When you thought you heard from God – Part 2
August 4, 2011 | My Jottings
**To read Part One of this post, click here.**
He’s gone? Two hours ago? While I was in flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles? My thoughts swirled as what my daughter Sharon said to me took hold. My father was dead, and I was not going to be able to say goodbye to him face to face. Of course I cried. Sitting there in my rented Altima in the Enterprise lot in Los Angeles, I turned the ignition off and the tears fell.
I called my stepmom Dorothy in San Luis Obispo and she told me how my dad’s last hours had been. She was sitting there in their home, with my father’s body, waiting for me to arrive. She was willing to wait the four hours it would take for me to get there to say goodbye to the empty shell that had housed the man with the huge personality, who had been my dad. At first I didn’t know what to do. I had flown to California to spend some last hours with my dying father, to sing to him even, and now that wasn’t possible.
I decided to fly home to Minnesota. I knew that Michael and I would be returning to California in a few days for my father’s funeral and I would be able to see him then, so I told Dorothy that I would not be driving up. She understood and was so gracious to me.
I called Northwest Airlines to see if there were available flights and was connected to the kindest, most compassionate woman who comforted me as I cried to her on the phone and told her what had happened. She instantly waived the fees to change my flight ticket home. She booked a flight from LAX to Minneapolis for me that afternoon, poured out a golden balm of love and grace on my soul through the telephone, and called me honey. I pray again this day that God blesses her for her kindness to me.
Like someone in a semi-conscious state, I pulled my bag from the trunk and locked up the car I’d never driven, returned to the line inside the rental facility, explained why I wouldn’t be needing the car after all, and boarded the shuttle back to the airport. I was stunned. I was sad. I was unsure about why this had happened, why I flew all the way to California only to turn around and fly all the way home to Minnesota in one long day, without having been able to see my dad again before he died.
Of course I inwardly berated myself for not having gone to see him sooner. His illness seemed to hit him like a fast freight train — he died 44 days after he first started feeling sick. It all happened so quickly, and since there wasn’t a diagnosis for so long, I thought he might get better.
On the 3 1/2 hour flight home I pondered what had obviously not been a word spoken by the Lord to my heart: “sing to him.” Why had I thought the Lord had spoken those words to me? I had prayed and asked, was willing to obey, and sensed in my heart something that definitely didn’t seem like it would have been my own thought. And even if I hadn’t heard the Lord correctly, the one thing that kept rolling around in my mind was this question: why didn’t God allow my dad to live just a few hours longer, knowing that I was on my way to see him? Why didn’t he either die before I left, or hang on until I arrived?
Aahh, these are the theological questions that men and women much greater and godlier than I, have wrestled with for millenia. If God can so easily do _____, why doesn’t He? Here’s what I think the answer is, in a nutshell:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (from Isaiah chapter 55)
1. Either God cares and can’t do anything about our messes.
2. Or God can fix our messes but doesn’t care.
3. Or God cares, can do absolutely anything, but works in ways we often don’t yet understand.
I have chosen to throw my whole life into the third choice. Has He fixed my messes before? So many times I can’t count them all. But sometimes He just says, “Trust me” and that’s what I choose to do. Trusting in the dark is so much better than railing and flailing in the dark. I know this from experience. So I had to let go of the question “why didn’t He keep your father alive for just a few more hours?” and put that in The God Box, as my friend Sue R. has taught me.
This brings me back to the directive I thought I heard from God before I left for California. I was obviously mistaken and it was disheartening for me at the time. But I’m still listening for His voice. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t. I get it right the most when I “hear” Him speaking to me from His Word. There have been times in my life where God spoke in such a powerful, unmistakable way that it took my breath away. (Remind me to do a post here someday about me almost getting arrested in Scotland, and the unforgettable way God spoke to me from His Word then!…still brings goosebumps.) 1 Corinthians 13:12 says that now (here on earth) we see through a glass darkly, and I also take that to mean that now (here on earth) we hear through a thick wall faintly, as well.
Michael and I flew to California a few days later to attend my father’s funeral. I was able to see what a small malignancy had done to a previously vigorous body. It brought such sorrow for my dad’s suffering, but it also reaffirmed to me that I believe we are here on a temporary basis. We dwell in flimsy tents, only passing through. We see spiritual realities blurry at best, as through a dark glass. We sometimes hear God’s voice loud and clear, and other times we don’t hear it at all.
