Updated: Jul 1, 2022
."I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
Romans 7:18, 20 NIV.
That was Paul, the Apostle of Jesus, confessing with all of us how difficult it is to avoid sin. Even as a Christian! Probably even harder because Satan wants to steal us away from Christ.
Can you identify with Paul?
I can. I grieve every day over my own struggle with frustration and impatience. I love my kids and I WANT to be kind and soft-spoken, and always start off with grand intentions. We do have amazing days. But then I find myself getting heated (literally HOT flashes, sometimes) and raising my voice at things that should be light, maybe even laughable. Little things don’t seem little in the heat of the moment. Before I know it, the loudness has risen like lava from the bottom of my soles, through my veins and out my voice box. I hate myself the second it escapes, and I can’t take it back. I know exactly what Paul was talking about.
Galatians 5:25 was quoted in class: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” It is a constant battle every day against evil that we win only by keeping in step with the Lord.
It dawned on me as soon as that scripture was read in class last Sunday, that I was given a glimpse of what “keeping in step” means when I had a dream back in March of 2020:
I was at a hospital with my children, and there were A LOT - all different colors and ages. I was sitting in a wheelchair next to a desk at a nurses' station. The desk was cluttered with papers and the doctors and nurses were busy, a couple of them talking a small distance away. The children were playing everywhere without supervision. I was feeling guilty about sitting in a wheelchair when someone else might need it, but I didn't know why I was really there.
I found myself suddenly walking down a long, dim hallway, toward a very bright open doorway with an old man, hearing the children's voices and laughter around us. This man was old, I thought at least in his 80's, but he seemed ageless. He was tall and upright, built very strong yet very kind and gentle. His hair was very thick and perfectly white. As we walked, he patted his solid upper arm, (I was on his left) motioning for me to put my hand on it, so that I could stay in step with him and keep my focus as we talked.
Near the end of our conversation, He questioned me about the children, asking why they were there with me, and everywhere in the hospital without supervision. I answered, "it is better for these children to have no parents at all than to have parents who ignore or abuse them. You are very blessed to have a strong family with a strong legacy." (I was assuming that he had a happy life because he was well dressed, confident, and must not know what it was like to grow up without a GOOD father). I continued, "We are starting over. We - these children and I - are learning how to CREATE a legacy so that we can be strong in the future." The gentleman looked right at me with His tender eyes and smiled.
That's when my alarm woke me up.
When I had this dream, it was only a month after we had adopted our 2nd foster child. We had no idea that we were going to have two more in less than a year. I wondered why there were lots of noisy children in the hospital that were mine. I wondered why we were in a hospital rather than, well, anywhere else. I wondered why I had been in a wheelchair and then got out to walk toward a bright light with a very wise old man who obviously wanted to be my friend and guide.
Well, as it turns out, the hospital setting couldn’t have been more appropriate. A hospital is where people go to heal from illness, injury, wounds and trauma of all kinds. Wheelchairs are for people who can’t walk on their own for one reason or another, whether temporary or long term. And, who better to be a doctor than God Himself? The greatest Healer of all, and THE Father to the Fatherless!
I had been in a virtual wheelchair for a very long time as I was healing from my past childhood abuse. The feeling in the dream that I shouldn’t be in the chair anymore, I think, was because I had chosen to accept the label of “survivor” as I tried to advocate for children in the fight against abuse. I think, at the same time, I was still dwelling in my past. It was time to get up and move past Survivor to THRIVER.
Interestingly, the Monday after that Bible Class, at home the box that we had been storing the kids’ vinyl blocks in was broken. The lid cracked right above the hinge and could no longer be used to close anything in the box. Hubby asked me if I wanted him to fix it, but I realized the timing of this and decided it’s time to let the box go. See, the box is heavy, solid wood made by my earthly dad way back before or shortly after I was born. It’s about half a century old! Amazing it survived all this time!
I let go of my dad many years ago when he chose to blame his victims rather than accept responsibility for his actions. I was hanging onto the box because I had used it my entire adult life for storage. A hope chest before I was married, a photo album keeper, a toy box, a blanket storage place, and most recently for our kids’ gym blocks. Now it can no longer be a storage place that I can open at any time to take things out for immediate use, just as I can no longer hold my past abuse as an immediate excuse for any of my behavior from here forward.
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! "
Romans 7:24-25 NIV
Being defensive is a reflex. I thought I was being accused of not caring for my children when The Wise Man asked me why they were there in my dream. What happened instead is that He directed my thoughts to remind me of what my focus needed to be. Creating a new legacy.
In my dream, God Himself was giving me a job to do that could not be done from a sitting position or with a crutch. I needed to walk. Not just walk forward but walk steadily, IN STEP with HIM. It was going to be hard work. So hard that I would need to put my right hand on His upper arm so that I could stay right BESIDE Him. My right hand because that’s my dominant hand – the one that would signify my need for control and my tendency to get involved in too many things – and it would be occupied and strengthened only by the power coming directly from My Father’s strong upper arm. If I were to let go to try to do things my way, I would be weak, I would miss steps, get left behind and lost in the dark.
The laughter and noise, as it turns out, is what we now hear every day in our home. It sounds, and sometimes FEELS like a LOT of children, when really, it’s only four (really, 9 or 10 when our adult kids and their significant others are home)! Ha! Ha! These children, who are African American and white/Hispanic mixed, were in the hospital WITH me in my dream because all of them have deep wounds that now need healed. Our walk is NOT done just because we have adopted them. The hall that My Father walked with me was long – it seemed that we were about half-way to the Light. The hall was dim because the walk is not easy. The Lord's power provides strength for my steps.
There is no greater feeling of acceptance, forgiveness, patience, understanding, and love, than I felt the moment He looked into my eyes and smiled.
On my hardest days, when I am blinded by my own tears, feeling like the greatest failure at mothering ever, The Holy Spirit gives me a glimpse of my Heavenly Father's twinkly gentle eyes as He motions for me to put my right hand on His strong shoulder with a pat, puts His giant, warm right hand over mine and guides me steadily onward in His grace. One solid step at a time. Together, reveling in all the little things with childlike JOY. Like this, over a chicken I put in the rotisserie lopsided. (turn DOWN your volume! ) God bless.