Yesterday, it was cold in the house. Christmas day had been warm in North Carolina and our heat was off. Forgetting to turn it back on before bed meant for a chilly morning, especially for someone whose blood has been thinned by living so many years near the equator. I sat huddled in my chair in the kitchen, coffee steaming next to me, reflecting on the past few weeks. They’ve been hard. Really hard.
I also thought back to the December 26th ten years ago. Alaina was in the bed next to me, Caleb was in his crib, and in our 11th story hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we awoke to the rattles of the crib. Startled but tired, we looked around the room confused, laid our heads back down, and gave in to the sleep our bodies needed.
It wasn’t until evening that I remembered the morning’s alarm. In an internet cafe, I opened an email to see pictures of the sea wall at our school in Penang, Malaysia. It was obliterated. Reading quickly for information, and learning that a tsunami had hit southeast Asia, I realized that the sleep-disturbing rattle was in fact, an earthquake.
That earthquake and the subsequent tsunami changed everything. So many lives lost. So many homes destroyed. So many questions left with gaping holes where answers should be. No one expected the wave. By the time the warning was issued, it was too late.
It’s one thing when you know something big is coming. You prepare for it. You seek safety and security. You run as fast as you can from the danger. But when you don’t see it coming, the surprise can knock off your feet and off your life.
With coffee half gone and Bible still open, I let my heart and mind draw the connections between the December 26th so long ago and the one in front of me with 20 hours still remaining. My personal wave is nothing compared to the big wave of 2004, and yet I can’t help but wonder why there are are also holes where there should be answers. Believe me, we are seeking answers.
I’m not trying to be cryptic. We’re okay. Our kids are great, our family is great, our marriage is great. I, on the other hand, am not great, and we don’t know why. We’re not sure if it is emotional causing physical or physical causing emotional, but we’re chasing answers to both. It’s been three weeks and I wake up each day hoping today is the day the dove returns with the olive leaf.
And now to the point of all these words: I never saw the wave coming but I am so glad I was prepared.
Three and a half years ago, while I was living out my word for the year (rooted), I finally tapped into the life-giving nourishment of daily time in the word. Sure, I had had many previous seasons of regular time in God’s word, but they would inevitably end. Months would go by, sometimes years, before I would once again seek eternal food and drink instead of trying to sustain myself on temporal supplies.
Three and half years of treasuring God’s word has been preparing me for a wave I did not see coming. I had no way of knowing that the normally happy, busy, go-for-it girl that I am would break.
The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it? Proverbs 18:14
Pick your metaphor: walking in the valley, walking through the waters, walking in darkness, walking through the fire. They all work. They all describe the state of my heart and spirit.
However, as much as the metaphors apply, so do the promises:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. Isaiah 43
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalm 119
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43
When I was in high school and early college, I struggled with depression. It was bad. Really bad. Some thought I should snap out of it. Some thought I was choosing it. Some were oblivious to it. Regardless, I spent many years completely locked inside my broken spirit. I wasn’t prepared and had no way out.
I’ve spent close to 17 years free from this darkness. I braced myself each time I had a baby, expecting that someone like me would surely succumb to postpartum struggles. Instead, I had the opposite reaction. Postpartum euphoria. Not many women would get up and make four different kinds of pancakes for her family and guests 36 hours after giving birth.
So imagine my surprise when this wave hit. It came out of nowhere. I couldn’t have predicted it or planned for it. However, I was prepared.
I have saturated my heart with truth. For more than three years I have filled my heart and soul with God’s word. The pages of my Bible are worn from use, my journals overflow. I know God’s truth. I know His character. And I know that He is with me now.
He doesn’t take us out of the valley, He walks with us.
He doesn’t eliminate the waters, He walks with us.
He doesn’t quench the fire, He walks with us.
Like Joseph, I stored up in times of (emotional and physical) plenty and it is serving me in times of (emotional and physical) want. I don’t know how long the lean times will last, but I know the storehouses are overflowing. God prepared me for this and I trust in His purposes for me.
As you prepare for a new year and you fill your thoughts and planner pages with all sorts of resolutions, I urge you — no, BEG you — to choose the most important resolution. Choose His Word. Choose it over TV, choose it over sleep, choose it over work. Be honest with yourself about your excuses and start filling yourself with food that lasts. Prepare your heart. Prepare your mind. When the wave comes, no matter what kind of wave it is, you’ll survive. And even more, you’ll know that you will survive. No one expects the wave, but we can all prepare for it.