Thankfully, we have many seasons in our life when the sun is shining and the birds are singing --- when all is right in our world.
But if we are truthful --- if we dare to be honest -- if we are normal -- we also have valley walks.
What a comfort it was to me to hear one of our teachers at Missionary Training International explain the common path prayers can take when we are at our end and fully emptied of self. His breathing out whisper of "God -- help -- me..." prayer resonated in my soul and i couldn't help but look around me to see if anyone else was touched as deeply. I knew it would surely show in their eyes.
I'm normally, as long as life isn't pressing in on me with sandpaper, i'm normally a cup half full, sun is rising, life is good sort of person. It's a pleasure to me to take what i have and make it the absolute best it can be --- for everyone.
I don't get too impressed by shopping extravaganzas or designer dream homes. Oh i see the beauty and fun of that world --- but i don't find peace and fulfillment in those arenas. Instead, i love best of all seeing the simple multiplied into the priceless.
But when walking through life's valleys ---- sometimes simple becomes shattered and multiplication seems mind-boggling.
I've melted down and poured into the marrow of my bones ---- "yay, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear NO evil, for you, God, are with me -- your rod and your staff they comfort me... YOU prepare a table before me --- even in the presence of my enemies --- and there, sitting there, even with enemies looking on -- YOU LORD anoint my head with oil -- and there even after i've walked through the valley --- my cup will overflow Lord, because of YOU..."
i've come to understand that valley walks are not "bad". I wouldn't say they are "good" either. They are just a different route, not a preferable route, but sometimes a necessary one.
For years, i falsely believed that if i was not "up" i would be disappointing my Abba. I somehow believed that only when i was glowing with His joy would He be pleased with me. Then as valley walks were laid in front of me, i pondered, why?
Oh the comfort that came with scriptures reminding me --- "what man meant for harm, God uses for good..." and "all things (valleys walks included) all things work together for GOOD for those who love the Lord and are called to His purposes..."
So good can be found on the other side of the valley ---- sometimes good can begin seeping into us in the middle of the valley's dark places. Because His rod and His staff ---- HE is never apart from us.
Recently i actually envisioned myself walking along a shadowy, dark valley with God walking beside me --- He was knitting a shawl partially draped on my shoulders. The shawl was beginning to warm me, it wasn't finished yet, so i could still feel the chill of the valley floor, but He was beside me, making the very thing that would eventually shelter me completely during valley walks. The image is seared in my mind. Avoiding the valley is of NO value. But seeing the care and cover of my Savior in the midst of the valley is priceless. And remembering that not only is He with me there, but also He is working (knitting) all things together --- for my good. Without Him, i would be cold and lost in the dangerous life-draining valley. But with Him, i can feel cared for and covered, no matter what the valley canyons reveal.
Several weeks ago, i found myself suddenly in a valley place. I was startled by it. When we go from mountain top to valley floor quickly, it's a jolt. It didn't literally take my breath away, but figuratively it certainly did.
And something happened to me in the impact that i had never experienced before.
I began feeling as if --- God was toying with me. I began to wonder --- can i really trust Him. I looked around me at all the people smiling and talking and enjoying life --- and i felt suddenly "out", alone, and forgotten. It was a horrible LIE. But for a few hours one day the lies seemed true. I tried to "take those thoughts captive" (i've done that so many times before). I tried to recite my scriptures (they are a home for my heart usually). I tried to cinch up the belt of truth and pull the sword of the Spirit. But if i'm truly honest -- i went down under the attack.
My dear Steve knew -- i told him --- and he poured truth and prayers over me in earnest.
For the first time EVER in my life --- i moaned... inside... as never before.
And all that could finally come out of me were the words ---- "God...help...me" --- "God...please help"--- "GOD" --- and then finally "(silent moans to Him)"...
If you've never been "there" --- in a valley like that --- you might have the tendency to look down on me. You might think to yourself, she---- has no business --- serving God in Africa.
If those are your thoughts --- God bless you mightily and strengthen you greatly for the valley walk ahead.
No one escapes the valley.
But, if you have been "there" --- if that valley or one very much like it -- is a place you have left your footprints or your knee prints --- then you know --- what it feels like to sense the Savior beside you knitting a shawl to cover your cold weariness.
As the attack passed --- and the sun came up --- my cup began to overflow in ways it had never done so before. My eyes had seen my Savior in a way i'd never seen Him before. I knew for sure, it mattered little to Him HOW i journeyed. It mattered most to Him that i keep moving forward WITH HIM whether my path led to pristine mountain tops or dark valleys.
GOD was not dependent on me (my smiles or good attitude or clever whit or depth of knowledge) and what's more, God's opinion of me was not altered by my moaning ------ I was completely dependent on HIM ---- and this pleased Him.
Would Abba love this daughter more if i smiled at Him and glowed happiness or would He love me less if i wept beside Him moaning with sad weariness?
The answer ----- His love doesn't change NO MATTER how i might change.
Oh it's in the valley walks --- the fertilizer is often times so deep.
Rains wash fertile soil from mountain tops --- to valley floors.
In the valley ---- all that we walk (or crawl) through --- can be used to grow us stronger.
I've come out of that valley ---- changed.
Nothing could be sweeter than the "shawl", the cover, that rests on my shoulders. It reminds me --- He is with me... it doesn't matter how good i am or how weak i might feel ---- HE IS WITH ME.
Gone are the thoughts of wrestling with Him at the valley entrance.
I'll willingly step into those valleys, because He covers me, He is with me, strength will come through perseverance in the valley, and at the far side of the valley i'm guaranteed a holy Hope.
Suffering/tribulation produces perseverance produces character produces HOPE. (Romans 5:3-5)
Two nights ago, my oldest son, Michael called to me from another room in our home, "Mom, come in here, listen to this song, i know you'll love it."
How beautiful it is to be "fed" by your own children.
He played the song --- i wiped my eyes --- Steve sat with us --- we were silent afterwards.
i was held by the words in the chorus:
(the name of the song is "Madly in Love with You" by Sean McConnell --- bless yourself by listening to it today --- big love to Sean McConnell for using his talent so well -- fruit overflowing)
©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe