Of Saddles and Sidelines

Posted on: February 10, 2012

Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago a dear friend let me know that her 13 year-old daughter was discouraged. She had been faithfully praying for a family whose unborn baby had been diagnosed with serious problems. As she and others prayed, the baby’s health reports showed improvement. However, their friend’s baby died less than an hour after being born. This sad event happened around the same time of Patrick’s passing, so my friend’s young and tender-hearted daughter experienced two severe and confusing losses back-to-back.

When my friend told me of her girl’s discouragement, I asked her mom if we could possibly meet at a coffee shop after I dropped Joel off at school. We did, and our time together was unforgettable. The next day I felt compelled to follow up on our chat with a note, and today I thought her note might encourage someone else. With their blessing, I am posting below.

Thank you to each one for your continued prayers for us. They are bringing healing.

Love, Mardy

To My Lovely Little Sister in Christ,

How happy I was to meet with you yesterday. I am so proud of you for being willing to be instructed in the faith at a time when the enemy wants you to stumble in your pain.

I want to recap the things we talked about. If this note is too painful, you can save it for later. If you have already zoomed past it in your healing, just delete it, Sweet Girl. It is only here to remind you of things you already know to be true should you need them again.

When your mom told me you were discouraged, I remembered that many years ago I felt I was supposed to pray for someone to make a decision I was sure they were supposed to make. I was on my knees and even on my face calling out to the Lord to please, please send  grace and conviction, and to open this person’s eyes to make the right decision. After a few months of prayers, that person made the opposite decision, and said it was the right one. It wasn’t a morally sinful choice, but it seemed clear that to me it wasn’t God’s best. I was devastated, especially because I thought I was supposed to pray for opposite decision.

Have you ever fallen so hard that the wind was knocked out of you? I hope not.  That happened to me once, when I was your age, about 13. I was riding a horse and it took off at a run (while I was yelling, “Whooaah!”), and it turned hard to the left even though I was pulling the reins hard to the right. That horse flew under a low-hanging tree branch that hit me in the chin and knocked me out of the saddle to the ground. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds, and I was terrified.  I lay flat on my back, listening to the horse gallop away, just looking at the sky thinking I might be dying (because I thought that “getting the wind knocked out of you” was just a saying and I didn’t know it was a real thing that could happen to you).

That was what I felt like when the person I had been praying for – the person I thought the Lord had been prompting me to pray for – made their decision. I felt like I had been faithfully pulling the reins in one direction while the horse ran away in the opposite direction. And their decision was that tree branch that knocked me out of my saddle.

For about six months it was hard for me to pray. I felt like I had been a long-distance marathon runner, and someone had just placed a barricade in my path and I had crashed into it and fallen. I limped to the side of the race, and just sat, watching other runners go by, the arms of my heart folded around myself to protect from further injury.

While I sat on the sidelines I battled thoughts like, “Maybe I can’t hear a prompting from the Lord after all?”

“I guess I was wrong.”

“If I thought the Lord was asking me to pray this way, and He wasn’t, what ‘voice’ am I listening to?”

“Is there something wrong with me?”

“Perhaps God doesn’t hear my prayers.”

“I don’t understand.”

“What happened to ‘Whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive?’”

My prayer life dwindled, and I pouted.

Later that year I heard a friend describe how she imagined prayer to work. She said it was like pulling on a thick, beautiful golden cord that was let down from Heaven. And every time we pull on that cord through prayer, it tips a heavenly bucket of God’s grace on whatever target we have been praying for. I imagined little sparkles of heavenly grace floating from heaven and landing all around the person I had been praying for – grace after grace after grace. But, then my friend shared that people still have wills of their own, and they can sometimes choose to resist grace – even resist much grace being offered. I knew that was true because I had been stubborn and resisted grace that entire six months, and could feel that my heart had become a little hardened.

When I realized that the Lord really had prompted me to pull on that heavenly cord of prayer to pour grace out to that person, and I understood that He wouldn’t force them to receive it, I saw that I had not missed God’s direction after all. I had been obediently praying, even though He could see the future and He knew they would resist – but, He still asked me to pray for more and more grace.

