I've been attending "lakeside services" with God for over 4 years now. The 'chapel' is unconventional. No walls, no doors, no steeple. Just grass and trees, water and sky. A far more beautiful place to worship than any man-made building. And the sermons? Well...they are truly Divine!
It amazes me that although I've lived in the same place for 25 years, I never really knew about the lake until recently. I more or less stumbled upon it 5 summers ago when I was in a dark place. Here's the short version...I'd been married for almost 27 years when my husband left in January 2007. It had always been a rocky union, so the separation actually brought about a sense of relief - but there was also a huge fear of the unknown. Married at 18, there was never a time when I was alone. And because I was constantly told I had no common sense, no worth, and no abilities, I was convinced I couldn't make it on my own and I wasn't sure how I could survive this new phase of my life.
In truth, it was hard. I struggled financially teetering on the brink of collapse. All the costs of running the household were on me. I was excruciatingly lonely. Not that I hadn't been lonely often in my marriage, but this was different.
Anyway, one day I found myself driving through the park and I decided to park by the marina. It was the sunset that drew me down to the shoreline of the lake. I sat in one of those 'left side' benches I've mentioned, surrounded by people enjoying the evening and silently wept feeling completely and utterly alone.
All these years later, I am a very different woman. I've learned that I have abilities - many of them - all God-given and useful. And I have worth. I am, through God's grace, being used to touch many lives in important and lasting ways - and helping others do the same. Common sense? Well, I strive to gain Godly wisdom because often what appears to be common sense to this world is foolishness in His eyes.
But...all these years later, my Achilles Heel is sometimes believing I'm the same, fearful woman who sat on the bench and cried 5 long summers ago. Loneliness is still one of my toughest battles and the enemy can somehow narrow my focus so that it is all I see. I temporarily forget all the miraculous wonders and provisions that I have been the recipient of. I forget how far I've come. Those are the days I sit on the bench and dissolve into tears, crying out to God "How it is possible that so much time could go by with no change? How can 5 years have passed with me, still a party of one, sitting on a bench for two?" I want someone to share the sunset with. Someone to walk and talk with. I have myself a fine little pity party on those days.
Patiently, God waits until I'm done with the temper tantrum and then He gently, but firmly, puts His hands on my shoulders and turns me around, encouraging me to take a good look at my past. I see myself in those early days - feeling as if I'd been cast out to sea without so much as a life jacket. The waves of finances, job uncertainty, personal insecurities, and more pummeling me, threatening to take me under and drown me. "Change your focus Toni...look again," he whispers in my ear. Now I see Him on the shore. His hand stretched out across the face of the waters, calming the storms of life. Providing the needed finances at just the right time. Protecting the job when it was on the chopping block. Surrounding me with friends who love and encourage me. "I am with you always, Toni. Sometimes in this life you will go through storms, but I am in control." He brings Isaiah 43:2 to mind..."When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." God has been there to share the sunsets with - He made them for me. He is always there to walk with me and talk with me...and He listens intently to everything I have to say. He reminds me that when I look forward, all I see is my limited snapshot of a particular moment in time. I have to look backward to get a clue as to how it was all working together from the beginning...only He has the panoramic view of eternity looking forward. And He is in the picture every step of the way.