Years ago at a women’s conference, I saw one of the most poignant presentations that I’ve ever witnessed. And I think I am being honest when I say “ever.”
The conference center was filled with thousands of women chattering when the lights went down and a figure appeared on stage. Although she was dressed in rather bland attire, had very little makeup and an even less attractive style, we were all quickly engrossed in her monologue. There in the spotlight, a woman speaking with a Yiddish accent began telling a story. We all knew this was not real. She was an artist who was painting us a picture through drama. But it sure seemed real. I was captivated. Her story was so riveting that I could not take my eyes off of the stage. She spoke of a time she had recently sat alone in a booth at a small diner, witnessing a frustrated customer ranting over his less-than-stellar service from an over-worked waitress. She communicated in somber tones as she recalled the memory of that day. We could all sense the agony she felt as she watched the scene unfold. She could not understand the depth of his angst. You see, her family had been victims of the Holocaust. She was the only one to barely escape the terror. Her parents and siblings had all suffered in front of her very eyes, eventually dying. You could have heard a pin drop as she shared about the suffering and torture they had all experienced. And now, the sole survivor, she was recalling the feelings she had as she sat there near the angry man. He was fuming and frustrated at how violated his rights were that his burger did not have cheese, and that the waitress had taken so long to deliver it.
And then she said it. The two words I’ll never forget. They hit me hard.
She spoke the words slowly and deliberately, unable to comprehend the kind of emotion that was spent on an incorrect order. What could possibly be so bad about a burger without cheese? Even if it was delayed? Was his perspective so skewed that he had no idea what real pain or suffering is?
It was just a performance. It was possibly taken from a real-life scenario, but it didn’t matter. Because sitting in the audience that evening, that story became real to me. My heart was shocked into perspective.
The past few weeks have been truly wonderful as our family has been able to have some days together. We have journeyed into God’s creation, we’ve talked through lots of topics, and we’ve enjoyed game nights and picnics. We have shared many laughs and hugs and meals. But in the middle of all the wonderful was a very nasty stomach bug that lasted almost the entire two weeks. It interfered with meal times, it kept people sidelined, and it changed the dynamics of some of the fun family plans. With each day that passed, as another family member was taken down, I became discouraged because my prayers for healing went unanswered. Brent’s two messages from Psalm 23 and Psalm 27 helped temporarily, but my heart was downcast. I tried to keep hoping and believing that “this is the last one to get sick.” But just as we thought we were clear, yet another.
This morning, as the very last family member woke up sick, thoughts of faith and trust waned. My very last hopeful prayer had also been met with a “no” answer. My sweet sister would not be spared. Sickness was going to accompany her on her trip home. I dreaded the day for her, thinking about her boarding a plane and probably experiencing an excruciating flight in which she would barely make it to the bathroom (and indeed that happened).
As I was ready to give in to the hopelessness, and believe the lie that God really doesn’t care, my oldest daughter walked in and spoke a one-word sermon to me that preached the very same message I heard all those years ago: Perspective.
While a stomach bug is something that no one would ask for, it’s also a minor inconvenience in the scheme of things. Even though we may have wanted to die in the moment, within 24 hours we all felt better. It came and went, and we all survived. And we even had lots of fun. There were some really good days. In fact, there were mostly good days. Sweet days.
Tonight I sit in a very quiet house and I zoom out. I think about my life and the mercy that chases me everyday. No one in our immediate family received a fatal diagnosis this week. I wasn’t faced with an empty chair at dinner because of a wayward or disconnected child. No one was worried or anxious about having enough food each day. We had a cool home to return to every day, getting us out of the scorching temps. Luggage was filled to the brim with clothes and toys and extras. And beyond that, we really love each other. We support each other. We pray for each other. We’re a bunch of good friends.
Perspective: So much grace.
I’m sad to say that I’ll probably be reminded of this lesson again. And it will likely be the hard way. Because I still tend to default to a skewed perspective. Minor inconveniences still rob me of my joy way too often.
Life can be hard. A stomach bug can take over a family gathering and change everything. It can also cause me to lose my perspective and throw a pity party.
But God is so good. And He is faithful. In fact, He can not NOT be good. He can not NOT be faithful. I must choose a new perspective. I must choose to bring into focus the one thing, and not the minor inconveniences of life.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. Pm 27
Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3
I know the One in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that He is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day. 2 Tim 1
Zoomed out I see it so clearly. My faith should not be placed in an outcome. My faith should find its resting place in the Ever-living One. I need no other argument, I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.