I have thought since then, “What if I had prayed more often, asked for more grace, asked more people to pray with me?” I think sometimes those things really can make a difference. Jesus said that some things don’t happen except by prayer and fasting. But, we are not allowed to know what could have been. We can only make what we believe is the best decision for today.

That day I sort of woke up from my daze. I stood up, thinking about rejoining the race. But, I was wary. What if there were other barricades just around the turn? Bigger ones where I would pray for something and believe it to be God’s will, but not receive it? It hurt so much to fall that I didn’t want to fall again. I prayed this prayer to God that day, “Lord, I want to get up and run in this race of faith again. But, I need a promise from you that you will clear my path of barricades that will make me fall again. If you will promise me that, I can run again.”

Ca you guess what happened? I somehow knew He wasn’t going to say yes, and that there would be barricades in my path again, and that I was being called to run any way. So, I did. I started walking again, and eventually running. And last month I crashed into the worst barricade of my life, and it utterly broke my heart. But, the Personal Trainer has lovingly carried me out of the race for a little while, checked me into an ICU unit of His tender care, and holds me tight, giving me time to heal. And I think He feels and shares my pain.

You and I talked about your friend’s baby that you prayed to be well, but that she lived for less than an hour after being born. You said you were comforted in knowing she affected many lives in that one hour. I have seen some good things happen after Patrick’s death, in that people who normally don’t think about spiritual things are being drawn to Jesus. But, I am unable to justify our loss for such gain. The truth is that there are many people and many babies who die in third world countries who very few ever know about, and who break only the hearts of their loved ones or mommies. Some do not break hearts here at all. You and I have to believe that whether we can ever see a benefit from a tragedy or not, that God is both sovereign and loving, and that nothing escapes His sight, and it is enough for Heaven that they once lived. We choose to believe that God is worthy to be trusted when nothing makes sense and everything hurts. This is the God you are just now getting to know in this way, and you will love Him more every crisis you face. He is the God we do not have to understand or explain because we know Him, and believe He is worthy of trust.

We talked a little about the difference between praying for something that very much appears to be God’s will, and actually being given faith for it. When I was a young mommy, Mr. Freeman took the children to church one morning, and I was supposed to drive our second car. As I pulled the driver’s door shut, I accidentally slammed it on four of my fingers. It took about two seconds for my brain to begin registering the pain, but then it hit. Time stood still! I had to tell myself, “Self! Open – the – door – with – your – other – hand!” I did, and forced myself to look at my fingers. I was pretty sure one was broken. I decided to drive to the emergency room rather than church.

Then I held my hand up over my head and in much pain cried out, “Jesus! Oh, Jesus, please heal my hand!” And suddenly a heavenly warmth started at my fingertips and spread all the way down my hand, then down my arm all the way to my shoulder. It was so divine, like nothing I had ever felt before or since, that I laughed and said, “Oh, Lord, my other hand, too? All of me?” But, my left arm was just bathed in a warmth of heavenly love that lasted for a few hours. It had been instantly healed and I used it to drive to church. I was so excited that when I arrived at our Sunday School class I told our teacher what had happened, and I remember him looking at me like I had just told him I had balanced my checkbook, completely dismissive. I wasn’t called on to answer any questions that day. Big smile.

Again, one night I was sitting up in bed reading in my Bible about faith, and I noticed my foot had been itching all day like crazy. I finally pulled the covers down to see if I had a mosquito bite. I found a round red patch on my foot that looked infected. Mr. Freeman said, “Oh, that’s ringworm. It’s a fungus, and I’ll bet you got it from walking around barefoot so much in the yard.” (We had cats and dogs.) “What do I do?” I asked. “You’ll have to get meds in the morning,” he said. So, I went back to reading my Bible, and happened to be reading an account of Jesus telling someone, “Your faith has made you well.” And just then I thought, “Yikes! Isn’t Jesus more powerful than this little fungus?” So, I told Mr. Freeman, “I’m going to ask Jesus to heal the ringworm!” And he looked over at me like, well sort of like that Sunday School teacher did, but sweeter. But, I prayed anyway. I put my hand on my foot and I asked Jesus to take away the ringworm. The special part is – I knew that I knew that I knew it was going to be completely gone in the morning. And it was. That was a very small thing, but He is interested in small things and big things.

