Every month, as I write the “Ask a Counselor” column, I hope it’s helpful. But I’m always aware that, as human beings, we can only do so much.
And I’m always aware that God is able to do far more than we could ever dare to ask, think, or even dream (Ephesians 3:20).
This month, I want to take a break from answering questions and instead share a story about how God showed up for me on the beach, wearing a green skirt. Because I think we all need to be reminded, probably fairly often, that God is in the business of showing up where we least expect it, and healing us in ways we don’t even think to ask.
Here’s my story from August 4, 2002.
I can’t believe we’ve been in the village for nearly a month already. On the other hand, it feels like years. I started to get bored and restless this week, feeling so pathetic and useless. I don’t do anything spectacular. I just teach my kids and cook.
I really do think that the best thing I can do right now is support Andy and teach the kids, but it’s not always so personally fulfilling as one might hope. And I might as well be an alien from Mars, for all the sense my culture makes to these people. They are so kind to me, so precious to my kids. And yet I want more. I want to know and be known. To share my heart and have someone share theirs in return.
I know in my head that I need to keep realistic expectations. But my heart still wishes for that close friendship. I still want it, no matter how unrealistic it may be to expect it. One of those “not until heaven” things, I guess.
Andy, after long years of experience, can sense this mood in me from a mile off. There’s nothing he can do, and we both know it. But Saturday afternoon, we sneak off from the kids and go for a walk along the beach. Even I have been known to cheer up on the beach.
We meet up with this old lady down at the beach, wearing a bright green skirt and nothing else.
Breasts hanging down to her waist, tattoos in between her breasts.
As soon as she sees me, she cries out with pleasure: “Oh my daughter, oh my daughter.”
I have never, in ten years, had anyone call me by a kinship term; I hardly know how to respond. Is she really calling me her daughter? But she doesn’t just say it once—she keeps repeating it.
She puts both arms around me and hugs me. I’ve had plenty of women hold my hand out here, but I’ve never, ever had anybody hug me.
She goes on and on, talking and laughing, holding my hand, so happy that I am there. While I of course am doing nothing spectacular—not even leading a Bible study. She is just thrilled that I am there, doing nothing, saying nothing, just there.
This morning I was thinking about her again and I was reminded of Elijah, under his broom tree, telling God to go ahead and let him die. I thought about Elijah, so tired and alone, no longer asking for a blessing, just asking for an end. Seeing great things happen through him, and too exhausted to ask for anything to happen in him.
And the angel came and touched Elijah.
And I thought that this lady was my angel with her hard old hands and her great soft breasts and her tattoos and her pipe of tobacco and her pleasure at my existence.
And I realized that, like Elijah’s angel, she was the answer to a prayer I hadn’t even had the heart to pray.
(Excerpted from As Soon As I Fell. Photo of me and my angel, May, on Arosi NT dedication day, July 2005.)