My eyes followed the delicate floral pattern of greens, browns, yellows, and periwinkle that scattered haphazardly across my pillowcase. Except I knew that this floral print that I was laying on was not formed on accident, but had an intentional pattern…a repeat…that I had identified. I had been studying it minute upon minute, hour upon hour, day upon day, and week upon week. I knew it better than anyone.
I could also tell you the placement of each knot in our family room wall’s wood paneling, the number of vertical gray slats that hung lifelessly across the door wall that led to an outside that I wasn’t allowed into, and every color of carpet fiber that was woven into the Berber carpet where my mattress lay.
I was ten or eleven years old and enduring, what seemed to me, like an eternity of solitude. My pediatric neurosurgeon had ordered me to be on strict, flat bed rest for one whole month. This sentencing was preceded by spine operations to (once again) untether my spine. I was dealing with complications of cerebral spinal fluid leaking out from my Dura, which led to severe, head-throbbing, nausea-inducing, headaches and would eventually require another spine surgery to remedy. Grasping at wisps of hope, my neurosurgeon had placed me flat on my back with a tight dressing of gauze and hospital tape that covered the squishy fluid pocket sitting beneath my skin on my spine. The goal was to relieve the pressure of the fluid pocket long enough for the CSF leak to heal on it’s own, sans surgery.
My parents had moved my twin mattress down to our family room and it was there that I was “stuck”. I grew restless of TV and found myself sketching bridal dresses out of old copies of BRIDE magazine. I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and cried for hours at the injustice of her story. I tried to journal my own thoughts in a small fluorescent colored Lisa Frank diary, but my words fell flat in comparison to the sharpness of my inner turmoil. Every time I needed to go to the bathroom, my mom would bring a bed pan and help me catheterize myself. My friends would stop by after the 3pm bell and excitedly chat about all of the things I was missing at school. They’d leave and I’d miss the warmth of their companionship as the cold, isolated, overwhelming pile of “make-up” homework grew taller.
And so I’d lay there. I’d memorize the pattern of my bed sheets, the knots in the wood paneling, the slats in the blinds; and warm tears would roll down my cheeks because I was in a forced period of rest and isolation that I never wanted to be in in the first place.
Twenty one years later, I can look back on this time of solitude…of stillness…and be thankful for it and many others like it because those are the times where I met God. Those were the moments where I felt the most dead inside, but God was cultivating the most growth. He saw past a small broken little girl and saw the potential for a women who could fiercely love and trust him even when she knew the pain would never stop. He knew that these inconvenient moments of isolation were necessary to transform me into who he wanted me to become.
Maybe you find yourself in one of these periods of “forced rest” right now? I understand friend….they can be so frustrating. We live in a culture where resting is viewed as laziness, where solitude is viewed as simplemindedness, and where unproductivity is viewed as worthlessness.
I am here to buck every one of these notions because they are unbiblical and I have repeatedly experienced their untruth. It is in these moments that we have the potential to discover how personal God is, how much he longs for peace and joy to be the markers of our lives, and his yearning to give us eternal vision…not temporary sight.
If this is you today, will you do something for me? Will you ask God to show you something about himself or about his character? Will you thank God for the exact position you are in, even though every fiber of your being wants to curse him for it?
I promise you that he will not fall flat. He will not leave you empty. He will not disappoint you. It may take you twenty one years to see it….but you will see it.
Jeremiah 29:13 ” You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Mark 6:32 “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
God began impressing upon my heart to share this with you when I read Psalm 4:4 in one of my times in the Bible. It’s not a well-known passage, but it struck something inside me. It reminded me of this lesson that I have learned. It says, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.” David says this because he has been spending a lot of time in forced solitude and isolation. He has been hiding out in caves and he knows the truth that if you are silent and honest in your hearts when you are alone, it is impossible not to find and know who God is. David has experienced that when he’s angry because of his circumstances, in silence before God, anger can be transformed into trust.
John Ortberg said, “Waiting is the hardest work of Hope.”.
Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
Rest well friends.