I also believe He has granted me a gift of faith that all my children will know Jesus and be saved. I don’t have faith for many other choices in their lives, but this I believe – they will all be known by Him on the last day.

That, I believe, is what faith is like. Sometimes God gives us supernatural faith to call out to Him, just like at salvation, but also for other things, and when we call out, He answers. But, other times, we call out to Him from our own love. And because He knows something that we don’t know and He can’t tell us yet, He cannot grant our cry.

I share these stories with you so that you can know as a maturing saint that –

There are times you will pray out of your own heart for that which looks like His will, and He won’t be able to grant it for reasons He can’t tell us (perhaps like the baby you prayed for).

There are times you will pray because you do sense He is prompting you, but the person you are praying for may still choose something else because people have their own wills and are allowed to choose to resist grace (like the friend I prayed for).

There are times you will cry out to Him unexpectedly, not knowing whether He will grant your prayer or not (like when my hand was in the car door) and He will miraculously grant it to you.

And there will be times when you do sense He wants to you pray for something, you sense He is giving you faith to do so, and He miraculously grants you your request (like my little ringworm miracle). Then we sense that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not (yet) seen.

There are other reasons our prayers are sometimes not answered, but these are the ones I want to share with you today.

Even if He does not grant some of our requests, we are to keep praying. You won’t want to make my mistake and sit on the sidelines for months with the arms of your heart folded until you can understand. Your prayers now can be as simple as, “Lord, I don’t understand, and I am hurting, and I want to trust you completely. Will you show me how? I will wait on you.”

After getting to spend that little time with you yesterday, I think you may have been given a heart with an extra portion of compassion and mercy. If that is so, it means you will hurt more with those who hurt, like Jeremiah the prophet who hurt with Israel in their sin and punishment. You’ll want to ask Jesus to take the burden of the weight you feel for those you love. He does want you to feel it, and carry them in prayer, but He also wants you to roll the weight of that burden on to Him. In this way, some of the pain transfers from the hurting person to you, and then from you to Him. You are supposed to feel it and pray for them, but you are not called to carry it. Jesus wants to do that, and wants to bear it for you. But, you have experienced a part of His merciful heart in doing so, and you get to know that He hurts with us, too.

Another topic we touched on yesterday was that when God allows one of His children to enter into a fire, He makes grace available to them for it. But, to their friends who are not in the fire, who can only stand by and try to comfort, the fire looks too severe. Their hearts will be tempted with fear, questions, doubts or anger. I am in that terrible fire. And your friend whose baby died is in that fire. I can tell you that, even though neither of us wanted to go into those fires, that God’s grace has been made available to both of us. He really does comfort the broken heart and He really is close to those who are broken in spirit. He is providing Himself to me when I am in the fire, and He will provide for all His children who are called into one.

You’ll begin to run again in the race that has been set before you, and you’ll end up a marathon runner of faith, Sweet Girl. For a little while longer, though, it really is okay to just sit on the sidelines and let the Personal Trainer of your soul just sit with you and comfort you and heal your hurts. You may ask Him all the questions of your heart (you can journal them in that little journal if that helps you to write them out). He is not afraid of our questions, and it is good to get them out. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m really thinking until I write it out. Then, when all your questions are written out, you can go to your Bible and go to prayer or go to your parents and say, “Now, which one of these thoughts is contradicting what I know to be true about God?” I have had plenty of those! They just feel like such reality at the time, but when I write them out, I see I have been doubting what I know to be true. It’s the same for everyone who knows Him. There is a battle to be won in the mind. These questions and thoughts are important places to go through and you can ask they while you wait and heal. You’ll know inside when it’s time to get up – the Lord, His Holy Spirit as your Trainer, will help you to know. He will gently lead you, and I know you will let Him. Perhaps you already have.

I want to thank you with all my heart for praying for me and for our family over the past few weeks. I’m confident that the Lord has allowed you to take a little bit of our pain, and your prayers have sustained us. It means so much.

With love and appreciation, Mrs. Freeman

2 Responses to "Of Saddles and Sidelines"

I love it 🙂 Thank you for sharing Mardy. I owe you an email….

There is such deep wisdom in this.
I am going to keep it on hand because I know I’ll need it again in the future.
Thank you, dear Mardy, for walking out your faith so simply and beautifully in front of us.

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