Darkness enveloped the parsonage. I hugged my pillow tighter, wishing it could absorb the pain in my heart. At least it could soak up my tears. “Please, God?” I prayed.
I couldn’t hear His answer, which was just as well.
There are many reasons to feel afraid these days. Loss is everywhere. Children slip away. Boulders fall from the clear blue sky and crush people. And all around there is misunderstanding, anger, and disappointment.
On Sunday our pastor preached about Gethsemane, the agonizing moment when God the Son asked God the Father to change His path—to make it easier. Jesus looked up, heard the crowd coming, and understood His Father’s answer.
I tend to react poorly to those kinds of answers. My responses remind me of Felicity and Malachi. “Mommy!” Felicity wails at me, “That’s NOT NICE! I don’t like it when you say ‘no’ to me! It isn’t kind! You need to be kind, Mommy.” Anger crinkles her little face, and I can expect her to pout for at least ten minutes.
She can’t understand how an answer like “No” can be benevolent. That’s because she has the emotional maturity of a three-year-old.
Apparently so do I.
In Gethsemane, when Jesus heard His Father’s answer, He turned around and faced the mob. He didn’t sit behind a tree and wait to be found; He stood up and stepped face-first into the danger, the pain, and the misery. He prayed for a different answer, but He accepted the one that He got with courage and strength. He even initiated contact. “Who is it you are looking for?”
What a probing question. What am I really looking for? Comfort? Convenience? Quick and efficient NSAIDs for my heart? A pathway without risk? Or an opportunity, by suffering, to creep in closer and feel the mighty heartbeat of God? On Sunday our pastor challenged us to thank Him for those heart-breaking “No’s,” because it is only in the furnace that faith, which is of greater worth than gold, is proved genuine, and results in glorious praise and honor at the revealing of Jesus Christ.
It’s Thanksgiving (Yes, it still is. We drag our celebration of thankfulness on and on for days. As long as there is turkey and cranberry sauce in the fridge, it still counts as Thanksgiving). As I look back at this year, I see it pebbled with “No’s,” harsh, horrible, unpleasant, unkind…. merciful, wise, gentle, heart-hugging, strength-giving “No’s.”
This year my heart is humming an old song by David Meece:
Thank You for the times You said “no,”
Thank You for the doors that You closed,
All the ways You never let me go,
and the things You never gave me.
And I am thankful for glimpses of eternity, and a song to sing in the storm.