Saturday, August 15, 2009
Rose Jackson in Arizona
God's Goodness: The Power of Purpose
It was an unlikely spot for a miracle to begin: the curb of a Howard Johnson’s parking lot on a Friday night. I huddled on the cold concrete, oblivious to the flaming glory of autumn leaves above me, my husband inside the hotel oblivious to my desolate grief. My chest heaved with sobs as I cried out from an abyss of desperation, “Did you bring me here to abandon me?”
So much had gone wrong in the six weeks since the September morning I’d said good-bye to our older son and his fiancée, our family, our home of 28 years, our friends, and a dynamic church - aside from my husband and our younger son, everyone and everything that mattered to me. My husband’s new job took us 2,000 miles across the country. Our house sold in two hours – a hopeful balm to the loss I felt - and I considered the lightning-quick sale confirmation that God’s hand was guiding our move.
But was it? The 40 houses we’d looked at were at least $100,000 more than we had, and each one disappointing in some major way. The first house we saw had no closets, and things only got worse from there. We had signed a contract on one house and purchased new appliances to upgrade the kitchen, but a week later the owner decided not to sell and backed out of the contract. That left us with $5000 worth of appliances sitting in storage with no house to put them into... My husband’s new company rented us a house for one month, but what they didn’t realize was the owner of the house had rented it every weekend to “leaf peepers.” Friday nights we packed up and moved back to the hotel; on Sunday nights we moved back to the rental, where I washed dirty dishes, sheets and towels, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed before we could even unpack.
With no permanent address, we couldn’t enroll our son in school. I didn’t want to start him in one school, then move him to another in weeks or months. He felt uprooted enough! Then my husband found a condo we could rent in November in the town where we hoped to settle, so I met with the principal to convince him to let our son start school. We’d moved from a metropolitan area where our son’s school was ethically diverse to a tiny pocket of rural New England. A friend from our home church glowingly described their new home in Connecticut as a “Leave It to Beaver” neighborhood, and I drank in the hope that our new town would be the same. But during the first week in his new school, a girl in our son’s class announced, “You’re from somewhere else. That makes you different, so we aren’t going to be your friends.” And that’s how the school year went. Our son, the befriender of the outsider, the compassionate kid who made hurting children feel accepted, was now an outcast and devastated. Every day I drove him to the small school nestled in the lovely valley, and every day he battled rejection and tried to make a friend.
So I sat rocking on that cold curb, anticipating mountains of cleaning on Sunday night, everything I loved stripped away from me, every hope for happiness seemingly strangled, and wept bitterly. Through sobs I looked up and cried, “God, I can’t do this! Please send us back home!”
“If only . . . .” I whispered, “If I could see a purpose . . . . I could live with all of this if there was a reason.”
At our 10,000-member home church I wrote books with the senior pastor and led groups in a vibrant women’s ministry; our son loved the lively, creative Sunday School program. Now we were looking for any Bible-believing church. Earlier that week I’d called the pastor of yet another congregation to get directions to his church. “No,” he replied to my questions, “we don’t have a women’s ministry or a youth group. My sons and one other boy are the only children in the church older than preschoolers.” Most of the church’s 60 members were college students.
“Oh, great,” I thought ruefully as I picked myself up off the curb in the gathering dark and my mounting gloom, “I told him we’d visit. Now we’ll have to go through with it just out of courtesy.”
Sunday we took our seats on folding chairs at a local library. An older couple behind us tapped our shoulders, introduced themselves, and said, “We’d love for you to come to our house for lunch after church.” Our son’s eyes met mine, silently pleading, “Please, no – can’t we go to MacDonald’s?” But we accepted. It couldn’t hurt to meet people who were friendly!
Loretta and Dana were gracious and genuine. Over lunch in their kitchen, my husband mentioned that he worked for a Japanese-owned firm. Loretta said their son had worked in Japan. Thinking for a moment, she added, “I know a Japanese woman here who’d like to be in a Bible study, but she’s uncomfortable with her English. Her husband works here, so she comes for three months, then returns to Japan for three months. I think,” she added, "they live in the town where you’ll be living next month. Would you be willing to have a Bible study with her?” At least it would give me something constructive to do, so I took the woman’s phone number.
I had no idea I was poised on the brink of a miracle.
“Coincidentally” this woman lived in the complex we’d soon move into. In fact, Hiroko lived two buildings down, and her husband was president of the company my husband worked for! “Coincidentally” we’d visited the church I wanted no part of, in front of the couple who could connect me with Hiroko and my miracle of purpose. Hope rushed in as a door opened for me into new understanding. Now I knew why the contract fell through on the house we bought appliances for! I knew why we were renting a too-small condo. I knew we had a church home. I knew God had a purpose for me and meaning for this move!
Incredibly, God moved us across the country to answer the prayer of a woman from the other side of the world. Hard as it was for our son and me, we were answers to prayer. God’s hand was in every detail of this move, and if that was true, his goodness was there for our family.
This foreign land for both Hiroko and me became a place of miracles. The next year our son made good friends at the regional junior high who didn’t know he was from “somewhere else.” We found a house with closets. I helped start a women’s ministry with precious friends who became like family.
God’s miraculous answer to my anguished cry on the curb of the Howard Johnson's was not to send me home, but to plant my heart in the purpose he had for me in a new home. This, too, is God's character: he gives our lives meaning that gives our lives joy, no matter who or where or in what circumstance we are. Not all miracles of healing involve your body. Some miracles – perhaps the most powerful and lasting - heal your heart. That healing is God's heart for you today.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
A " . . . but . . ." to pray:
God, I've misjudged you when I have only seen difficult circumstances, not the potential for meaning, purpose and miracles even in difficult situations. Sometimes you are hard to discern, BUT I believe and delight that you love to make me an answer to prayer and give my life meaning and purpose that make even hard places and circumstances become places of blessing. You are great, and you are good! Amen!
Your own " . . . but . . ." to move:
God, I look around me and see _____________________ in my life, not goodness, BUT I know you long to use me to answer the cry of someone's heart, and I know in being that answer, I'll __________________________ and you'll fill and strengthen my heart, too.
(Read more of Rose's blogs at www.rospiration.blogspot.com.)