One of my favorite movies (and I have many) is the remake of the “The Holiday.” It chronicles the story of two women who’ve experienced heartbreak resulting from breakups and elect to switch houses during the holiday season as a method to “get away, regroup and find solace.” The movie brings me joy, but also surprisingly, the perfect background for rest. I recorded it during this past December, and it has a runtime of a little over three hours. The music plays a significant role in the movie. Its soothing and pleasant and lulls me away in the most serene sleep. I’ve spent the last two weeks allowing the movie to watch me as I slumbered. You see, last July, as I trained for running a full marathon (I know, what was I thinking?!), I began to experience significant pain in my arms and legs, each time more incredible as I ran. The pain added a friend in the form of tiredness and fatigue. No matter how much I slept and rested, it was never quite enough. I visited the doctor, and was on my second round of heavy vitamin D. I soon picked up irritability, and frustration with the things that would normally bring me happiness. Before I knew it, we were in the year 2017, sometime around the celebration of the Dr. King holiday, and I was struck with the flu. After I finished the meds and three weeks were pass, I felt worse than ever. I returned to my doctor for the third time in about six months to express my symptoms. I was referred to an endocrinologist. A tumor on one of my parathyroid glands was detected to be the thread of each of the symptoms I’d carried for months. The determination was made that a 20 minute procedure would be life changing. So, I consulted with God and of course, my family, and the surgery was scheduled.
Praise God, it was successful! I was instructed to stay at home and rest for at least two weeks. And so, I return to the beginning, and back to “The Holiday.” I had no home to switch. I suppose I had to switch out my life as I knew it, “work, running, sorority, prison ministry, board work” for my recliner. The first couple of days were filled with elements of recovery and pain management, but soon thereafter, I settled into a brief, but intense inquiry of God for the purpose of this episode. I wondered and dared to ask God, “Why?” We serve a sovereign God and he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Why did I believe he should answer me, or rather, how bold of me to even ask! Thank God for Jesus, and for his unyielding love for me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that although it showed up in the form of a tumor, the result in the end was beneficial to my soul, in that I had opportunity to spend time with God. I couldn’t do work. Each time I tried, the location of the incision prevented me from engaging. So, I stopped. Instead, I prayed. I watched and listened to sermons. I sang. I listened to God. I listened to him speak and share that as a result of this illness, I was granted time spent with him uninterrupted. Through my healing, I was reminded of Psalm 27:5: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” In his safety, I found peace. I found a reconnection. I found rejuvenation. I found affirmation. I found God. Again.
Again, after doing all that is within me to show him to others. However, through ministry, we need to be replenished. I did not know the extent to which I needed to be refreshed! Psalm 42:1 reads, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” I was in need of hydration! I had no idea that I was existing in a dry place. In “The Holiday,” one of the characters, Amanda Woods hadn’t been able to cry since she was a teenager. When she was able to reconnect to this vulnerable place in her heart, she found herself wiping wetness from her face. The narrator of the film stated, “Amanda Woods, Welcome Back!” If there was a narrator in my home following my two weeks restoration, it would say the same of me. I needed to be watered! I am more grateful than I’ve been in a long time. I have a new, more profound meaning for my “life, health and strength.” I am actively seeing the hand of God in places and spaces where I thought to be void. I am witnessing his grace in the most compelling manner.
I am not suggesting sickness as a methodology to get to God. I am however suggesting that it is quite appropriate for us to do regular and consistent checkins in spaces other than Facebook to see where we are in our walk and relationship with the Creator. We can get so busy doing the work of the Kingdom that we miss fellowship with the King. I just love him. You can’t make me doubt him. Certainly the enemy is not happy, but when is he ever? I don’t have room for him. I’ve got to create avenues of walking out my purpose as God has orchestrated, but not by sacrificing the time he has purposed just for the two of us! Stephanie Helms Pickett, Welcome Back!