In the beginning of most of my blogs, I usually tell a story describing a classroom filled with students, some moose in a mountain meadow, or our minivan family dynamic as we speed off to a soccer tournament. This one, however, is different because I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you for not only reading my blog posts but also for walking with me through life over this past year. You have been the best kind of friend, the kind that offers that selfless listening ear, allowing me to process the ups and downs of this journey I’ve been on and the moments God has shown up in the midst of it all. God has used you to be the sunshine I’ve needed to break through the scattered clouds of my life.
Some of those clouds came in an email I recently received. Many of you know I’ve been writing a book about experiencing God in the public schools where I’ve worked. Just a few weeks ago, I opened my Gmail account and saw a publisher’s name in my inbox. I lowered the screen of my laptop and took a breath before opening it back up to read what it said. Immediately, I knew where the message was headed. “I love your writing and storytelling but. . .” It was a gut punch, but the message was gracious. He had great feedback and even wrote, “This is not a closed door.” It has to be hard to say “no” to aspiring writers, but this man did it with grace. I found Deb in the kitchen and handed her the laptop with the email. “I’m sorry Babe,” she whispered, putting down the pot she was drying to lean in close. We talked for a minute, and then I went back upstairs to finish a blog post. Before I ever received the email from the publisher, I was writing about a cave, but as I began writing that day, I knew that with this blog, more than with any other blog post I had written before, the audience God really had me writing for was me. “We all have lies,” I wrote, “and like Habu snakes, slithering towards our hearts, they trap us in our caves.” The post was about an experience and a lesson I learned a week prior, but as I wrote, I could feel the darkness. My heart’s response to the email from the publisher trapped me in a cave, and God was helping me find my way out.
I sat in my bed writing and praying, trying to let it go, and then I went back downstairs. Hope and Deb were sitting in a sea of papers. Our “craft closet” was bursting at the seams with paint, all different kinds of paper, and every creative accessory known to man from pipe cleaners to colored beads. The explosion rolled like lava into our living room, and I walked in, taking a seat at the fireplace. “This might encourage you,” Deb said, digging in the pile and handing me a piece of card stock decorated with clouds. It was scrap paper because at some point, someone had printed in bold, black letters Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” At the moment, I wasn’t ready to receive anything, so I left it on the bricks next to me.
Hope’s soccer game was later that day, and every call the refs made was frustrating. When a parent from the other team yelled, “Go team! You are the super winners! Yeah team!” after I had just cheered, I was pretty sure he was mocking me, and I pictured myself walking up and taking a swing at the funny man’s face. When Hope shied away from the ball, I turned to Deb with a furrowed brow and whispered, “Why isn’t she being aggressive?”
After we got home, I leaned over to grab some peanut butter. When I stood up, I hit my head on a cupboard door. That was it! With pain throbbing, the volcano finally burst, and I slammed that door as hard as I could. Hope and Deb jumped, looking over at me. Rubbing the bump, I just said, “I hit my head. Sorry.”
Sitting alone the next morning, trying to be still, God brought that verse back to mind. Romans 15:13 links hope with joy and peace. Of course it does, I thought. That makes sense. Maybe that was what I was missing. Like Heizo and Higa in that Okinawan cave, God walked into my cave and brought His truth. Somehow, although I tried to be tough when I got that email from the publisher, I lost hope, and when I lost hope, the joy and peace I had went right along with it. That’s when it became easy to slam cupboard doors and think about hitting funny guys. The lie was exposed, the lie that I have no hope was the snake I couldn’t see, and it had me trapped in the darkness of my own cave. It was the same darkness I felt when Deb and I were told by doctors we wouldn’t be able to have children. It was the same darkness that I couldn’t shake when we went to Venezuela to start a Young Life club for kids, and after planning a Christmas party for months, nobody showed up. We face an enemy who sends his snakes to lie to us and steal, and if he can take away our hope, he knows peace and joy go with it. But guess what!? Although the darkness of our caves may feel overwhelming, darkness always gives way to light. The truth God gave me to lead me out of my cave was a reminder that He is a God of hope, and as long as we have Him, which we always will, we will always have hope. Using a blog post I was writing and a piece of well-timed scrap paper, God proved He is near. He saw me stuck in that cave, He helped me “see” the truth, and He walked me out of the darkness.