|Mollie Makes magazine.|
In my experience, when you are going through a particularly trying time, you are consumed with yourself: all your energy – mental, emotional, physical – is taken up with just getting through the day, so there's little else left for anyone who ventures to be a part of your world. When you are restored, it becomes clear that you have a lot of business to do, as you realise you weren't the only one fighting the battle – there were others there, too. Apologies and heartfelt thanks are issued. Not all are accepted, which is okay. Some relationships will take more time, nurturing, to come back to life; some will not again see the light of day. And in this sense, you have to extend the same grace to others that was given to you.
This Word for Today, penned by Bob and Debby Gass, describes the process of attending to the missteps of life using a beautiful handicrafts allegory:
A lace-maker was working on a very intricate design when she noticed a mistake at the beginning of her work. To the untrained eye it was inconspicuous and she could easily have camouflaged it, but moments like that separate the professional from the 'dabbler'. She worked all night, painstakingly unravelled her work till she reached the flaw, fixed it and started over again.
When the angel blocked Balaam on the road, Balaam said, 'I have sinned. I did not realise you were standing in the road to oppose me...if you are displeased, I will go back.' There are times when you need to go back and make things right. Now, God doesn't usually send angels to tell us we're off-course; He speaks through His Word, through a trusted friend, or through our conscience.
Joni Eareckson Tada says, 'If the Holy Spirit reveals we've made an error, it's pointless to go on unless we go back... Sometimes you get so far in life and realise...the threads just aren't coming together; you've made a mistake somewhere along the line. Your sins have come home to roost. We do ourselves a disservice when we merely make a quick mid-course correction. If you want the ends to come together, then ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you "dropped the stitch".'
'We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.' If the Holy Spirit is dealing with you right now about some unfinished business in your life, stop, go back and make it right. It's not easy, but God will honour your humility and obedience.
My mother-in-law stood in the sunshine on Saturday knitting a scarf for her granddaughter, not missing a beat as she talked to me. Through my journey, she's been a constant source of strength, reserving a gentle, nurturing hand and ready ear as she has gone about doing her own work. That takes an inner strength that's hard-won and cultivated over time, but also a commitment to doing things God's way and not her own (God knows she probably wanted to strangle me at times!), which means being attentive to His voice, His Spirit, His word, but also obedience.
To my mind, there appear to be five stages of recovery: kneel, sit, crawl, walk, run. The first is despairing: getting on your knees and admitting defeat as the darkness closes in. The second is trying: as you contemplate where you went wrong, you strive to make it right on your own, but fail, so you have to learn to be patient and resolve to humbly do the work given to you to do. The third is promising: you stumble more often than not, but there are glimpses at what it might be like to walk, which gives you hope (which was there all along). The fourth is dreamy: standing on your own two feet, confidence is restored, but you remain weary of falling and grazing your knees. The fifth is challenging: now you've gathered your strength, your resources restored and solid foundations laid, it's time take flight and get out there into the world.
You must be careful not to be arrogant or think too highly of yourself, remembering daily that it wasn't you who did this healing, but God; you only had to be a willing participant. The process of attending to the mislaid stitches can be painful, but also humbling in a beautiful way, opening you up to deeper relationships based not on your own miraculous healing, but the idea that you are fallible and the world is not discriminating about how it inflicts its wounds. When the scales are cast off from your eyes, you can see how buying into the world's lies, and your own agenda, has done you wrong, and you can see why God had to send us his only Son to right the wrongs. The best you can do is mend yourself good and true, choosing to see your faults and choices for what they are, which gives you the quiet strength to attend to others' scars and commit to running the rest of the race well, not for yourself, but for the love of God and His son.
This quote from the 1981 film Chariots of Fire comes to mind:
"You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race."
Girl With a Satchel