“I’m just living out my life of quiet obscurity,” a friend joked recently.
This statement took me back to a quote sent to me a few years ago. Another friend wrote:
I read this in my devotions last week and thought of you in your ministry of obscurity…
"Must life be considered a failure for someone compelled to stand still, forced into inaction and required to watch the great, roaring tides of life from shore? No - victory is then to be won by standing still and quietly waiting, Yet this is a thousand times harder to do than in the past, when you rushed headlong into the busyness of life. It requires much more courage to stand and wait and still not lose heart or lose hope, to submit to the will of God, to give up opportunities for work and leave honors to others, and to be quiet, confident and rejoicing while the busy multitude goes happily along their way."
A while back I had the privilege of hearing the story of a woman who has been sidelined by health issues, removed from her normal patterns of activity, and placed in a long season of living life at a greatly reduced pace. She courageously sorted her way through the emotional upheaval attached to such losses and has seen God mend her broken heart. Her testimony moved me.
And that phrase surfaced again. She described the job she now does from home as her ministry of obscurity. It wasn’t something that began immediately, but over time God grew both the opportunity and her strength to undertake the task. The circumstances that once felt so bleak and daunting became the very substance of the meaningful impact she has today. She even claimed this work to be the best fit she’s ever had.
As God has led me into a more public life I reflect on those years of painful quiet as training ground for today. I would not wish my pain and suffering on anyone; I certainly hope to never experience it again; and, I wouldn’t trade that season for anything.
Are you in a time of solitude or hardship? Be encouraged. Pain is never wasted in God’s economy. John White, a psychiatrist and author says,
[God] may change the course of history through your pain, but you may never discover its wider meaning. Even though we may never observe the significance, it is exceedingly comforting and meaningful to think that our little pebble of suffering offered in sacrifice to God and thrown into the pool of history might create endless ripples of blessings for others…He leads us gently through suffering that he might enlarge our capacity for joy.
With love and gratitude,
“What is wisdom?” my eight-year-old nephew asked. His mom and I shared a “who’s going to answer this one” look and then together gave our best effort at describing, in kid terms, “accumulated philosophic or scientific learning; the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships; and good sense”. I spoke of knowing the difference between right and wrong and one of us mentioned consequences. At that, the little deep-thinker piped up and volunteered that consequences are outcomes from choices you make.
Indeed. And when we reflect on those outcomes of our behaviour, we gain opportunity to grow in wisdom.
The conversation reminded me of an email I received from the Imago Dei ministry. The author, Rob DeCotes, suggests this:
Consider the following Awareness Examen as applied to your spiritual growth over the past twelve months:
This encouragement for spiritual stock-taking has been profoundly helpful to me as these questions prompt me to harvest wisdom by reflecting on events and experiences from this past year. Also, by giving prayerful thought to my answers, I am challenged to look at adjustments I can make for the months ahead.
This method resonates with me as a question-asking coach. I have found that revisiting the ways God has grown, challenged, and taught me inspires me to press on. Having concrete questions helps inform and direct my thinking.
I trust that you will find the exercise encouraging as well.
With love and gratitude,
This post was originally published for my CaringBridge readers to start 2015. I believe the questions are a valuable way to begin each new year.
His confusion was palpable.
The Calgary airport sign clearly indicated men’s washroom but I stood at the entrance, peaking in periodically. The stranger looked at the “man” sign directly in front of me, glanced over at the little yellow stick figure in a dress, back to me, back to the man; his urgency clearly battling his confusion.
I offered, “My mom is in there helping my dad.”
Utter relief…well, almost.
This scene ended a Christmas week that proved to be a rough one for our family as we rode the medical rollercoaster of tests, possible diagnoses, changed conclusions, more tests, and bedside hours waiting with my dad, and my mom. Thankfully, I am practiced—and in my element—with hospitals and uneventful hours, and feel grateful to God for the opportunity to support them.
Crisis seems to beget extremes in families – they fracture or pull together. I am thankful ours did the latter. We kept vigil, taking turns and providing care in ways unique to our personalities and ability. We sat by his bed, which he appreciated, but nothing calmed like having my mom at his elbow. I guess 54 years together breeds comfort.
So she stayed, from dawn to dark, adjusting his gown, raising his head, encouraging him to swallow, and yes, helping him go to the bathroom. Her unwavering care modelled committed love.
We rejoice and thank God that dad was well enough for him and mom to travel home on the 29th and that the doctor at Surrey Memorial hospital went above and beyond to set up further testing and referrals in Manitoba. So many acts of kindness; so much love in action.
God’s gracious provisions in human form.
And His presence.
Once again, I marvel at the peace He gives in trials and the strength He provides under duress. I’m not sure why I’m surprised as He’s consistent. Perhaps I am learning how I play a role in this peace process and more often choose to turn anxious thoughts to prayers in faith and future worries to reminders that God is in control, regardless of circumstances.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst