Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cardboard Cricket Surprise!

There are good surprises in life and there are surprises of the not so great kind. Last month I experienced both kinds within 36-hours.

The first surprise might best be described as a “blindside.” I ran across a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks and apologized for missing a recent party in her honor. When I made mention of the fact that I had really wanted to be there but was flat in bed at that point, unable to even care for my own children for nearly 2 weeks, she launched into a lecture about how my illness was not of God, that it wasn’t His will for my life and that we needed to stand in faith that I will be fully healed of all remnants of health struggles.

Those words alone weren’t so blindsiding. I’ve had similar conversations with others before, and can truly appreciate the sincerity with which they are spoken and the compassion or conviction from which they stem. What made this conversation different was that it really wasn’t a “conversation” at all, but rather a five-minute monolog, giving me very little chance to respond or interject any other opinions or alternative points of view. While I have had multiple opportunities to hash through my beliefs on faith and healing over the past two decades, I was given no voice and was left feeling judged and rejected (though I do not believe that was her intent). By the time I found reason to politely excuse myself, I had resorted to simply nodding my head in dumfounded disillusionment, knowing that every time I opened my mouth I would be cut off or undermined anyway.

While I’ve lived at peace with God’s plan for my life for many years, this encounter shook me! I couldn’t get to sleep that night without talking it through with my husband and once again offering it all up the Lord in prayer. I had to start back at square one with questions like, “If I’ve asked God to heal me and He hasn’t, is my faith lacking? Is this proof that I’m ‘double minded’ because maybe I haven’t ‘prayed believing’ enough?”

I wrestled with the Lord for the next day and night as well. “Father, show me if I should be taking more aggressive steps in trusting You or claiming and applying specific passages on healing to my life. I believe you can heal me, but I also believe You have shown me this isn’t Your plan right now. If this isn’t Your plan, I have to believe that this illness is ‘of You,’ or at the very least ‘allowed by You’ as part of Your best plan for my life. But if I’ve got it wrong and You want a change in my attitude, please show me how faith fits into this whole picture? I don’t want to reject any good and perfect gift You have for me, be it illness or healing, but I’m so confused and hurt right now.”

My second surprise came as I was snuggling my sweet 6-year-old early the next morning. The book we were reading is supposed to have sound effects of a cricket chirping merrily on the final page, but it has never worked in the 3+ years we have had it, though we bought it new, have changed the batteries and done everything in our power to make the book work as it was designed. I’m not sure why we never returned it to the store, but we have become content to read the printed words and not expect any sound effects or to have fun making up our own effects as we go.

Even as I read stories to her, the battle ranged on in my heart and the back of my mind. And then God spoke, in His still, small, calming voice, through the words of my daughter and her simple act of pure, childlike faith. “Mommy, I want to pray that God will make my book work.” While I remained calm in my reply to her, my heart thudded within me. “Lord, I’m struggling with understanding Your heart in miracles right now. Please give me wisdom in answering my tender little girl and please make Yourself real to her even in this simple request.”

“Well honey, we can certainly ask Jesus to fix your book. And we know He is God and He can do it if He chooses, right? We know He performs miracles when He has a purpose in them, like when He brought the plagues on Egypt to bring the Israelites out of slavery. But we also have to remember that God is allowed to say no and we can’t get mad at Him if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to. Sometimes God saves His miracles for really special, big things so that we know that it was only Him that could do them.”

“That’s fine Mommy. I understand. But I still want to pray!” And so we bowed our heads and she presented a heartfelt prayer about knowing God’s in control and asking God to help Mommy find just the right kind of batteries at WalMart so her cricket could chirp. She never even asked God to actually fix the book but simply thanked Him for it and closed with a peaceful “Amen.” Then she opened her book and it immediately started chirping, loudly!

“See Mommy, God fixed it!” Oh to have the faith of a child! Yes, God did save His miracle for a “special, big thing” – maybe to my daughter only a small stepping-stone to look back on as He builds the foundation of her faith. But to my hurting heart, a mighty and significant and healing balm! Yes, He still hears prayer. Yes, He’s still in the business of healing broken things (even cardboard cricket books). And yes, simple, childlike faith is all that’s required to receive His good gifts.

