At the beginning of this year, I was determined to slow down. To enjoy life. To really settle in and make this new city our home. I had plans of lazy Saturdays, hiking on Sundays, more dancing overall, and learning as much as I could at work during the week. I even determined to take a quiet vacation — no noisy amusement parks this year. The word for the year was retreat. However, that idea did not last long.
In early January, Damon had an accident during youth group. We thought he tore his rotator cuff and began to brace ourselves to be told he needed surgery. The rest of the month, our calendar was peppered with various doctor appointments. It turned out to be a strain, but there was a stack of bills to pay.
In February, Mark and Damon took turns being sick with a respiratory infection. It didn’t leave them much energy for anything other than school and work, and all household tasks quickly fell to me. At work, we had two key employees retire, rather suddenly, so my duties there changed quickly and drastically. By the end of the month, I was working late every evening, rarely leaving the office before dark.
A friend of ours had a death in the family, and I wanted to prepare a meal for her. Every day one week, I had planned to do it but wound up working late and arriving home too tired. The night I finally decided to gather my strength and do it, the stove malfunctioned and started a small fire. I spent the rest of the night cleaning up celery, onion and fire extinguisher dust from the kitchen and beyond.
Damon had another incident in early March. This time he was rear-ended by a little car that was damaged far worse than Damon’s sturdy truck. But there was still a bumper to repair, a few chiropractor appointments to attend and insurance claims to settle.
Three weeks after that, I discovered that my wedding ring, my anniversary ring, and a bracelet were stolen from my jewelry box by a maintenance worker. Interviews with the detective, phone calls with the apartment management, a trip to a pawn shop, and a meeting with the magistrate to swear out a warrant all stole precious time from my busy schedule. And pleading notes from the suspect who still had not been arrested, but who wanted to explain things, began to unnerve me.
Then Mark and I attended a comedy concert that we had eagerly anticipated for weeks. We left encouraged after uplifting words from the comedian, not to mention a much-needed belly laugh! But as we waited to leave the busy church parking lot, we were hit by a truck backing out of a space. We were not hurt, but my car looked like it had been punched by the Incredible Hulk. More insurance claims and a rental car.
And along the way, there have been the daily worries, struggles and stresses that weigh down a working wife and mother.
Retreat? Yeah, right. How could I have been so mistaken?
Boot camp. That’s what this has been.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians about his suffering (2 Cor. 11). He was whipped, flogged, pursued, betrayed, stoned, starved, imprisoned and shipwrecked. And all this while worrying about his struggling churches all over the region, trying to shepherd them from a distance (without the benefit of e-mail or social media). And what was his response? “I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus.”
Why has God allowed all of these things to happen to us? To me? I am sure His reasons are many, with eternal purposes that I cannot yet comprehend. And while they are nothing compared to the Apostle Paul’s list, I can I already see some of the benefits of these challenges. I have learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have learned to trust God more, question His unending love less, and know He has a reason for everything. I have been reminded — repeatedly — that I am not in charge. Ultimately, God’s purpose is to make me more like Jesus.
Maybe we will have a retreat next year. For now, I am content to soldier on.