O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life, which has come to you by the grace of God. Phillips Brooks
I changed some things this week. Instead of writing in my journal I asked questions, made lists of what I wanted know, and people I wanted to speak to. Within days the answers came. Maybe this is the season of suddenly?
It’s a year this week since Sam left RNSH, a year since the last round of intensive chemotherapy, a year since she became an inpatient at St Vincent’s in Darlinghurst to start conditioning therapy for her Bone Marrow Transplant. If you told me a year ago that the recovery would still be continuing now, I would not have believed you. I would have uttered some faith platitude that it would be different for us. I was still in the season of praying my “God let this pass quickly” prayers.
I am not in a hurry anymore. My dreams have been on hold for so long it is possible that they could slip through my fingers like crystal water and I would let it flow. I can no more grasp hold of my desires than a person can hold water in their hands. Desires don’t come when we hold on. They come when we let go. When life washes over us and the refreshing of it cooling us is more than enough. The miracle is not in making it happen, or fixing things, or who you know, or taking control. The miracle is in being still and knowing that God is God and in His sovereignty, He will have His way.
In my journal the morning of January 28th, 2009, the morning that Sam was to be diagnosed with Leukaemia, before I had any inclining that the news was looming I wrote this:
‘In Him I live and move and have my being.’ (Acts 17:28)
That’s the goal! Get rid of all distractions and frustrations connected to what I do not have. God alone satisfies. I will be kind to myself and things will come my way. Hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit is supreme pleasure. It is better than anything else. It is attainable. All it requires is devotion and focus. Today I’m going back to work, I need to know God’s voice to do my work, to fill out all the paper work, to love the children and have grace for their parents. I can’t do it in my strength but I can do ‘all things through Him who infuses supernatural strength in me.’ (Philippians 4:13)
This year I want to get my priorities in order. To be fit, to pray, to meditate on God’s word filling my thoughts with His words, to be watching my kids be empowered, strengthened and touched by His presence.
Then in conclusion I wrote this scripture:
“He made from one origin (this reminds me of Jack who thinks Single Origin coffee is the best- Random thought!), all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time, and fixed boundaries of their habitation. So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him although He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26 – 27)
All that was written at 6:15am (I always record the time in my journal, weird I know!) and 12 hours later I sat with my daughter and my husband in Level 12D, Room 17, RNSH – Haemotology, being told Samantha had Leukaemia. Needless to say, I didn’t need God’s strength for teaching – God had me on a course I could never have predicted and in spite of me, I was prepared for He was close.
Each one of us has a personal calling. I became aware of mine at the age of 12 in Scot’s Anglican Church in The Rocks, in Sydney. I always thought that when you heard the call, the doors opened for you easily but this is not true. There are obstacles in our path and it may take years to remove them. Many give up when it becomes too difficult, or they compromise or settle for something less because fighting for your dream takes everything you have. Sometimes you have enthusiasm but no experience and you fail time and again. Sometimes the scars are surrounded in tissue damage that leaves you numb. Sometimes you think it would just be easier to lie down and pass the baton to someone else. You tell yourself this is admirable, that it is time to assist the next generation and let go.
You train your daughters and your son, you tell them every single thing you know about God’s presence and hearing His voice. As you speak the waves of enthusiasm well inside you, it’s a tidal wave and a hook is plunged into the depth of your spirit catching hold of your heart. You feel the tug of the voice that called you 32 years ago, it will not be silent, it will not let go of its grip, it will not release you though you wish that it would, you have suffered enough. Instead of answers you have questions and if they are answered you think maybe you can get up like the righteous man that fell 7 times, you too will rise again.
Everywhere you go there is a little piece of the puzzle placed in front of you. Someone says read that book, make that connection, do this, don’t do that. You see ‘that the Universe is conspiring in your favour, even though you don’t understand how… and that intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and years and without noticing, eats away at your soul, until, one day you are no longer able to free yourselves from the bitterness and it stays with you for the rest of your lives.” (Paulo Coelho)
Suddenly you are thanking God for the intense suffering, how it has formed you, the people who have crossed your path, the ones who became new friends, the things you have discovered about yourself, the world and your capacity to enlarge. You feel like you have survived some kind of spiritual boot camp and now you are fitter, lighter and stronger but not in a way you could have imagined before.
For Sam’s 21st Birthday her friend Amy organized everyone she knew to put in cash to buy Sam a laptop. It arrived all silver and new like a gift from The Magi, six weeks after the announcement of Leukaemia. Sam set to work to create her screensaver and proudly showed me when she was done. It was this:
Sam thought it was great. I swallowed a lump in my throat. What she saw as a positive affirmation created fear in me. Fear that no one would come, that her condition would worsen, that this was not the right time and I never wanted her life to be over. ‘It’s great,’ I lied.
As I reflect on this now I know she was right.
The right people came.
Things went wrong but we overcame our defeats every time.
We discovered the wonder in waiting, of being still, of knowing God.
It’s not over yet, but I sense we are nearly there.
I do find myself in awe of life and the things that are emerging out of pockets of grief, like finding money in last’s years coat. All the unexpected surprises and the mystery of God’s grace, the sense of illumination that we are indeed part of a miracle.