By ANNIE WESCHE
There is always something more in your nature which He wills to mark with the Cross.
Amy Carmichael, Gold Cord
There was a genuine and growing concern within me. Was I becoming a selfish person? Not intentionally, I hoped, but I was realizing that I was in a season where most of my life was made up of daily decisions that only I had to make. I was single, lived alone in my apartment, worked mostly from home, and my family all lived a few states away. For the most part, all the decisions were left to me: what I did with my weekends and evenings, how I spent my money, what I ate for meals, when I scheduled workouts, when I cleaned the house, and when I took a spontaneous drive to the mountains. Other than coordinating work commitments or outings with friends, I had grown very accustomed to thoughts that began with, “What do I…?”
As a Christian, it’s my earnest desire to walk closely with Jesus throughout all of life, and to glorify my Heavenly Father through every decision. I seek Him, ask for His guidance for all manner of things, and desire to follow after what honors Him. So, when this prick upon my conscience persisted, I got on my knees and asked the Lord what He wanted to do with my increasingly self-centric lifestyle.
As I thought and prayed about it for several weeks, a delightful idea began to form in my mind. How perfect! I thought. I’ll get a dog. My daily life will no longer revolve around just me, and having a dog would cultivate the practice of attending to another’s needs beyond just my own. And I’ve been wanting a dog for so long … this could be the perfect solution, and at just the right time in my life…
It causes me to laugh at the thought now, but at the time, I genuinely thought this was the solution for my current trajectory of self-centric living.
/ / /
There are some moments in our lives that leave us forever changed — all “normality” halts, our plans are put on hold, and even our desires change. I had one such moment in August of last year when I received a phone call from my brother that our mother had been rushed to the hospital. I sensed that something serious was unfolding and within 24 hours I had booked a flight home to be with my family. We were thrust into a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, seizures, a diagnosis of stage four brain cancer, brain surgery, a stroke, a long stay in the ICU, and eventually a move into a rehab facility for her recovery. Through it all, I slept every night in a chair or on a hospital couch to be near Mum and my entire focus was on offering her whatever measures of comfort I could.
As those weeks unfolded into the most precious months of caring for my beloved Mum, my life was completely rearranged and my capacities were stretched beyond anything I’d ever experienced. My heart was given to prayer for her healing, comfort, and relief. My hands were engaged in helping bathe her, dress her, feed her, readjust her in bed, help her to the bathroom, style her hair and brush her teeth, or massage her feet. My mind was occupied with managing home health care visits or planning out organic, plant-based meals to help her body heal. My time was scheduled down to the hour with errands, appointments, therapists, visitors, house management, meal prep, and Mum’s daily routine. My mouth was busy reading aloud to her the cards and encouragements that came pouring in or simply sitting and talking with the mother who had long been my best friend. And my soul was continually pressed to fix my eyes on Jesus through all the crashing waves of anxiety, fear, weariness, and suffering that swirled around us.
One night, while Mum was still in the rehab facility, I sat in the darkness unable to fall asleep in the old recliner at the foot of her bed. I looked to where she was laying, taking in the outline of her weak frame dimly visible by the soft glow of moonlight streaming through the window, and I began to pray. I prayed for God’s comfort to flood her heart and for His grace to carry her through all of the indignities and sufferings she was experiencing. I prayed for my own heart and the fortitude and faith I needed to walk the road God had set in front of us. And as the tick-tock of the clock pierced the silence of her small room, I thought back just months earlier to my concerns about developing a self-centric life. Now I hardly had a thought for my own needs, for there before me was one so precious that I would have gladly taken her suffering for myself rather than watch her endure all she was going through. But God had chosen my role in the story and given me a sacred privilege — to love, care, and serve my Mum with my life.
Lord, You’ve taken care of that “selfishness” concern, haven’t You? I whispered in the darkness. And immediately, I felt Him respond to my heart, You were thinking small, My beloved. I could imagine a soft smile and tender gaze from my Heavenly Father as He said it. And I couldn’t help but inwardly laugh at the drastic differences between my solution, and what God was now using to fashion in me selflessness and outward givenness, and at far greater degrees than I’d ever been stretched before. I could see that the conviction stirred in my heart months earlier was God’s loving preparation for me coming into this intense season of serving and caring for my Mum. Yes, Lord, I was thinking so small.
/ / /
It is one of our precious gifts as believers in Jesus Christ, that the Lord will shine the spotlight of His righteousness upon areas of our life that need His correction, growth, or purification. When I sensed Him putting His finger on my self-centric lifestyle, I never imagined the way in which He would refine me there, and I also would have never chosen it on my own. But whether His work comes by way of stretching or challenge, or by trial and sorrow, we can trust His way. Fully. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, or difficult, or painful, or heart-breaking, or even seem impossible to walk through. But He will always supply the grace needed at every turn when we look to Him. And the rewards of His way always abundantly exceed the way we would have chosen for ourselves. Simply put, He is God. May we ever increasingly have hearts that greet the challenges and changes of life by immediately turning our gaze upon Him and finding in Him all we need and all we hope for.
Are there places within your life where God has been shining His searchlight, or places within your heart that you sense need God’s refining work? Listen and respond to Him. Do you find yourself in the midst of a pruning season or heart-breaking trial? Come before the Lord, in whose hand you are tightly held, and seek Him — meditate on His nature and promises, submit to Him, and allow the joy of the Lord to be your strength and your song as you walk obediently through what He has given.