A few weeks ago I came down with a cold; it wasn’t too bad until the cough started. That cough felt like something from the pit of hell. It was like no cough I have ever had, that I can remember anyway. It felt like my body was trying to exorcise my lungs! But nothing ever really came out. Needless to say, it was horrible. As a result of all the coughing the small of my back started aching. And as the cough thankfully began to subside the pain in my back didn’t. I thought about calling my trusty massage therapist but then decided I could tough it out until my back got better. (To be completely honest I was really just trying to save the money.) Anyway, this past weekend we went to my sister-in-laws house for Thanksgiving and I got to see her newly remodeled kitchen. It is beautiful! All shiny and new and spacious and CLEAN! I’ll admit to a touch of envy. 😉 Well, I came home all inspired to clean and organize my own house in order to make it feel shiny and new and spacious and clean. On Thanksgiving Day Sean and I had pulled all the Christmas boxes out of the attic but I hadn’t put any of the decorations out yet. So, Monday I woke up all chipper and ready to get to work on the house. Sure my back was still just as sore as it had been for the last few weeks, but I’m tough, and cheap. So I got to work taking the leaves out of the stretched out dining room table and putting all the Thanksgiving dishes away. I got out the vacuum and moved the recliner and the end table and swept under them…and that’s when I got really ambitious. I moved the couch.
Now, I have to give you some history behind this piece of beloved furniture. Sean and I bought it almost 13 years ago, before we were even married, from a friend of his sister’s (the sister-in-law mentioned earlier in fact). They were selling this couch because they had had it for many years themselves and had gotten it from her parents who had had it for many years as well. I don’t want to make this couch older than it really is… but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s in it’s 20th year or so… if not more. On top of being ancient, it’s also a sofa bed. This thing weighs a TON easily. And normally I can move it with some struggling and end up with a slightly sore back when I’m done, but this time I was starting with a sore back. I have to admit to a high pain tolerance, so even though my back hurt like the dickens after I moved it I kept going. (I’m a *little* strong willed too, did I mention that?) I vacuumed under where the couch had been sitting for the last year or so… EW!!! And then after deciding that I didn’t like where I had put it, I put it back!!! Sigh…
So…. yeah… already sore back turned into a REALLY sore back, I had reached the point where it hurt to even breathe! So, I finally conceded to the pain and lay down on the object of my defeat, the couch. I left the vacuum out, the random smaller pieces of furniture still waiting for new homes, the Christmas boxes, everything got left precisely where it had been; and has stayed there all week long as a memorial to my pain.
That morning, before I started moving furniture, God had inspired me to write. He had told me to be still and write and I got up and moved furniture. The next morning, Tuesday, while Sean was getting ready for work and we were talking about my back pain and I said to him that I felt God was using this pain to tell me to “be still and know that He is God”. I walked into the bathroom and started reading my devotional from Streams in the Desert, the verse for the day… “Be still and know that I am God”. I laughed and decided that I wouldn’t try to push myself at all that day. I would sit in the recliner on the heating pad and try to get my tense back to relax. And I did just that while working on my computer and getting a few things done. Not any writing though. The next morning, Wednesday, I woke up and when I moved my head to look at the clock white hot pain went shooting down my spine. “Great”, I thought, “another day of being still”. I had really hoped to be able to go to my Mom’s in Prayer meeting that morning and work with the kids at the school in Good News Club that afternoon, so much for MY plans. As I painfully waved the kids out the door for the morning I could feel the Holy Spirit beaconing me to pray. I carefully got down on the floor and lay on my face on the carpet, forehead resting on my hands. This was going to be another long day. I lay there praying, and I could feel the Spirit stirring within me, begging me to calm the waters of my soul and allow Him to heal me. And once again, what did He say? “Be STILL.”
“Wait, You mean, like more still than I already have been? Like no moving around, no activities? No TV, no radio, no reading, no computer, no nothing??? Oh Geez!”
“Be STILL and know that I am God”
I got up, I lay down flat on my back on that couch, got situated in my trusty pink Snuggie and waited. The sound of my own breathing filled my ears, the trickle of the fish tank across the room, the hum of the refrigerator, you don’t realize how loud your house is until you sit back and just listen to it. I lay there, still as I could be, listening to hear what God wanted me to hear. No voices but His, no other influences but His Spirit and mine joined for a day of fellowship. He was making me lie down in green pastures. He IS a good shepherd you know. It took Him three days to get me where He really wanted me, but thankfully He is oh so patient with me. He knows I take time. He’s so good! While I lay there transfixed in His presence allowing Him to hold me like I haven’t let Him hold me in ages He showed me why my back had been hurting. Spiritually I had been carrying around a backpack full of large stones, past hurts from my life, things that I’ve been through in these last few years that caused me tremendous pain at the time that they happened.
