If you click on the link above, you will be directed to the National Geographic site where you can see loads of beautiful pictures of butterflies going through their metamorphosis, their transformation, changing from one type of creature into something totally different. What an amazing process our Creator designed! I have to wonder, though, if the little caterpillar suffers during that time of change. Does it hurt? I know in my life, this is often the case when change presents itself. Sure, there is something amazing on the other end of the process, but, wow, the process itself sure is painful. Sometimes it is not so easy to remember that there is a purpose for the change, one that is far better than the original could ever have been if left where it was.
This has been the case in my life in ways far too numerous to count, such as when I first got married and learned that I really needed to grow in forgiveness, the type Jesus talked about offering 70 times 7 to an offender (not recommended that you actually keep score, FYI 😉 ), or when I first experienced labor and realized how amazing the human body really is, or when I first became a mother and realized that I really was not in control of everything. The list goes on, but the latest addition to this list followed on the tail of an extreme shift in our life, and again, a reminder of just how little control we have.
This extreme shift was when Zachary, our first born son, became sick with a rare auto-immune disorder known as Opsoconus-Myoclonus Syndrome (more on his story here). It took me, specifically, nearly a year to get my footing again, and for the majority of that time it simply felt like I was falling headlong into a dark, dark pit. The kind of pit where you can’t see our hand in front of your face, determine which way is up or down, and whether or not there is anyone standing right beside you. This is not to say that this time was not wrought with prayer, bible study and meditating on the Word, because it was, as best I as could accomplish, but the darkness kept coming. I felt out of control, constantly on edge, and pretty much everyone living with me knew it. Everything was overwhelming, and everything I knew was crumbling down around me. “Lord, how am I supposed to keep up with all these duties, care for the kids, homeschool, love, and be joyful when everything is falling to pieces? How am I to meet Your standards? I can’t do anymore than I am right now.” I felt like the biggest failure that ever existed. I felt like I could not do anything right. I felt like I was a big, incapable, needy, and invisible monster, ugly to those I loved and wanted to hurt less than anything and yet seemingly unable to do enough to please them. It was a very dark time.
Oddly enough, I don’t even think I realized this was where I was. On occasion the truth would spit out like a menace, but God had put blinders on my heart until the right time for the veil to be removed. You see, prior to Zack’s illness, I felt amazing, like God has blessed me so greatly that I could not even give Him enough praise for it all. I was capable, energetic, enjoyed motherhood, was learning to be a better “keeper of the home”, and loved keeping busy with various projects around the house. But, when Zack got sick, it rocked me to a whole new level. I guess I thought that I was “doing everything right” and therefore by my equation an auto-immune disorder was not adding up. I followed the latest health information! I ate lots of vegetables, little meats, plenty of grains, avoided fast food, worked out regularly, brushed and flossed, taught my kids good nutrition, etc. How was he sick!?! This realization of literally being taught a very difficult lesson was not an easy pill to swallow: “My daughter, as much as you want to believe the lies of the world, you are not in control. The sooner you learn this lesson, the sooner you can truly lay down your life and you can really live for my glory, not yours.” Ouch….
I never even knew I thought I was in control. I thought I was submitted to His Sovereignty, but my reaction to Zack’s illness proved where my heart really was. I really believed that if I “did everything right” we would not experience tragedy. But, God knew this area of my flesh, and He could not allow for it to prosper. It was pruning time…we were experiencing our Job moment.
Everything about this trial in our life was a test of faith. Do we trust the alternative path of treatment the Lord had been leading us down for years, though unknown and untested, or take the more common conventional medicine’s treatment that was potentially dangerous? Do we alter his nutrition to help with healing him or leave things as they are? Do I continue to homeschool or not? Should we continue to allow the Lord to guide our family size, or trust the limitations of our own known capabilities and patience levels? It was intense, and not easy to confidently walk through the decisions we made all the time. I learned a whole new meaning to “faith like a mustard seed” over this last year.
Finally, though, the sun started to shine into the darkness. Zack consistently did better and better, even after a few setbacks and regressions. He continued to arise anew every day with a seemingly endless determination to get up and keep trying. He inspired me. I prayed for the Lord to help get me out of the darkness, to help me to be strong again, to be capable. But, these thing did not happen for a little while. I had more lessons to learn.
For years I had suffered from some words spoken to me that I am sure were meant to “help” me, but all they really did was begin a storm in my heart of questions about who I was “supposed” to be for God. I eventually developed this picture of a woman who was never angry, always calm and patient, forgives easily, effortlessly dismisses the load of dishes in the sink to play a game of Scrabble with the kids, loves her husband passionately and visited the privacy of the marriage bed with him often and with fervency, keeps the house sparkling clean, cooks delicious and inexpensive dishes, is subdued and submissive, never yells or loses her temper, and serves without hesitation or a second-thought. I mean, come on, doesn’t she sound lovely? Totally a picture of feminine Christianity! Absolutely. Except, for me, she became an idol. And I couldn’t have her. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how long I grew my hair, no matter how quiet I attempted to speak, this stupid little flesh bag of mine continued to despise my desire and rebel with anger and frustration and resentment! I so desperately wanted to be this ideal “woman of God”, and yet I seemed to have a faulty design because it was not fitting into the mold that she bore. I did not understand why I could not have her, why I could not become her, why I struggled and struggled to embrace her, and I prayed for answers and peace. “Lord, no matter what I do, I keep failing you. I cannot become this person You want me to be. I don’t even know how to become her. Please help me….” And He did.
He provided me the answers I needed through a fragile example of Godly explanation (more on that another time), but God can use anything to help us to understand what He wants us to know when He wants us to know it. His Daddy talk with me went something like this:
“My precious daughter, first, you keep saying that I want you to become this person, that she is My standard of excellence and beauty, but I do not even know her. When I made you, I made you in My image, flesh and all, and I do not intend for you to become someone else in order to become who I made you to be. That would mean that something was not good in you in your Creation, which is not the case. Do you have a sinful flesh? Yes, but that is not who you are. It is what stops you from being who you are meant to be. I designed you for a specific purpose, and the woman you described to me cannot fulfill that purpose because she does not fit that right design to do it. Remember, ‘If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?‘ (1 Corinthians 12: 17-19). What you described and believe is that all of My women should be the same kind of women, but this is not My design, nor My Will. Do I desire to help you conquer sin and overcome it in this life? Yes, of course. But, when I want you to speak Truth and your flesh becomes overcome with anger and passion, you must learn to subdue the sinful reaction while delivering the message I asked you to deliver. The desire to speak is not sinful period, but the mode in which you choose to deliver the message is where the sin is often found. I made you to be passionate, lively, and determined for a purpose…my purpose. You must not subdue my Creation any longer. It is now time to learn how to obey your design while atrophying your flesh.”
Yeah, I was a mess too…this was a pretty intense lesson from the Lord. But, He had a purpose for my pain, and it was to release me, my husband, my children, and our united family into the world to live for Him, to speak for Him, and to obey Him. Of course, I have no idea where we are going, or what we are supposed to say; I just know that we were told to go. The cocoon has been broken and our flight has begun. It might be a short walk through the dessert, or a forty year journey, only the Lord knows. All I know is this was one lesson I could not have learned “for real” any other way than through the dark, dark pit I experienced, and I needed to have my “stone of remembrance” to make sure that I never forget it. So thank you for sharing my stone.