I walked through the enormous entryway after exchanging “Hellos” and “How are yous” and slipped my beige slouchy boots from my feet.
The in-home Bible study I’d been invited to was brimming with views. The ceilings and floors were separated by eclectic armoires and wall art. Candlesticks jutted from the forest-green marble fireplace. My eyes weren’t sure where to land. I wanted to take everything in carefully, thoughtfully, entirely.
But politeness forced me to ignore the room and focus on my friend and the hostess.
“You can bask in the beauty of the room later, I promised myself. That is, if you behave yourself and act normal”.
I took a deep breath and maneuvered around the room. The dining table was delightfully dressed with place settings, china, silverware and glassware, a setting fit for a formal event!!
“I may take a picture so I can remind myself which side the forks go on,” I half-laughed, half-gushed.
The hostess, possibly used to etiquette-challenged individuals like myself answered, “Be my guest!” But just then I was distracted by the panoramic view of the Ohio River from behind the floor to ceiling windows.
“The barges sometimes get to eye level when the water is high,” the hostess informed. I sighed.
Barges in the backyard, acrylic at the table, side tables, stools, ottomans, a grand piano…I quickly lost track of what I was looking at, for the textures, colors, and items were so numerous and varied.
The hostess not only had taste in the home design but also in crafting the room around the one feature that dominated everything: the river running behind her house.
The conversation we were about to have would compel my heart and mind into a glorious truth about prayer and experiencing peace.
That morning as I visited the women's group, we talked about prayer. We shared its power and the way it ushers peace into our lives. Just like the way this beautiful home ushered the presence of the river into my view!
“Prayer is a tool. It’s the two-way communication between us and God,” our hostess emphasised. “Prayer is me talking to God and then listening for His answer”. We took turns characterising prayer, explaining how sometimes it is easy, while other times it’s difficult. Inspired to think, questions began to turn over in my mind.
As I thought about my most power experiences of prayer, I recalled two separate personal traumas. One had ushered in the darkest time of my life. The other had triggered a supernatural experience of peace. Both had been awful. What had made the difference?
The Baby Whisked Away
In the aftermath of my oldest daughter’s birth, I recall not having peace at all as she was whisked away, blue and grunting. I wondered where God was. I was full of questions. These were my “Job” moments.
Why did you let me get pregnant?
Why did you bring me so close to full term to put us here?
Will you really take her away after coming this far?
What’s your point? Do you want my attention? Well, you can’t have it.
I remember pondering further.
Why did you allow me to live nearly thirty years if you were planning all along to put me through this painful experience?
I acknowledged the harsh reality of a baby in the NICU, tubes and monitors taking up more space than the 6lb newborn.
Is this all really necessary?
God, why don’t you skip these scenarios?
Why don’t you let us be?
Just leave us be!
Why couldn't I have a normal birth and recovery experience?
I sat fiercely refusing to cry, refusing to feel, refusing to open my ears to God while staring at the oscillator pumping air into my baby’s lungs.
It’s not that I wasn’t praying, but I was doing quite a lot of the talking and a lot of the answering without any listening.
Four years later, I found myself asking some of the same questions in the days after our miscarriage, but I was willing to test the waters for God’s presence. I was willing to cry out.
While I stood at the edge of the cliff of tragedy, the baby I only just learned existed now gone, I was willing to wait for a response.
Are you in this, Lord?
Are you still available?
Will you give me words to tell my kids?
Will you give me women to tell me life goes on after this?
Will you give me friends to help me navigate this?
Will you sustain me in this?
What do you intend to do with this, Lord?
And at the edge of that cliff I acknowledged the hurt. I peered into the inky blackness of the unknown, I confronted God, and I waited with a painfully exposed heart.
In a step of faith, I clung to hope. Instead of withdrawing into solitude, I opened up to others' compassion, hugs, and gifts. And God was unmistakably present.
His presence wrapped around me, enveloped me. He sent angels of mercy to surround and support me in the prayers of women at church. He sent peace to fill me in the form of words on paper from notes and prayers, handwritten and Hallmark alike. His grace filled and flowed from the moment of surrender.
In that glorious house, the glorious truth about how prayer ushers in peace landed in my mind.
I didn’t have the time or space to communicate the details to those women just then, but the opportunity to meditate on the relationship between prayer and peace stirred me to reflect more.
The worst kind of heartache wasn't those hard times. It was sitting in dark places without heart, without help, without hope. It was sitting in those places with my ears closed.
Like the effect of the marvellous home on my beauty-loving mind, the impact prayer has on peace overwhelmed me.
I ruminated on the reality of prayer as a tool to bring about peace, and for the first time, rather than running from the fear of something bad around the corner, and the sense that God might drop another shoe, I rested in the glorious truth that prayer is the path that peace uses to rush in.
Yes, a storm of some kind might be coming. But I can know peace in my soul regardless of my circumstances.
That peace is found in the restored relationship I enjoy with God through Jesus Christ, and in the confidence I have in His purpose for every situation. And most of all, I find peace in knowing that for every heartache I experience, a redemption and restoration project is underway.
Often that project is me.
I took one more look at the river in the background before I walked out of that glorious house, and I pondered God’s glory too. It rushes and bends like a river too. Sometimes crashing in, refusing to let us see anything else.
If only I could make the backdrop of my mind as wide and open! But I can. The more we open our heart and mind to let the Lord work in us, the more we will be able to see His hand and His work running through everything we do.
Lord, open our ears to You!
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