The neighborhood I grew up in was filled with kids. There was seldom a lack of playmates within a five house radius. Back then, kids didn’t have Iphones or Androids, Xboxes or Playstations, or even two hundred television channels to watch. We had something much better than all of those things: the great outdoors and wonderful imaginations. Often, though, we played simple outdoor games. Freeze tag, dodge ball, and red rover were some of our favorites. Sometimes we would have running races. We would form a straight line across one end of someone’s back yard. A countdown would be shouted and on the word “Go!” we would all take off, racing to the other end of the yard. Inevitably, someone would yell, “Stop! Start over!” and give some lame excuse like an untied shoe or a stumble at the start. The reality was that person realized they were going to lose and wanted another chance.
Have you ever wanted a second chance at something?
Have you ever started something and then realized that it wasn’t going the way you wanted it to go?
Have you ever felt like quitting the race altogether? Like sitting down with folded arms like a stubborn child who did not get his way?
I admit that I have. In fact, lately, I’ve been feeling that way more than I wish to admit.
Life has its share of storms and rocky pathways. By the time one reaches adulthood, it has most likely become obvious that life is hard. It seems the joy and innocence of the elementary school years disappear as soon as middle school starts. And high school? Don’t even get me started on how awful high school was for me! I didn’t have many single years, but marriage wasn’t (and isn’t) a stroll down easy street either. Parenting?? If there is one area I would LOVE to start over in it would have to be parenting! Of course, I would need to know everything I know now. Ironic, isn’t it, that we learn better ways to do something after we no longer have the opportunity to do it? The truth, though, is there is no second chance to raise my children. There is no second chance to go back to high school and not let the hurtful words of others shape how I saw myself. There is no second chance to get any of the previous years back in order to correct mistakes and make better decisions.
Yesterday, though, I realized, probably for the first time clearly, that God allows me to start over in my relationship with Him.
At least I think that’s what I realized. Let me explain…
If you have read much of my writing or if you know me in person, you know I was diagnosed two years ago with MS. That diagnosis didn’t really bother me at first. That fatigue, ear issues, dizziness, and swallowing issues that led to that diagnosis were annoying but tolerable. At least for a while. BUT, over the last eight to ten months, I have struggled as my health has increasingly become worse. Dizziness is no longer just an issue; it is a daily interference in my life. Fatigue doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling that I face every day. Even walking has changed for me because of this disease. I have spent much time in prayer, asking God to please heal me. Others have prayed the same thing on my behalf. Yet, here I am still struggling.
Yesterday morning at church, our pastor called for it to be a Sunday of response. In all honesty, I almost stayed home. I was exhausted, still not fully recovered from the travel I had done the week before. My husband gave me the opportunity to stay home. I seriously considered it, but decided I needed to go. As the service started and I realized exactly how this was going to go down, I regretted my decision to be there. I knew God wanted a response from me, yet I was not really willing to be vulnerable like that. My son was there. I certainly didn’t want to let him see how deeply this was affecting me. God, though…God broke through a heart that was on its way to being hardened. It wasn’t that I was mad at God. I honestly was not. It was more confusion that permeated my thoughts. I had prayed multiple times for healing. Others had prayed multiple times for healing. Yet, healing hadn’t come. As I stood listening to the worship team sing, I suddenly was hit with the realization that maybe God was choosing not to heal me. If I believe God hears all prayers–and I do believe that–than the only other explanation was that God was, at least for now, saying “No”. As I made my way down front, with the help of my husband, there was no holding back the tears that were filling my eyes. These were tears of mixed emotions. I desperately wanted God to heal me, yet I desperately wanted to be right where He wanted me to be–even if that meant living with this disease and all the pain and difficulties it brings. As I knelt at the altar, tears flowing, heart aching, I surrendered to God all of my expectations for me. I clearly felt a peace as the following words echoed through my head:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
I am weak. I don’t like to admit that. I have not been in this position very often. I was an athlete into my college years. I was gifted at just about every sport out there–even football. I could hold my own with the boys any day. I had strength. But now, I find I am weak. I am weak not only in physical stamina but also in faith. Faith doesn’t grow when one is constantly questioning whether God really loves her or if God really hears her. I had faith to believe God would heal me; I lacked the faith to believe he will sustain me if healing was not in His will.
Yesterday, my mindset was shaken when I clearly understood that whether I am healed on earth or in heaven, God is still God.
God is in control.
And He allows me to start over. He wiped the slate clean and brightened it with Windex so that no trace of markings were left.
And I am so thankful that, despite my failures, He forgives and meets me where I am, even if that is in the midst of a dark valley of pain, regret, and shame.