It had been months since my husband and I had our last confrontation; however, I can’t tell you just how long. My days were now fused together. There were times when I would frantically walk through the house trying to find out what day it was. Is it Monday or Friday? I would anxiously ask myself, as I searched each room looking for clues.
Just as a man nearing the end of his life wrestles with two worlds, I was also in limbo. My Co-laborer wanted to take me into a world of faith and spirit but I wanted to stay in the world of reason. As He and I tussled, I thought about the friends, church members, mentees, and family members, who had gleaned hope from us.
What am I going to say when people find out? How am I going to tell my family? I asked the Lord one day.
By the time they found out, I wanted to be able to say I had everything under control, however, the Lord wanted to cut away that logic and expose my shame.
There were only a handful of people who knew what was going on in our lives: my daughter, my mother, and a couple of former church members.
But the neighbors were starting to suspect something.
One warm Sunday afternoon, as I returned home from church, turning onto my street, I watched as neighbors washed their cars and trimmed hedges. Some were clustered together, catching up on community gossip. I must have been the topic of the day because, as I pulled up in front of the house, they all froze and watched silently when I got out of the car. The expression on their faces looked embarrassed, almost as if they thought I had overheard them.
As if the suspense was killing her, a short brown skinned woman broke free from the crowd and headed towards me. The others looked on as if they had delegated her.
“I’ll cut your grass if you’ll sweep,” she offered boldly.
“Oh, thanks,” I sighed.
I looked over at my front yard and realized the grass really hadn’t grown much since my husband discontinued the lawn service. Maybe it’s dying too, I thought.
“Your husband still out of town?” she asked, as if she was determined not to return to the group without an answer.
I stared at her, longer than I should have, she stared back, bravely.
“He doesn’t live here anymore,” I mumbled.
She proceeded in disgust, telling me how he had told her he was going out of town on business. I was hardly paying attention to what she was saying, but I couldn’t help noticing the expression on her face as she realized she had been lied to.
Over time, I came to realize that our house had become the lighthouse. I was never one to fraternize with the neighbors. My husband, on the other hand, would stroll up and down the block like a politician. Two community newspapers had recently run articles about me and the ministry. The neighbors seemed surprised when they found out about my vocation. Some discussed knocking on our door for counseling and prayer, as there were several crumbling marriages on our street. One neighbor even suggested I run for president of the Homeowners’ Association.
As swiftly as my acclaim spread, it shriveled. I had now become a reproach.
1Peter 4:12-14 says: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
The First Epistle of Peter is the book for suffering Christians. Peter was one of the most prominent disciples, and his impact on the early church was profound. Not only was the epistle written to encourage suffering saints of old, it was also written for believers today who are experiencing persecution all over the world. Peter’s purpose for writing the book was to exhort disciples to suffer for being Christians, as opposed to suffering as a result of committing sins.
In verse 12 of 1st Peter, he mentions the fiery trials that were to try us. The word try means a testing to prove. So in other words, our fiery trials that God allows are sent to prove our authenticity: to prove to us and others what we are made of!
When there are trials in a court of law, there is often a jury. Periodically, it was as if I could hear my jurors (neighbors) deliberating: No man would leave a good wife. It must be her fault. This nice man, who gave good advice, did good deeds, and played with babies, would never just walk away without a cause.
I thought about this as I remembered the cold stares I was starting to receive as I walked back and forth from my car.
I could feel the icy glare of one neighbor and she peered over at me, forcing me to look up at her. She exaggeratedly sucked her teeth and shook her head at me to show her disdain. This infuriated me! Just a few days prior, I had helped her, as she stood crying on my porch.
My initial reaction that day she was in distress was not to let her in. I felt if I responded to her, I would eventually be letting her in on my troubles in some way. Still, I could not ignore her sobs as others had ignored mine over the years.
I stood there, stunned as my insensitive neighbor gawked at me. It would be nice if I could tell you I smiled and said, “God bless you,” as I walked to my front door, or that I was humming “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Instead, I had to fight back the urge to cuss her out!
Once inside the house, I feverishly paced back and forth, thinking about what I wanted to say to her, how I wanted to bang on her door and let her know what I thought about her as a neighbor and about the skeletons she undoubtedly had in her own closet.
The Lord interrupted my ranting, reminding me that we are called to die daily and a dead man had no feelings.
1 Peter 4:13-14 talks about the exceeding joy and happy state we would be in when His glory would be revealed. I couldn’t fathom this. I could hardly muster up a smile in those days let alone be happy or have joy.
One day, while sitting in my kitchen, the mailman drove up. He paused, quizzically inspecting the front of our house, before he placed our mail in the box. I had seen him do this a few times before. That day, I decided to go outside for a chat.
“I know you may be wondering what is going on with us,” I said, getting straight to the point.
“Yeah, I had,” he admitted, dropping his head.
