When I went to China, I got to meet some of Phil’s students. Oh, I guess I should tell you that was the reason we got to go on such an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip; Phil was invited to teach at Liaoning Normal University in Dalian, China. While we were there, I got to visit his Venue Management class and meet his students.
Phil had told them I was blind and they were curious and asked lots of the usual questions like, “How do you ___?”(fill in the blank). There are a million “How do you do___? ” kinds of questions when you’re blind, but one young woman’s question totally blew me away — it was very revealing.
In broken, but very good English, she asked: “When you became blind, were you afraid people would be ashamed of you or your family would not love you?”
We all have it. It’s that thing in us that we don’t talk about because we don’t know how to put words to it. It’s that feeling that rises in us and makes our throats tighten and our voices tremble.
It’s the disquiet in our soul, the ache we always feel but never get used to; the silent companion who takes up too much room in our hearts. It’s our unspoken broken.
The mom who tries to manage her mentally ill adult son — she feels the sting, the ache. When you see her on Sunday and she smiles and hugs you and asks how your week went, can you hear what is not said? Can you hear her unspoken broken? It is there, screaming to be heard and held and helped.
As a college student, I volunteered at a youth camp for several summers. Most of the time, I led worship and hung out with the girls, but this night, the altar was full of teenagers and the youth minister asked if I would help counsel. Within 10 seconds of my “yes,” a young man made a beeline to me. He was middle school-aged. I knew his name but that was all I knew. I asked him why he came to the front and he told me it was because he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart.
I reviewed what that meant with him and then asked him to pray with me. “Nope.” was all he said.
Okay, so this is not what I expected! It made no sense. I explained the gospel and asked him again. “Do you want to pray to receive Christ?”
I asked “Do you understand?” He answered, “Nope.”
So, I explained again and thought we had a breakthrough. Again I asked, “Do you want to receive Christ?” You guessed it! “Nope,” was his answer.
I was so frustrated and confused. I hadn’t had much experience with middle school boys, but, seriously? I just couldn’t tell if he was rebellious, pulling my leg or truly didn’t understand.
The youth minister must have seen me looking totally perplexed and helpless so he rushed over.
I found an old tattered audio book at our local used book store. It was recorded on cassette, so you can imagine how old it is, but I bought it because it was by Elisabeth Elliot. Oh my goodness! I am such a big fan so this audio book is a treasure — she even reads it herself. The book is called These Strange Ashes and it’s about her first year as a missionary to a small group of native women in the Ecuadorian jungle. She is gut-honest about her doubts and questions and the cost of obedience.
In the book, she recounts an African legend about Jesus. It is not in the Bible — it never happened! It’s a made-up story, but the message sure does preach the truth. The legend hit me right in the heart and made me consider why I obey the Lord… for whom do I carry the stone?
Do you need comfort from God? Is there somebody in your life who needs comfort?
I sure did.
Last fall, I was crumbling on the inside. I didn’t feel strong at all. I traveled every weekend, and in between, I flew to Florida to be with my dad who was very sick. One Sunday morning, Phil and I headed to the airport, for probably the ninth week in a row. I had flown home the night before from Virginia super late and I was tired on Sunday morning. But, I tried to think of one good thing to focus on because I was so discouraged and felt so empty, alone and weak. “Heroes coffee!” I decided I would get a cup when I got to the airport.
I overheard the ladies at the table near me in my favorite tea room. They were deep in conversation. The shop was small and they were loud, so I could hear every negative and complaining word — even without trying! One was obsessed with how her husband didn’t measure up to her standards; the other was consumed with bitterness over a boss who she didn’t think valued her as she thought she deserved.
It struck me that they were both miserable — not because of what they lacked, but because of what they had. One was married; she had a husband, security and companionship. The other was employed; she had a job which provided her security and income. Yet, both were miserable and discontent with the portion they had.
I’ve been there too. That’s probably why their conversation struck such a familiar tone with in me! I often complain about what I have, overlooking the blessing it really is.
Sometimes we girls just feel spent, right? And, when we are flat out overwhelmed and running on empty, I don’t know about you, but that is when my feelings start to get really wobbly! We may be physically spent, emotionally raw, mentally zapped or spiritually dry. Can I get a witness?!
If I could sum up our last weekend of Fresh Grounded Faith for this Spring in one word, it would be ENERGY. Those Redding ladies were awesome, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to end this season. They were so creative! Each group wore something different to indicate who they were — the greeters wore pretty teal scarves, and the hostesses and drivers wore blinged out FGF baseball caps, etc. So fun!
That’s what my sweet southern grandma used to tell me every time I visited her. “Mama” taught me a lot through her words and her life. I giggle now at that stern admonishment. As a little girl I vowed I would never watch one — even though I had no idea what in the world a “so-popper” was.
Now, be aware that each time my petite Mama preached her anti-so-popper doctrine; she was sipping a Coca-Cola and her eyes were glued to Days of our Lives or All My Children.
It was not until I was a young adult that I finally realized what she was actually warning me against. The words “soap operas” had gotten lost in her thick as sweet-southern-molasses Georgia accent. While that is actually really good advice from my grandmother, even greater wisdom comes from her favorite Psalm. She quoted it to me often. (Just not during the soaps!)