What follows is the last installment of a five-part story stemming from just an hour and a half of time spent with God’s people, in God’s house, in response to God’s direction
When I left for church on Sunday morning, my fear was that I would be shunned for being away for so long (what am I, Amish? Come on!), that I would have to justify my absence, that I would be made to feel guilty for not meeting for corporate worship, in spite of the fact that what I really needed was some one-on-one time with God.
What I found instead was an outpouring of love I could never have scripted, an answer to a question that has plagued me, and an unexpected word spoken straight to a very deep longing in my heart – twice.
Eight years ago, I packed my belongings, hugged my family and friends good bye, and moved to a new state several hours away. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do, and all the details fell into place in ways only God could have orchestrated. Since then, I have experienced intense loneliness and isolation as each good friend I’ve made here has eventually moved away. I lost the job I moved here to take, spent almost two years unemployed, and the remaining two chronically underemployed. I spent a week in the hospital, I’ve had two car accidents, the second of which might very well have killed me were it not for the grace of God and the kindness of strangers, and was diagnosed with a disease but denied treatment because I’m not quite sick enough. I’m one internship away from finishing my Master’s degree and getting a “real” job, but for the second semester in a row, I have failed to land one.
So the fact that I am homesick, frustrated, discouraged and yes, a bit depressed is really not all that shocking. I’m ready to be done with this place that represents little more than pain, disappointment and failure; ready to find my Promised Land. But God has not seen fit to move me. Doors leading out of this place are closed, locked and barred.
While a number of people up here know about most of my 8-year saga, I’m not sure any of them know how alone I really feel. I’ve never told anyone here about my fear that if I died on Saturday night, no one would even miss me until sometime Tuesday or Wednesday when I didn’t show up for work. I’ve never told anyone here that I’m afraid my car will break down somewhere because I have no one to call. I’ve never told anyone here that the reason I only go away for a few nights at a time is because I don’t know anyone well enough to ask them to take care of my cat if I go away for a week without feeling guilty about it.
I’ve kept these things to myself (well, until now, I guess) because I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to help me. I don’t want to burden anyone with my comparatively insignificant (and potentially inconvenient) needs. And I haven’t told anyone because being single and alone is embarrassing. I would much rather hold up the “everything’s fine” mask than let an acquaintance know that I have an unmet need. I know this is, at least in part, a pride thing. God and I are going to work on that. But it’s also that I think I am perfectly capable of looking out for myself because I’ve done so for so long, and there are others out there with needs more legitimate than mine. I’m the helper, not the helpee. Until now.
Two months after the accident, I still have some body parts that hurt and that make completing certain tasks painful. Somewhere in front of my house, there is a lawn. I say “somewhere” because at the moment, I can’t see it thanks to all the leaves and sticks covering it from the swipe my area took from Hurricane Sandy. I look at that collection of storm debris everyday and wonder how I can get rid of it without hurting myself. In an uncharacteristic move, I mentioned this to the woman who was my small group leader at church for 3 years (also, the same woman who sat with me on Sunday). Even though I really should know better by now, her response floored me.
“Don’t even worry about it,” she said. “We’ve [the small group] been praying for a way to help you ever since we heard about your accident. We’ll take care of it.”
A few minutes later, I was chatting with this same woman’s daughter. We were talking about her new job, about my internship search, and about whether I was going to be moving. In the middle of that conversation, apropos to nothing she said, “You’re not alone. You have people here.”
Through these two beautiful women, God silenced my strongest argument for wanting to move back home. In these two unexpected words, He calmed my long-held fear and restored some hope to my sick heart. Whether my leaves actually get done or not is unimportant. Whether I ultimately end up moving away after all is unimportant. What’s important is that in a moment of fear, God spoke peace and encouragement to my heart, and flooded it with joy.
And if I hadn’t gone to church, I would have missed the joy of obedience.
When has God spoken a word directly to your fear?