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But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
About ten years ago, my youngest sister Jennifer left us to move to Boston to attend Berklee School of Music. At the time, I was married and very busy with the life I was trying to build. All the same, I missed her terribly and hated that she was so far away. Sadly, she became ill and had to come back home and abandon her pursuit of a music degree. I hated that she had to give up on her dream, but at the same time I was relieved that she was coming back home. So much has happened between then and now. We both were married, both had a child, and both got divorced. We’ve been to at least six funerals, experienced a couple of weddings and the births of some beautiful children in our family. We’ve both gotten older and wiser over the years. A couple of years ago, she lost everything in a house fire but was able to get back on her feet relatively quickly. I’ve never known of anyone who is as resilient as my sister, Jennifer. No matter what life has thrown her way, she has bounced back from it and either gone ahead to pursue her goals or she has simply reorganized, regrouped and recovered. She’s definitely someone who can be counted on to step in and take control when everything seems like it’s in total chaos. I guess this is why I’m sitting here tonight thinking that I just don’t know what I’m going to do without her. I’m proud to say that she’s been accepted into law school, but deeply saddened to say that the law school is in Michigan and she will be moving away at the end of the week.
While I may not know how I’m going to get through the next ten years of my life without her here to offer her special brand of constructive criticism, I do know that I’m not really as alone as I’m feeling. I know that God isn’t really taking her away from me. He’s taking her to the next level so that she can fulfill the plan He has for her life. In doing so, He’s also pushing me to take some necessary steps in following the path He’s been trying to get me to follow for the last few years. There have been many times in my life when I’ve refused to do what God was telling me to do and He’s presented me with a circumstance that was not exactly what I wanted to deal with. When she left for college all those years ago, I was so caught up in my job and my marriage that I had no time at all for Him. I wasn’t in church and I had no real direction or thought about anything other than satisfying my immediate needs. It was not the best time in my life, though I was certain at the time that I was as happy as I was ever going to be in this lifetime. I was wrong then and I’m pretty sure that all of this wallowing I’ve been doing lately is not exactly the right course of action either.
Jennifer has helped me through alot of things. We have shared so much of our lives together and I can tell her anything without worrying that she will judge me unfairly. She may judge me, but at least I know that her opinions are generally not sugar-coated and that she will always be completely honest with me. When I can count on no one else to offer the truth, I know that she will always have the answer that I need to hear. After all, it was Jennifer who told me several years ago that if I was missing God in my life, the first thing I needed to do was to get back in church. I don’t believe I have ever received better advice than that.
When I turned forty just a few weeks ago, I was sure that this was going to be a turning point for me. I was certain that this was going to be the beginning of a time in my life when I could actually make some progress. But I haven’t really given myself credit for everything I’ve already accomplished. I haven’t really looked at the experiences I have had in an objective way. Rather than seeing how it all fits together, I’ve simply pushed the list to the back of my mind as I checked off all of the happenings that weren’t yet what I wanted to see. As though I was going through my “to do” list of undesirable activities. Depression, check. Anxiety, check. Miscarriage, check. Health problems, check. Bankruptcy, check. Divorce, check. Loss of loved ones, check. Unemployment, check…you get the idea.
I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m so disgusted with my life that I just can’t bear one more thing. That’s far from the truth. I still have joy. I still have peace. I’m still very thankful for all of the blessings that I have in my life. But I’m also still a human being. I’m still a person with feelings and I still hurt from time to time. There are still many things that happen that I just don’t understand. I’m hoping to understand them later, but for now it makes for a confusing and difficult season. God doesn’t promise that we won’t have times like these, in fact; He promises that we will see trials and that there will be more times than not when only He knows why something is happening or not happening in our lives. At times like these, we have got to learn how to lean on Him. We have got to release our hold on the things we are trying to control and give it all to Him. So this means that no matter how much I try to hope someone back to good health or pray that someone will decide they want the same things I want in a relationship or even pray that someone I love changes their mind about leaving, it isn’t likely that those prayers will be met with the kind of fulfillment that we are seeking. The only thing I can pray for with any expectation that it will come to pass is that God will change my focus and help me to accept the things that are happening in my life and to hold onto Him when it feels like I can’t accept them. And so, the best thing for me to do when I feel defeated or when I feel like I have no control over my life is to accept that this might truly be the case. It is possible that I’ve lost that particular battle. But it’s more likely that it wasn’t mine to fight in the first place.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”