“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain.
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace”.
It is a humbling thing to ask for prayer. Especially about matters that induce shame, even if you haven’t done the wrong. The first time I spoke in my Bible Study this year, it came with an unexpected wave of tears, as I struggled to share that I have a son in prison. Giving voice to this reality confronts me again with such force that I can barely breathe, much less speak. So much for first impressions. I left the group that night feeling raw, vulnerable, and unsure of my own stability. This is not like me. Why did I feel so compelled to blurt this out in my introduction? I didn’t know. But it made me uncomfortable, and a little afraid. Could I be trusted to compose myself in public? Clearly, I could not hold back the torrent of emotion that had overwhelmed me that night, from the very first hymn. At the words, “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do”, I blinked back instant tears, and my heart burned within me. Dare I believe it? Allow my mind to consider what good God might bring from all this pain? My battered heart so desperately wanted to believe it possible.
Since I put it out there in my first encounter, I thought I might as well ask for prayer for an upcoming visit to see Eddie. So, I asked for prayer two weeks prior to my visit. The last visit in June had nearly destroyed me. It took about four days to recover from the fear that gripped my heart. I didn’t know if I could do that again. It is so hard to come back to the rest of the family and be who I need to be for them. I have to fight against the grief that threatens to swallow me. And sometimes you just aren’t up for that fight …again. So, this time, I reasoned, I needed as many people praying for me as were willing. And since I had already made a blubbering mess on my first night, what did I have to lose? 😉
My first observation on the morning of my visit was how physically fit I felt. I really felt good, all the way around. The visit itself is physically demanding because it is a four-hour drive, over 200 miles away. I’ve driven it plenty of times, emotionally wrecked, head-pounding, pulling over to take out contacts so foggy that I can’t see to drive. So, to feel this good was a gift, and my heart was so glad. Then, all of my favorite worship songs came on the radio, one after the other, as if cued from on High, a personal sermon to my soul. Danny Gokey’s song, “More Than You Think I Am” is always a comfort. The line, “You always think I’m somewhere on a mountaintop, but never think behind bars” reminds me that Jesus goes places that even a mother cannot go. The day before, my friend wrote to me, “Jesus goes with you”, and the lyric reaffirmed this truth. Then tears came as I sang “Praise you in this Storm”:
“Once again I say Amen, and it’s still raining”.
Yes, it is still raining. Circumstances are still bleak. To think about a child in a horrible place for a day is hard enough. But your child there, in a small prison cell, day after day. On his special day – his birthday. On Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. And so many more days to face. Seven more long years of days.
That’s a lot of rain.
And here I am, once again, saying, “Amen”.
I started to pray to Jesus, who is the Amen (Revelation 3:14), telling Him I was going today on His command to, “Remember those in prison”, asking Him to bless our visit, let Eddie see Him through our time together, and help me emotionally through it. It was about this time that I began to have an awareness of two things. First, I was being prayed for. I could “feel” the prayers of God’s people. This is hard to explain, but I knew their prayers were upholding me in every way. Second, I started to notice the breath-taking color of the fall trees lining both sides of the highway. Everywhere I turned, brilliant yellows, oranges, reds. Shades of glory all around, and the thought started to form, “surrender to the season”. I am working on a fall tree art class at the library in November, and am planning to focus on this idea as the theme. I realized this is exactly what I am doing here. Going where Jesus is calling me to go, trusting in His presence, who goes before and with me; inexplicably, but gloriously true. The beauty of those trees permeated my heart and I started to experience what can only be described as joy.
JOY? JOY. JOY!
It both baffled and amazed me. My heart was filled with praise and thanksgiving; a delight, and glory to God! The visit was much the same as my morning. All of those prayers mattered, and made a difference for us. Eddie and I shared a good time of conversation, laughter, healing. The remarkable thing is that our circumstances had not changed one iota from the last visit. It is that God is changing us. I am confident He is with us, and at work. Even if our circumstances suggest the opposite. And further, God is changing me, as I surrender to this season of life, trusting in its purpose and value. I am looking forward to a harvest as glorious as those fall trees.
So, today. “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do” as you surrender to the season, right where the Lord has you, right now. To the best of your ability, turn all of yourself toward Him. Trust His purpose in your pain, and the possibility of blessing, beauty, and an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8)! And whatever you do, ask others to pray for you. Don’t let fear of looking foolish keep you from the blessing of experiencing the hope and help found in the prayers of the saints. In the end, we will all enter the gates with singing, and the best part will be joining hands with the ones who’ve sown with us in tears, and together, reaping with songs of joy. Just imagine the sheaves from all of this rain (Psalm 126)!