroom. I could no longer sleep in our newly married bed. As the hours ticked away, it was as though my nerves and muscles wanted to scream, and finally could no longer contain themselves. I would lie over an exercise ball for hours during the night, praying that maybe I could just sleep there. Eventually, these were the good days, when I could still get on an exercise ball. For the last month, I simply crawled to the bathroom, often crying. I dreaded this necessary function because the pain of sitting down was unbearable.
But on this night, I made a deal with my husband, one more sleepless night and I go to the emergency room. This night I realized that tomorrow was that day. I was actually comforted in the possibility of it. Pain and fatigue are crushing companions. The next day, I was in the emergency room as they gave me a shot of souped-up morphine and prescriptions, neither of which accomplished anything. My sleepless nights went on for three more weeks.
Let me tell you about the Spirit on these nights a year ago. Luke 3:8 (NRSV), “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Maybe it was from being awake all of those hours, with nothing that mattered but questions like, “Will I walk?” I started to wake up on the inside. My body and my voice did not work. All of my accomplishments and the many dialogues that I had witnessed were inconsequential. I was meeting the Spirit during these many appointed hours. I had accepted the Spirit when I was nine, but had never known its capacity for unruliness and adventure.
I started to see the world in spiritual terms. I saw the evil that existed and I finally commiserated with those who had solicited my heartfelt compassion. I cried for myself and I cried for the condition of humanity. I understood “fallen”, literally and figuratively. My life, my world, and my condition had all fallen. I was brought to nothing but this strange movement, this unpredictable wind that was blowing in my soul.
I heard an incessant chant in my mind, “God, this is for your glory and no matter what happens I know you will use this for your glory.” Finally, this could no longer stay inside. When the pain was at its worst that is what came out. I heard my voice, but it surely was not mine. I was in pain. I was surviving. On the inside, though, tornadoes of the Spirit were touching down and destroying strongholds, entire cities populated with my fears and shame were facing desolation. I was being recreated under the stress of chaos. This new comfort, this new friend that I had asked to indwell so long ago had been released in my weakness and was claiming lost ground. Hallelujah.
I left this experience as a completely new person. It was the most painful of my life, but I was lost deep within the winds of my Spirit. I would not change it, I would not trade it, and I would not miss it. It was good for me. The Spirit spoke the statutes of the Lord to me. The law of God was etched on my heart and I celebrated its fulfillment in my Savior. I was humbled…what a gift!
I encourage you, whatever your struggle is today. May the Spirit comfort you.
Father, thank you for those times, in our lives, that are painful but real. They bring us into your side and recreate us. Whatever we face today Lord, we thank you because we know that not one moment of this life is wasted. Let us glorify you today with our experiences.