By Karen Swank
I woke this morning the first time around 3:30 a.m. I had left the window above my bed open; the room was deliciously cold, and my pillows and covers luxuriously soft. One of the things I love about waking at that hour is that it somehow makes rising at five seem like sleeping in. I study the clock without glasses from across the room and realize I can stay under the covers for more than an hour longer, and I feel rich.
This is the time for a little prayer snuggle. I watch the pictures flashing through my mind, not trying to keep up with them or slow them down so that I can attach words to them. I watch, and I feel His presence, and gratitude floods me. I am drifting in and out of sleep as I watch, and the beauty of that is that I am not directing this particular picture show. The conscious me always picks mountaintop moments when I am reviewing reasons to be thankful. I have had my share of those, and I never tire of looking at them.
But in an early morning prayer snuggle, Holy Spirit picks the pictures, inviting me to remember the places I have met Him most intimately, and the places I have needed him most desperately. Some of those places I could easily want to forget.
It’s easy to wander back into the births of my children…to an altar call that left my legs so wobbly I could barely make it to the front of the church…to a night at the House of Prayer when I glimpsed His love for me and thought I’d never stop crying from its enormity. Glory moments. I have a fat catalog of them, and those pages in my mind are smudged with fingerprints and tear tracks, worn at the edges. I will always want to look at them one more time.
And then there are the scenes I’d never choose to replay. Choices I have made that have changed others’ lives, and not for the better…and cannot be taken back. Years of my life lost to a dull, unthinking place filled with television, gossip and too much sleep…all walls I built to hide from the One who had to love me, but surely couldn’t like me, I thought.
Moments when my world stretched so thin that I felt certain with my next breath I’d lose my mind, and never return to right. Lies told to cover lies told to cover mistakes. Looking into the eyes of loved ones, and understanding in an instant that a threshold had been crossed that could not be undone…that damage control was the best option I had left. The sudden realization dawning that consequences I had told myself I wouldn’t care about…actually mattered very much. The daily walking out of those consequences, and their unmercifully relentless existence. And of course the piercing pain of others’ words and choices as they touched my life or simply walked away.
In my snuggly place, I watch from the corners of these pictures, listening to the voice of One who calls me beloved. He shows my heart truth.
If I hadn’t made those mistakes…
if I hadn’t wasted those years…
if I hadn’t endured the pain…
if I hadn’t bloodied myself against the brick wall of irreversible choices…
Then I couldn’t know Him the way that I do in this moment. I would be shallowly and mistakenly satisfied in my own strength and wisdom. I would not know the breadth of the gift of His mercy, or the extravagant excessiveness of His grace. I would have strong lenses to detect the faults of others around me, and a pinched, cold, critical heart. I would miss the best things while clinging to things I could only call “good.”
Most of all, I wouldn’t be unceasingly undone by His love. I wouldn’t know the surprise that is new almost daily in this thing. Childlike joy would be beyond my reach. And passion would be something I’d consider a figment of someone’s imagination.
I wouldn’t miss it. Not even for everything it has cost. Would you?
Karen is from Aledo, IL. She went to Monmouth College and studied Latin and English. She is a biological mom of two children and surrogate mom/friend/advocate for a whole host of children. She would like to meet every wounded soul that I’ve she’s ever known… as a child, before the “damage was done” so she could tell them how much they are loved.