If it wasn’t for my heavy eyelids, if it wasn’t for the weight of my bags, if it wasn’t for the fact that she is waiting, weak in the foyer for my speedy return… If it wasn’t for the workmen in hard hats who whistle as I pass, if it wasn’t for the wind that whips around my ankles and causes someone’s lunch wrap to stick like a magnet to my pants, if it wasn’t for the drug addict that follows me and asks me for cash… if it wasn’t for those things I think I could say I really enjoy leaving the hospital to retrieve my car from some side street in Darlinghurst after a day in HOAC.
I love it because of the rows of terraces. I like to peek in their tiny yards, I like to compare the choice of paint colours, I like the ones that are renovated with a modern twist and a fresh theme, and I like the ones that are neat. I like the pressed detail in the wrought iron lacework, the muslin curtain in the glass door. I like the molded plaster details that make each one unique, the tessellated tiles, the arched double hung windows, the boxes of geraniums and the cast iron fences.
I love the streets that angle on an incline and the view from the top of the ascending rooftops. I love the concrete steps that lead into laneways that lead under bridges that meet in a confusion of one ways streets.
I am caught up in the moment, mesmerized by city life. Another café has opened on a corner, there’s a new table display at Bills, and the vegie patch is ready for harvest at Darlinghurst Public School. I drink it all in on my way to the car. I breathe in fresh air like a forbidden elixir that is sweetening my soul.
As I near the place where I parked hours earlier, an ugly red brick apartment block confronts me. It’s completely out of place amidst the detailed terraces but to make things worse it is built next to a magnificent stately home. The red brick apartment block is like an oversized rectangular prism with silver aluminum windows. I stop and wonder how it ever got passed through council? I feel sad that something so out of place can occupy almost a block when across the road the delightful terrace houses grace the street.
I have managed to avoid the beggar who followed me from Victoria St but he comes close as I unlock the car. I take my time. I act as if he does not bother me. I am bothered, I am bothered that he has interrupted my pleasant time, my alone time. It is all I get these days, just a walk to the car.
I consider the 1970s building that looms in front of me and wonder if the architect thought he was a genius to introduce what I consider a catastrophe to the Darlinghurst area. I am sure it took less time to build than those delightful rows of terraces did a century before. I am sure the interiors are spacious, convenient with lots of light.
It’s all about convenience and space, isn’t it? That is what we want. That is what I want and I want my life to be lighter. I am weighed down with the load off this sickness. I want it to be over but there is still so much to conquer.
Everyday presents a fresh hurdle, an emotional, a mountain, an ache, a bleed, a fever or some other cause for concern. The enemy is almost visible sneaking past us on hands and knees trying to escape our notice. He pulls out every possible tactic. Sometimes it works and we are undone. The worst attacks come when we are tired. Or it’s the small things that have me suddenly feeling the torrent of a rage that’s about to explode from within me. The little things like forgetting to buy milk, or the car having a flat tyre or someone who can’t find a shoe. In that moment life feels completely unfair. Our house feels smaller, the windows dirtier, the piles of unfolded washing mock me from their basket, ‘Some things will never be conquered.’
My life is like that of a terrace house, in a row of terrace houses and I can’t see out except from the front or back. My perspective is limited. I am like Moses hidden in the cleft of the rock. While he hides me there he passes over me. I feel the light of His presence radiating, the transcending power of His glory but I am not allowed to know completely, all I see is His back.
Exodus 33:21-23 “And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand upon the rock, And while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
There is nothing left for me to do except worship. It is a sacrifice of praise that I bring. It doesn’t come from a willingness of heart. I resent the journey. I would rather be the 1970s redbrick place of convenience than to have my plasterwork engraved, my tin ceiling pressed and stamped, my furnace stoked with rods of iron to try to get warmth through my life. I am frozen in time wishing that someone would come and renovate me.
I carry my bundles (and they are many) to the feet of Jesus. I take them and I stack them up on the floor beside me. One by one I offer them up.
I say thankyou.
Thankyou for this season of waiting
Thankyou for the opportunity for time spent with you
Thankyou for carrying my burdens
I lift them one by one
Like vintage books with yellowed pages
All musty and dank
I read out the table of contents
I have so much to say, so much to ask for and so much to offload.
I pray for the visits to hospital that He will give us peace in place of anxiety, that he will give us favour with the nurses, that we will see health and vitality, though we sit amongst the sick and elderly. I pray for wisdom for the doctors to determine the best treatment, I pray that some drugs can be reduced, I pray against the side effects. I pray for her liver, her skin and her kidneys. I pray her hair will begin to grow. I pray for her thoughts that fly loosely like ignited wires, disconnected from their cable, sparking a frenzy that is out of control. We hold hands together, Sam and I and we pray for peace.
Peace comes. He is not in a hurry.
We are. We are in a hurry. We want to return. We want life as it was.
I want to rise early, to dash to the gym, to jump in the shower, to eat breakfast standing up while I make lunch for the day ahead. I want to sling on kitten heels and a designer outfit (well, I can dream!), I want to jump in the car, adjust my ipod and grab a coffee. I want to go to work, to laugh with my colleagues, write the date on my white board. I want to take down chairs, wipe down tables, pass out workbooks and open my children’s Bible ready for morning devotions. I want to hear the bell ring, to open my door and be greeted by two perfectly straight lines of children seated in rows with their faces beaming.
Leukaemia is so inconvenient. It is a long dark path but peace shines its light just enough for each day. Peace comes like a heavy, winter blanket. Its weight covers me with comfort. I will be still. I will wait and know that He is God.
“For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:10
He is taking His time. He is rebuilding us.
“We possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.”2 Corinthians 4:7
He carves our lives like an alabaster box, precious and pure He sculpts our life. He is not in a hurry.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day. Habakkuk 2:3
“You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
“Woe to him who strives with his Maker!–a worthless piece of broken pottery among other pieces equally worthless [and yet presuming to strive with his Maker]! Shall the clay say to him who fashions it, what do you think you are making? Or, your work has no handles?” Isaiah 45:9
It is up to us to give him the heavy boxes that we’ve had hidden in all that extra storage thanks to modern convenience. Open the cupboards, lift the lids and unpack the boxes. ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden.’ Leave it all at His feet, the extra cable, and the broken vase you were planning to ‘superglue.’ Sweep up the pieces and give them to Him.
When you have finished giving it all, He makes an exchange with you. He doesn’t leave you empty.
His peace is accompanied by joy and
“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell.
As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
Now a cliff covered with vines,
Now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
Till one day it cracks them open.
(Rumi, Persian poet)
His ways are higher than our ways, (Isaiah 55;10-12) we see in part, he holds the big picture.
‘For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].’1 Corinthians 13:12
‘A woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very precious perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, For what purpose is all this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a large sum and the money given to the poor. But Jesus, fully aware of this, said to them, why do you bother the woman? She has done a noble (praiseworthy and beautiful) thing to Me. For you always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me. In pouring this perfume on My body she has done something to prepare Me for My burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news (the Gospel) is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told also, in memory of her.’ Matthew 26:7-15
Like the woman who carried her alabaster box filled with the finest costly perfume and poured it out over Jesus feet, I trust that what I give to Him is perfect. Yes the cost is enormous. I wonder how I will live through tomorrow. There is nothing much left, it seems.
How could that woman have known that she was anointing Jesus feet for His burial that her name would be written in history? We can not know the value of our sacrifice but as I pour it out at His feet. I say ‘Thank you’ and I choose to trust in His provision tomorrow knowing His mercies are new every morning.
‘It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is your stability and faithfulness. The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.’ Lamentations 3:22-24