I never got to sing “Precious Memories” or “The Old Rugged Cross” to my dad, didn’t get to hold his hand when it was still warm, didn’t get to see those blue eyes looking at his only daughter again. It took a while for me to be okay with that.
I was sharing the story of my attempt to see my dying father with a wise Christian woman named Vinita. These were her words to me:
“Perhaps what God really wanted was the process you went through in deciding to be at your dad’s bedside, choosing the songs, and singing them to him. Who knows the details of how we walk on God’s path? God wants an opening, that’s all, a place in which we say yes to whatever. The openness and the saying yes are the real dramas, probably more so than the actions themselves.”
What comfort, what new ways of thinking and seeing, she brought to me!
So whatever God had in mind for my seemingly fruitless flights, for the suffering of those I love, for times of clear direction and for confusion in the dark, I’ll leave it all to Him, and I will still trust Him.
But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.
Jeremiah 17:7-8, The Message Bible
No matter what, I’m a woman who’s sticking with God.
What a beautiful post Julie and thank you so much for the email you sent me after part one. Somehow I think that it’s important that we don’t always understand, that God is too big and too mystical for us to put him in a box and understand him. It’s enough to know that he is with us, he loves us and walks with us and he doesn’t give us burdens that we cannot bear, although sometimes this doesn’t necessarily feel true at the time.
Thank you for your words, Helen. I so agree with you. And I know what you mean about wondering about His promise to not give us more than we can bear. I have felt that way at times. One of the most beautiful things about Christ is that somehow He brings us through the very things we thought would kill us. I always marvel at that after the fact, but while I’m going through it? Sooo much harder…. God bless you and your family!
Ahhh. What a deeply satisfying post! Your friend is very wise. See, I felt you had heard correctly but the process, the result, was not the one anticipated. God really is amazing & His ways are not our ways. Thank you so much for sharing. PS, I think you look like your dad, only *softer*. ?
Thank you so much Ganeida. I learned a lot that day. You and your blog are a blessing to me….
Yes, I agree with Ganeida about you having heard correctly. x
Thank you kind Ember…xxoo.
Reading your post brought tears to my eyes, having known your dad. I missed my dad’s passing by 30 minutes. I often wonder why my step-mother did not tell me the truth when I asked how bad the situation was with my father. I have learned that God’s ways are best, and even when we don’t understand and are hurting as a result of not understanding, it still is all good. Thanks so much for sharing Jules ~
Our memories are so intertwined, aren’t they Tauni? I remember your dad almost as well as I remember my own. Thank you for reading and commenting, dear friend. LY.
I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I read this…you know how I dread saying “goodbye for now” to my parents. My father is fading away from me, physically and mentally and I ache just typing those words! The other day I set my iPhone recorder ap and had him sing me some songs over the land line. There are pauses as he forgets the words now and the melody is barely recognizable, but I will treasure it forever. Then he finished up his little concert with “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places”… Slay me!!!!
For years my friends have said, “His Grace will be sufficient at the time”…
For me, I believe it is going to be the ongoing and growing knowledge and witnessing of His Grace, more than a sudden blast of Grace, that will carry me through this hard time. He is so gooood!
Ginny….what a hard thing it is to lose a parent, no matter what their age. You, more than any other person, have been my model and mentor of how to love aging parents. I wish I had done better. Your dad is richly blessed to have you for his daughter.
Wow, thank you for sharing. I have been through something where I thought I heard God but confused now, thanks for sharing. I married someone because I thought God told me to and it was emotional abusive for me and my kids, I stayed in because I thought God wanted me to but it doens’t really make sense. I love Jesus and just want to obey
Thank you for visiting Randi. You are in a terrible situation….I hope with all my heart that you have sought (or will seek) wise counsel about what you’re going through. Keep at it until you get the help you need! I’m sure the readers who see your comment will be lifting you and your family up in prayer!
Thank you so much Julie! your post was so encouraging as I’ve been through something similar but much worse but you’ve helped me understand. God bless you!
Thank you so much for your kind comment, Christabelle…I’m so glad you stopped by here. God bless you!