Good Friday 2005 – My Testimonial

On Good Friday afternoons at my church, parishioners are invited to come and give testimonials that springboard from the last words of Jesus. In 2005, I was invited, and I got Luke 23.46:

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.

Below is my testimony.

My personal story of my Walk with God

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. That’s a wonderful way to put it. I’ve never been near death, but I’ve hit dead-ends before, and I tend to say pretty much the same thing, “God, I’ve done all I can do. It’s in your hands now.”

Way back in high school, I had an English teacher who had us keep a journal. We wrote down our thoughts, quotes from authors we liked, our own poetry, whatever we wanted to write. I lost the journal somehow, and all of the angst that was recorded, but the thing that bummed me the most was that I’d lost the name of the author of one of my favorite quotes:

Whate’er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God lets alone.”

The reason the quote appealed to me then, and for the 20-odd years since then, is that it perfectly describes my own experience with God. While God and family and education and circumstances have blessed me enormously, so that I can generally succeed with the work I choose to be my own, in those times where I’ve turned to God, God hasn’t let me down.

Sometimes it’s the little things that amaze me. Like the time back in high school when I wasn’t ready for the quiz that was promised that day – me the A-student, not prepared! I’d forgotten about the quiz the night before, and I only remembered the quiz in the class right before, so there was no time to study for it. The only thing I could think to do was to pray. Well, it had never happened before in that class, but that day, the teacher postponed the quiz, for no apparent reason. (Thank you!)

Another time, more recently, we’d just returned from a long vacation, and I had a million chores to do. I was standing in the laundry room, folding the umpteenth load, and I lamented to God that my daughter really needed something to do other than playing on the computer or watching TV. The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing. A neighborhood mom was calling to invite my daughter to come play at her child’s house a few doors away.

It isn’t always a quick prayer and a quick answer. My father left my mother when I was about 12 years old. It turned my world upside down. I loved my daddy, and all I wanted was to have my daddy back. At lunchtime, I’d head out to the remote edge of the playground, and pray to God. This went on for weeks. Well, Daddy didn’t come back to Mama, and I didn’t see him very often. But years later, after I’d moved out here to California, Daddy retired. Suddenly, with time on his hands, he started coming out to California for long visits. It was wonderful. I got my daddy back.

Answered prayers are only a piece of my relationship with God. He’s with me all the time, helping me in all kinds of ways. For example, God has a tendency to teach me things – stuff that you don’t get from school. His courses can be harder, and I’ve been known to fail a few lessons. Like patience. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had that lesson!

Something else God’s taught me is that I don’t know everything. I can remember failing advanced college calculus because I’d convinced the dean of math that I already knew the first year of material. That mistake cost me a prestigious scholarship to Duke University. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but it turned out that, like those imaginary numbers in first year calculus, I’d missed an important advanced concept.

A few years later, I married my first husband. He was a brilliant, talented young man, training to be an architect, and a natural news analyst – as good as any on NPR. I knew he was occasionally suicidal when I married him, but after a few years of marriage it got steadily worse. I’d drive home from Cupertino to San Francisco at night, wondering whether he’d be there when I got home.

Once again, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no experience or education to help, and I didn’t try to get some help from someone who might know how to deal with it. Instead, I left him, convinced that my strong ego was doing more damage than good. On our next wedding anniversary, he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

It took a long time to recover from that. Some of you might remember a Minute for Mission I gave here at church a few years ago. I talked about how a sermon from Rev. Ruth Eller prompted me to forgive myself, one of the last steps to recovery. I needed to forgive myself for not knowing what to do and for not getting help. But I think I got God’s lesson. When I married again, I told my new husband that if we ever ran into trouble, we were going to go see our pastor. I was going to get help.

This past fall, we did run into a rough patch. I didn’t know what to do. I went to the pastor. I got help. I learned some more. That helped. But the next step was more familiar. I had to leave it to God. It wasn’t that easy, but I knew that God wouldn’t let me down. And he came through – again — in half the time I expected. Are we out of the woods yet? So far, really good. But more importantly, I know that God will always be there for us.

There’s one other aspect of my walk with God that I want to share with you. It’s about the blessings. I’ve got my share of the usual kinds of blessings – a wonderful family, a nice home, and a challenging career. But then there are those “blessings in disguise.”

At another Minute for Mission, I talked about my struggles with bronchitis over the years. There haven’t been many years in my life when I haven’t had it at least once. Doesn’t sound much like a blessing, but when my grandmother was dying, and they took her off the feeding tubes, congestion formed in her lungs – what they call “the death rattle”. For me, the sound was familiar, just like the noise my own lungs makes with bronchitis. But for the aunt who was keeping vigil with me, the death rattle was the sound of her mother’s death, and the noise amplified her grief. She couldn’t stay in the room. But I was able to stay, and be there for my grandmother till the very end. The familiarity of the difficult breathing, and my faith in God, was all I needed.

I’ve got a few other “blessings” – the bad back that I inherited from that same grandmother, the absurdly powerful empathy that will run me through multiple handkerchiefs in services like these – or any Stephen Spielberg film, and a restlessness that strikes for no apparent reason, urging me to change my work or my home. I don’t know that they’re blessings – they certainly don’t feel like it most of the time. But bronchitis was that way too. At least now I can hope they’re really blessings in disguise, and one day they will allow me to some good work that “God has prepared for me to walk in.”

Before I conclude, I have to tell you the ending of the story of my lost journal. Just last year it occurred to me to ask my cousin, an English teacher, about that quote I’d written down in high school. In just days, he had the answer – it was from the poem “Inspiration”, by Henry David Thoreau. Not only that, but when I reread the poem, I found several other quotes that I remembered from my journal, that speak to me still. A little bit of continuity from an angst-filled teenage girl, to a forty-something working mother.

My walk with God is full of answered prayers, enlightenment, and blessings. I invite you now to put your faith in God. He’s there for you. Offer up a problem in your life to God. Remember:

Whate’er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God lets alone.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s