In the Bible, when Jacob encountered God through a dream, when he awoke the stone he had used for a pillow he erected as a memorial of the dream. That stone served as a reminder of what had happened at that place. That dream encounter with God was a milestone moment in Jacob’s life and he wasn’t about to forget it. I, like Jacob, have collected literal physical stones on milestone days in my life when I feel I have encountered God. I have a pile of them on my desk. The first one I collected when I stepped out of my house onto the porch after a big day with God and I looked under the little table on our deck to see a small round smooth stone next to a stick. I picked them up and held them in my hand and all I could think of was the phrase “am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” This is what Goliath said to David when he strode out onto the battle field with nothing but five smooth stones and his trusty sling. That stone is my David stone to remind me that “Nothing is impossible with God” and that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. The large stone on the bottom of the pile is a stone that my daughter brought in from outside. To this day I do not know why she thought she needed to bring it in other than the Holy Spirit told her to because it had been another milestone day for me and He wanted me to remember it. I certainly remember that little bitty three year old lugging in the biggest rock her little hands could carry!!! She looked hilarious, and so very sweet. J I have another stone that is quite precious to me; I found it in my hair stylist’s driveway. You know me and God and smiley faces right? Well, I had been having a hard day, was over there to cheer HER up when I came out to my car right next to my driver’s door was this precious little face smiling at me from the ground. I snatched it up and showed my friend Kelly my new milestone. I didn’t feel like I should just take it without asking, even though I was sure that Cindy wouldn’t mind. So I popped my head back through her front door and asked her if I could keep it. She laughed at me, said “sure” and then explained that during the summer to entertain her boys she lets them take paints outside and paint the rocks (GENIUS). Apparently one of her boys decided to paint a smiley face and I just HAPPENED to park right next to it that day.
In my place of stillness and fellowship on the couch it was not these milestones that God was showing me. Those milestones had been happy ones, easy to carry. The stones I had been carrying in my spiritual backpack were pain-filled memories. Times that God had CERTAINLY been with me, no doubt about that, but painful none the less. He recalled to my memory another milestone day when He had called me to be still and I lay on that very same couch asking Him to help me forgive the people that had caused those very same painful milestones in my life. And I did, one by one the two of us went through the memories and forgave the offenders of their offenses. It was more freeing than I can explain to you in words. But for those of you who have forgiven grievous offenses, you know what I mean. On this day, we went back through those past pains again, one by one. I would pull out the stone and we would evaluate, “does the memory of this event still cause you pain” and when I could honestly say “no” I would hand Him the stone. The moment that it touched His hand it turned into a white feather. No longer the heavy hard stone, He placed that light and soft feather into the cap I was wearing; a reminder of my side by side journey with Him through the happy moments and the painful ones. This memory was no longer a heavy hurtful memory, but rather a bright reminder of God’s grace and presence in my life; a feather in my cap, so to speak. Then He showed me the feather filled cap transforming into a crown filled with gemstones of all different colors. My heavenly crown filled with the milestone moments from life; the very things, the only things that will go with me when I leave this world and enter the next, my memories. He showed me talking to brothers and sisters I do not yet know, pointing to a gemstone in my crown and explaining to them how I received it. Reminders of life past, living on my head for all eternity as the perfect conversation piece. Oh how marvelous! I wonder which one will be the stone that Anna carried in. When we finished this exercise Jesus showed me my backpack, no longer full, but it wasn’t empty either. More time is required for that, some wounds are still far too fresh to honestly say they cause me no pain. However, it is a much lighter load to carry now.
When I was explaining this experience to my friend Tammy later it reminded me of a conversation I had with a young widow once. She and I were talking of her husband’s death and she said to me “it’s not something you ever get over; it’s just something you learn how to carry”. Our milestones in life aren’t something we ever get over; we just learn how to carry them. They start out as stones, heavy and hard to bear. Then one by one, through time with Jesus we are able to forgive and place them on our back, then eventually hand them over to Him allowing Him to turn them from stones to feathers. With even more time they turn from feathers to gemstones in a crown made just for us.
His yoke is easy and His burden is light, is He calling you to be STILL and know that He is God? Is He making you lie down in green pastures so that He can heal your weary soul and lift the burden of a backpack filled with stones from your shoulders? Oh my friend, if He is, do not tarry like I did! Don’t waste your time moving furniture to make your house look cleaner. Be still and let Him move your heart to make you life cleaner! Heed the call of the Shepherd who loves you, lie down in that pasture with Him, feast on the sweet green grass around you dear sheep, fill your belly with the good things He has given you… even the painful ones… they’re the most nutritious I think. J
PS: My back feels much better now, God is amazing!