(By Rachel Holmes)
A black screen. All I could hear was my own breathing and the slap-slap-slap of my shoes on the pavement. I groaned inwardly and willed my feet forward. I have small children but this was not the silence I craved. The sun's heat was heavy on my shoulders and my dry mouth reminded me how hot it was getting. I was out for a run and my phone had just died. And with it, my indication of how I was doing. My pace. My distance. My location. But also my podcasts and music. They gave me something to focus on as I ran. Discouragement seeped into my muscles as I set one foot in front of the other. I started to doubt my reasons for being out again running after my fourth baby. Most mothers that are beaten down by the needs of small children don't choose to beat the sidewalk down in their spare time. "Are you crazy?" I asked myself. Likely.
In. Out. In. Out. Even the sound of my breathing was depressing. Fragments of a verse filtered through my mind, "Run with endurance the race set before you." But run in silence? My pace slowed but the Spirit made a fresh connection in my mind. Suddenly my recent fitness goals were secondary. The Lord used the physical to help me remember the spiritual.
"I just thought I would be a better mom." My neighbor's recent confession rang in my ears. Me too, I thought. A better mom…a better wife…a better daughter, daughter-in-law, you name it. I was sure I would be better. I'm a wife and a mom to four little girls under seven years of age and often feel like a little kid myself. But this was it, right? Having the husband and children that so many women long for, able to stay home, able to pour into the kids during their early years. Yet I didn't know it would be so...dry. Silent. Directionless. No one told me how I was doing, how far I had gone or would go. There was no app to keep track of my pace. And nothing was "filling" me as I was pouring out for the people around me. (Camping? You all want to go CAMPING?)
It was easy to trust when the hymns and prayers rang out beautifully at a conference in my teens. It was easier to trust and obey when I had the constant encouragement from a friend and mentor cheering me on. It was more natural to serve and worship when my body and soul were strong and healthy. But when the storms of life came…it was different.
Now, it was silent. When babies and miscarriages kept me from conferences. When life and health problems drew my mentors away. When my postpartum depression and my family’s health problems flooded in. When my friends’ marriages shook and crumbled. All while the demands of my own family increased...silence.
In the silence, I remembered God’s faithfulness. And I smiled as I walked my final mile back home.
With my direction and energy gone, I was ripe for God to do his work in my soul. How grateful I am that He brought me to the end of myself! With nowhere else to turn, I started begging Him for help. I still wanted to run well, but I had uncovered weakness and sin all around me and deeper in my soul. I simply could not meet the challenges and confusion that met me at every turn, and yet my children and husband depended on me. Just like my phone had died, my own sources of strength and direction were gone — but I still needed to run.
Little did I know that He was burning out the dross and purifying the silver. It was in the silence I had to answer the call to trust Him. To move one day at a time and obey Him, even if silence was all that greeted me. Why would I trust His provision if there was no need? Why would I ask His protection if there was no threat? Why would I ask for strength if there was no work to be done? Why would I be driven to my knees if I could stand on my own two feet? No, the silence was by design. Surely it is God who “tests our hearts.”
I remembered not finding time to read. So, I asked Him to help me. I couldn’t find anything in Scripture on my own, so I asked Him to show me something. I couldn’t seem to “get it together” to do the right thing, to not yell at my kids, to stop gossiping…so I asked Him to work in me. I brought it all to Him and asked Him to change me. And in the process, He started peeling away those deeper sins I knew nothing of, the anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear. He still is working in me. I remembered going “out to gather manna” and not really expecting much, but I found that those “who gathered little had no lack” (Ex 16:18). It is beautiful in its simplicity. “More, more about Jesus.” That’s it.
Little by little, I’m learning to lean more and more on my Lord. To treasure my Bible more than my sleep. To treasure time with Him more than the time I could spend on social media or youtube. To continually go back and ask for strength, then set out in faith, ready to see Him work in my life. If I needed love, He reassured me (Zeph 3:17). If I needed guidance, He made my paths straight with godly counsel from people I respected (Isa 30:21). If I got away from Him and didn’t pick up my Bible for weeks, I asked Him to help me make time for Him. The silence continued, but the Comforter was there.
They were the same problems, the same drain, the same kids, the same husband, the same ME. But now, I was focused on Him. Not on my suffering and troubles, not on the harsh sound of my own breathing, not on the guilt of my failure or lack of direction, but on Him. He had turned my heart and love to Him. He turned my feet to run to Him. And He’s made all the difference. The silence has become peace.
Have I mastered this? No. I still neglect my Bible at times. I still look around at all the demands on my life and feel anxious and small. I still yell at my kids. I still nag my husband. I still have awkward social interactions. (Oh to have “small-talk” skills.) I am still me. But He is still training me to run with endurance the race that is set before me.
If the woman in Proverbs 31 laughs at the time to come, so can I. That’s the confidence I ask of my Lord. I have found the Source. I have found Him to be faithful when I am faithless. While I cannot speak for heartbreak and trial I have not lived yet, I can say that I have found Him sufficient for the past and I trust Him for the future.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Psalm 40:1-3