Sunday, June 16, 2019
Sunday Afternoon Tea - After the trial ends
A friend and I were long ago talking about the trials she had just experienced when she said she was finding it hard to trust God again. While life was good at the moment, she was waiting for "the other shoe to fall" again. I understood for I had experienced the same feelings a number of times.
I recalled the conversation yesterday when I was walking in the rain to get our newspaper from the rural newspaper-box at the end of the gravel lane. Only the wearing of wellies, a raincoat, and holding a favorite blue and white gingham umbrella kept me from becoming drenched. It was and has been... soggy.
It was probably an odd conversation to recall at the time but I think it came back to mind because of the Truth that I learned so long ago. What reminded me of that Truth were the sounds and aromas all around me as I was walking. There was the aroma of the wet forest, the symphony of bird song, the sound of rain hitting the leaves of the trees, and the crunch of gravel as I walked around the puddles.
I was overwhelmed by the Beauty of the moment.
That is why I recalled the conversation from so long ago. It was the lesson learned from my own years of one trial overlapping another. You have to choose to really notice all of the Beauty that God has provided, if you have been walking in darkness for any amount of time.
For what I found was that when I was in the midst of a trial, I was often in prayer and in search of peace in the Word. The Bible I used most often until a couple years ago opened immediately to the book of Psalms. There were numerous times I set up shop and lived in the comfort of the Psalms. I tend to be more spiritually alert in a trial.
When days were dark and I wondered how God could possibly be at work, all I wanted was to cling to His garment (so to speak). I had a mental image that would return over and over of hurricane force winds whipping around me as I had my arms wrapped around the ankles of Jesus. I was too weary to stand up even in my imagination.
But what happens when the storm clouds part and the sunny days return? What happens when the trial becomes a memory... another testimony to the goodness of God? I found the shadow of the trial/s stayed long after the sunshine returned. Sometimes my faith felt weaker than when I was actually walking through the hard times.
I learned that I was most vulnerable to weak faith when the trial was over. That was what my friend was talking about in that conversation so long ago. It was then that the enemy of our souls could whisper doubt about the character of God, about our ability to trust Him again. What if something bad happens again? What if the other shoe really does drop? What if this is only a temporary joy? What if...
Thankfully, as is always the case if I pause and listen for His wisdom, I learned how to best turn my back on the darkness and the what ifs and the whispers of doubt. First, like Elijah in the wilderness after defeating the prophets of the false god Baal, we all need rest and sustenance after a trial has ended.
God understands that we are made of the dust of the earth. He was there. He was the potter who formed man originally. He was the one who sent the angel to Elijah to bring him home baked bread and cold water. Not once but twice did the angel tell Elijah to eat, drink water, and sleep.
The other lesson that has been learned again and again and again... after a trial I must run to that which I find beautiful on purpose. For that is when I have been most vulnerable to falling away from the faith, to believing the whispers of the enemy. Not when I was in the storm but when I walked out of it and found the fallout from the trial... the debris that would remain for awhile.
That is what I was pondering as I walked the gravel lane yesterday. My mind was on all kinds of "what ifs" and honestly, thoughts seemed impossible to control. But I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to stop and listen and look. On purpose. Until I saw and heard the gift of the forest in the rain. I could so easily have missed it.
I think we all have different ways and places and even people who strengthen our walk, renew our soul, and help us into the sunshine of renewed faith again. But they all require a decision to choose God's ways and not wallow in self pity.
Sometimes I have found peace again in walking a forest trail or sitting beside Lake Michigan on a pretty day. But neither of these options are easy to come by these days. Most of the time now I must find peace in the Beauty of more quotidian options.
I have found peace by spending time in the kitchen, preparing a favorite meal or rolling out the dough for cinnamon rolls. The aromas offer a promise of the meal to come. I find joy in filling a favorite mug with good coffee or brewing a pot of tea in a lovely teapot, looking forward to sipping tea slowly from a floral china cup.
It takes a choice to bring Beauty into our world, it takes a little of our budget and a lot of our creativity. When I feel downtrodden in midwinter's darkness, the touches of green houseplants in various rooms offer a hope of nature's renewal. My choice of yellow and red accents in the kitchen was well thought out as a way to bring cheer to the room in which I spend so much time.
I have purposely chosen a few favorite movies and TV shows to own in DVD and there are shelves of tried and true books that I can run to for strength and comfort. For you see, I have lived long enough to know that there is a constant need to be revived by that which brings us joy.
Turning my son's room into my study when he left home for good was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. In the years since then, that room... filled over time with my favorite things and photos of much loved people and pets... has become my sanctuary where I run when life overwhelms.
Am I saying I no longer find renewed peace and hope in the Bible and prayer once the trial is over? Not at all! But now when I read the Bible, I read it a little more relaxed and not as if my very life depended on it. Although, of course, it still does, always and forever amen.
What I learned and what I shared with my friend is that we are perhaps more vulnerable after the trial than in it. It is then we must listen closely to His still small voice for He is Beauty and Wisdom and Love and all good things.