Monday, April 23, 2012

God’s Welcome Mats

When I think of welcome mats, I feel warm anticipation of a wonderful evening as I stand holding a bottle of wine, handful of daffodils, and a green salad, on the front porch of a friend. I’m learning there are other kinds of welcome mats.

On a recent morning our welcome mat was covered with white blossoms from our ornamental pear tree. Lest you lapse into romantic reveries involving strewn flower petals, let me explain that this mat is by our back door and the pear tree is in our front yard. Not only did the winds slamming our house all night nearly strip the pear tree, they had to swirl the pear blossoms in cyclone fashion to get them up over the house and down and around to our back door. To quote Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” 

The blossoming pear tree that had spelled h-o-p-e, or at least s-p-r-i-n-g, now spells d-o-n’-t c-o-u-n-t o-n a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. One minute spring is lovely and white; next minute it’s brown. I’m not talking about weather. I’ve lived near Chicago all my life; changeable weather doesn’t faze me in the least. I’m talking about loss and hope, maybe even loss of hope, certainly loss of control. Not that I could ever control the wind, but you know, life rumbles along year after year, the leaves stay on your trees, the roof stays on your house, and you get to feeling secure. Then a cyclone comes along, and you see with great clarity that you are not in control. Welcome to reality.

When a loved one lands in the hospital, you are greeted by another form of welcome mat—the patient info board that tells you the nurse’s name. The board also has the infamous pain scale, and hey, it’s bilingual—you can describe your pain in terms of 1 to 10, or smiley to frowny faces. My husband was recently welcomed to four days of tests, blood draws, and oxygen tubes during a major health scare. If the welcome board had shown a fear spectrum, from a singing-in-the-rain face [think: Gene Kelly’s uplifted mug] to The Scream face [Edvard Munch’s painting], I would have had to circle the The Scream face. Who tap-dances up a lamp post and welcomes rain with open arms and a closed umbrella anyway? I mean, really.

Time to don different glasses—
eternal-perspective peepers.

First of all, no matter how harsh the winds, we can always count on one thing—God’s love. When white-blossomed hopes lie limp, wilting at our feet, God opens His arms to welcome and comfort us in disappointment and heartache; He cries with us over this broken world and even collects our tears. I was not able to take a photo of this type of welcome mat. Last I checked their product catalog, Home Depot did not sell Come-to-Me compassion mats. But reading the bible will help you conjure your own picture.

Secondly, no matter how scary the situation, we can trust God has loving purposes for it. He even teaches us to get better and better at trusting Him through trials. How’s this for a welcome mat? Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. [James 1:2,3] Yes, I was scared to lose my husband, but when I took my fear to my Lord, He impressed upon me the reality of His presence. I knew I could trust God to carry me, no matter what happened. My husband and I and probably most people prefer not to feel powerless, but being dependent on people’s prayers and God’s grace was sobering and humbling. If we hadn’t been needy, we wouldn’t have seen how many people cared and prayed and visited and e-mailed and called and brought food. I hope in the future we’ll be more sensitive to others’ needs when they’re overwhelmed by health trials. 

God changed us both in good, growing ways still unfolding. I may not be tap-dancing up a lamp post to welcome the rain, but at least in retrospect, I am grateful for eternal-perspective lessons in this trial. Don’t know how many more trials it will take for me to “consider it pure joy,” but I will say one thing: My drives to and from the hospital on those four days, when I cranked up the praise music and sang along, were the only times I breathed freely. When I wasn’t singing God’s praises, my chest seemed to have an elephant sitting on it.
Swirling winds and health scares welcome us to a different reality—one where God meets us, carries us, changes us. When we stand on God’s porch with daffodils, green salad, and wine, we don’t even have to ring the doorbell. He is there to welcome us into His quieting embrace, His banquet table, the garden of His presence.


Carol said...

The image of the pear blossoms conveyed the sudden impact of your husband's hospitalization. So glad that you felt the love of God-- thru scripture and loving friends.

The verse from James calls us to grow. Your testimony is inspiring. Beautifully written.

tandemingtroll said...

Is your husband okay now? {Hugs}! And prayers!

AquaJane said...

He's pretty good, Kris. Thanks for asking. We're still getting used to new meds, new diet, new exercise needs, but the doctors say they are no longer worried for his life. Thank you, Lord!