I was overcome with a wave of peace unlike anything I had known in the prior 36 hours of struggle. In that moment He met me with such deep assurance that no, my faith is not lacking because I have not been healed. He knows the number of hairs on my head. He sees when every sparrow falls. And he even cares about cardboard crickets and childlike hearts. So I can accept that, at least for this season, His answer to my prayer for healing has simply been “no” and that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been answered.

In the end I’m back at Jesus’ question to the sick man by the Sheep Gate pool in John 5, “Do you want to get well?” I cry out, “Yes Lord, you know I want to be well!” Yet this truth, that I do want health and would readily and joyfully accept such a gift from the Lord in an instant should He choose to heal me, is tempered by the understanding that of all those people waiting by the pool, for some purpose known only to Him, Jesus chose to heal only one that day.

So rather than demanding a miracle (and throwing a fit that He’s not doing things my way) from the one who has already given more than I deserve by ransoming my life with the blood of His Son, I must humbly add, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” I do not have to question why I wasn’t the “one” He planned for healing, but rather trust that God has some purpose in my pain, some reason to allow illness to remain in my body until the day He gives me a glorified one in Heaven. If He receives any measure of glory through my broken vessel, then praise the Lord! While I am ready for healing, I am also willing to continue trusting Him and depending on Him day-by-day if physical healing is not His perfect plan for my life.

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes blindsiding, sometimes shockingly joyfully. I’m thankful for both kinds He brought into my life last month because they each challenged me to assure that I was not living in complacency. I had become “comfortable” with my illness again, and while I do feel God has a purpose in my pain, it’s good to be shaken up and look at faith from a fresh perspective from time to time. Though the deep probing of my heart was painful, I am thankful for the chance to be reaffirmed in my position of trust in God’s plan. And a cricket’s chirping, be it real or electronic, will forever more be a beautiful reminder to me of God’s surprises!


Georgetta Nextdoor said...

Amen, Jenni.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jenni, God does not allow suffering for no reason at all and he does not allow his children to walk through such long seasons of it if he has not chosen them to do so for a purpose. God has truly blessed you through this. He created you to be able to withstand it. Even though it does not seem like at times like you will make it through another day. Trust me I know what it is like to suffer and have no idea what the cause and beg God to understand the reason why.

But you have been and still are being refined like pure gold or precious gems. The fire you have walked through only makes you shine brighter, become stronger, and be even purer as a result of the testing. Think of all the people who have been blessed because of the suffering you have walked through. Would they have survived the trials they experienced had you not been walking through the valley with them? Would you have the empathy or level of compassion that you have had you not been tempered by the trials you have experienced?

God did not ask you if you would walk down this path, but he made you to survive it. He provided you with people and the support you needed to make it through. We may not understand why God heals others and lets the rest of us continue to struggle, but I have come to peace with my plight with the understanding that if because of my suffering I can help someone else survive one day of theirs, it is not too much for God to have asked me to endure.

Keep on going. Your faith is not weak by any means. By accepting that God is sovereign and you must submit to his will above your own desire is the greatest faith of all.

John Donahue

Amy Stokes said...

I adore a child's faith. It's a reminder to pray in all circumstances. Thank you for sharing this, Jenni!

Charnè said...

what a awesome honest post and just what i needed to read...

i have always wondered they same thing, always wondered when people said God will heal if I have faith and then when it did not happened wondered if my faith was not strong enough...

but i always remind myself that we only need faith the size of a mustard seed and that God knows what is best for me


Kaye - SandwichINK said...

What a wonderful story! I have always taught my kids and grandkids to pray about everything, and praise God for the answers, whether yes, no, or wait. It's always so exciting to see how God answers, especially things like this to encourage kids - and He so often does that! And it so often encourages me even more than them! :) Thank you so much for sharing this.

Cyndi said...

I LOVE the story about the cricket book!!!! How awesome!!!

I am also reminded of Joni Ericson-Tada's response to people who asked her if she had the faith to get up and walk. She said, "Do you have the faith to come down here and live out of this wheelchair?" I personally believe that takes a lot more faith!!

You go, girl!

God Nuggets Blog

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and for sharing what is on your heart in a very real honest way. I LOVE the cricket story. :)

-RJMB from HP

Anonymous said...

What a blessing! The part that especially touched me is that God is allowed to say no and we are not allowed to get mad at Him when He does.