I proceeded to tell him that even I didn’t quite know what was going on with me; but the one thing I did know was that the Lord was going to bring me out! I told him that I was learning everyday how to endure the cross and to think little of the shame, as Jesus had done, according to Hebrews 12:2.
I preached and preached to him that day until I preached myself happy! That day, my eyes cleared up and my smile broadened. I started doing this regularly. I would see the mail truck pull up, he would wait a minute or two for me to come out, and we would have church! He shared pleasant stories with me about his wife and family. There were times that I would be laughing and testifying and he would be looking over my head at something.
The Lord let me know that he had placed a spirit of glory on me in those days and the letter carrier recognized that.
From that day on, my laughter grew heartier, my joy and peace were more abundant. The spirit of glory brings weighty things, spiritual and natural riches. The word glory in the Greek is the word, Doxa, which means, an appearance; recognition belonging to a person, honor: to reflect what is within on the outside. When the Lord glorifies something or someone, he puts his stamp of approval on it. He brings to the surface what is on the inside. When that person is showing forth his nature, he brings it out for all to see.
The Hebrew word for glory is Kavod, which means weighty honor, esteem, majesty abundance, wealth.
Some people are uncomfortable with the word glory. There are times, people will say, “No, God said he will not give his glory to another” in an attempt to quote Isaiah 42:8. In Isaiah 42, the Lord is stating that He will not give His glory to another diety. He will place the spirit of glory on His children who suffer for His sake and who show forth His attributes.
When the spirit of glory is placed in our lives, we don’t recognize it, lest we become prideful. Those around us will see it and surely react to it, oftentimes with persecution.
For reasons I won’t go into on the blog, my daughter and I had to move out of the house. We had nearly six months to find another place to live. My one relief was having a set moving date; not only did this date serve as an anchor—something to hang on to, in a sea of indistinguishable days—but it also gave me a sense of hope. Surely, after that date, things could only get better.
My daughter was still hanging in there with me. I was glad that she was beginning to have a social life. I was relieved when she went out on dates or out to eat with friends. I thought it was sweet how her friends would show concern, checking on us every so many days.
“Where are you all gonna go?” some would inquire. We had no idea; the Lord had not revealed His plan. The haunting fear of the unknown was causing my anxiety level to rise again.
How far are You going to stretch me? I wondered out loud as I packed boxes.
Still, I marveled at the waves of peace and joy that would rise up in me, forcing the fear and darkness back.
When moving day came, the boxes were packed, the storage space was secured, but we still had no help moving the furniture. This was no small challenge; we had several rooms of furniture. I looked at it all and felt overwhelmed, like I was out on a limb that had begun to violently swing. I’d spent most of the day alone; my daughter had gone to work while I took stock of everything we had left to do.
I cried out to God for direction, and He told me to call a friend who was familiar with our situation. This friend gave me her neighbor’s phone number. Within hours, he arrived at our door with two other men to haul everything that was too heavy for us to lift.
Before long, my daughter came home from work. With her face set like a flint, she rolled up her sleeves and said, “Let’s go.” She was a tower of strength that cold rainy night.
At one point, one of the movers came up to me and said, “Miss, I don’t mean no harm… What, your husband didn’t want all this? I mean, people are fighting to get out here in this neighborhood. Seems like you all would want to fight to keep it.”
“Seems like it,” I said nonchalantly. By now, my shame had been diffused.
It was evening and most of our neighbors were home from work. Some houses that were normally lit up like Christmas trees were now pitch black. I could see one of my neighbors’ silhouettes in his kitchen, watching us move in the rain.
One family passed by in their car. I waved and smiled broadly as they passed. They rolled their eyes in response.
I would miss my home, but not the coldness of the neighborhood.
By 3 am, all our help had left. We had three hours to rest before we needed to wake up and confront the day. As we loaded a few remaining boxes into the car, my daughter and I decided to sleep in what used to be her bedroom.
We headed up the stairs to the hollow, white-walled space, so empty now we could almost hear ourselves echo when we spoke. We laid down on the carpeted floor, before it dawned on us that, in our carefulness not to leave anything behind, we’d forgotten to pull out a blanket to sleep with, on our very last night in the house.
What we found was a beach towel, lying on the top of an open box. Once we were nestled under it, I was reminded of an episode of Sanford and Son, when Lamont had purchased coffins to sell, but soon discovered he and Fred were afraid to sleep in the same house with them. Instead, they slept on the back of their truck, fighting over their shared blanket and pillow.
We were playfully doing the same, with our tiny beach towel.
Unlike them, we weren’t afraid of the death that had come to our home. Unlike us, they could return to their home in the morning.
We were too wound up to fall asleep right away. Whenever we thought one of us had drifted off, the other would crack a joke and we’d begin to laugh. Our laughter was so infectious, eventually, it drowned out the sound of the rain.