Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Dove Story

I have strep throat.  Fever, chills, swollen throat.  It feels like I'm swallowing nails and my head is in someone's vice grip.  I don't get sick.  Rarely, anyway.  And when I do, I don't go to the doctor.  But I have a son now, I've been fighting this for a week, and the last thing I wanted to do was return to Lexington tomorrow and get Judah sick.  So, without insurance, I went to a clinic here in Elizabethtown.  Put my name and address and symptoms in a computer and waited for them to call my name.

I sat down and picked up Donald's book and read for a few minutes.  My phone vibrated and I scrolled through a few text messages and then added an appointment into my calendar.  Facebook apparently uploads all my "friend's" birthdays into my calendar and today just happens to be his birthday.  The intern from Ethiopia.  I should probably wish him a happy birthday, but I haven't seen him in three years.

Three years.

I sat in the chair in the awkward waiting area of the clinic and stared at the pharmacy ahead of me and just sank.  Sank deep into the congruence I had been seeking.  I swear.  If I don't meet God in the strangest of places...

We were in Africa on his birthday.  I can't remember what we did exactly, but I think it involved digging a foundation during the day and eating guacamole at night.  But we were in Africa.  And as sweet as he was, his birthday really doesn't mean anything to me today.

Except we were there.  In Africa.  This day.  Three years ago.  

There are quite a few of you who know the events, which led me on my journey across the world.  Everything from God speaking at traffic lights to big, stone doves, Virgin Mary in a red headdress, and windstorms.

All those things make a great story.  I can tell it now almost from an outside perspective.  Almost.  It feels like someone else lived that life.  But what still remains dangerously intimate, the memory I have which still cuts deep and moves me... is the memory of the prayer I prayed.

One prayer.

Repeatedly.  Day after day.  For months and months, I prayed a single prayer in repetition.  Persistently knocking at the throne room door.  "Hey, excuse me.  I'm here again.  Let's talk.  Yes, about that same thing.  I know you heard me yesterday, but I wanted to make it clear... this is what I'm after."

It was simply a prayer for discernment.

Three years later I am in a very different place.  And I don't know if I'll ever go back to Africa. Or what the big, stone dove and the red headdress even really meant.  But I do remember the windstorm.  The windstorm that came out of nowhere -- no rain, no thunder.  Wind in the dry season.  Waking us up and pushing the fires through the mountains and frustrating the donkeys.  Wind, telling me Jesus was as close as He could be.

And I know maybe, He wanted me to associate the dove with Him.

Not with a message.  Not with directions.  But as a reminder.  To seek Him the way I sought Him then.  To ask for discernment, perception, and insight.  To ask about risk and the wisdom to understand.

A few weeks ago, something changed in my life.  There was a glimmer of hope and I was excited.  I thought prayers were being answered and I thought... just maybe... a long prayed prayer was being answered.  I was skeptical of the "rightness" I perceived and walked around for a few days holding my breath.

Then I saw the dove.

My heart skipped a beat and I immediately assumed the wrong thing.  I immediately assumed this was God's way of giving me direction.  Of affirming something.  Like the big, flashing sign I always need to understand Him when He says "here it is!  That thing I want for you."

This, however, was not what He meant by the dove this time.  Just like it was not what He meant by the dove the first time.

It took just a few hours, I think.  Maybe twelve.  Before I heard the small voice -- like the one He used for Moses on the mountain.  The small voice, requiring me to lean in, to give Him my full attention.  So I could hear Him say, "pray the old way, Anna.  Pray the way you did then.  Just like that."

This is my gift.  At the end of the day, I have nothing but this.  And so I whispered an equally quiet prayer.  For my eyes to be opened to the risks He wanted me to take and to give me the courage to take the next step.  For discernment, perception, and insight.  Wisdom to understand.

Two weeks later, it's all done.  And I'm quite frustrated with myself for letting it go as long as it did.  The discernment came quickly, with great strength and resolve.  But I still admonish the enemy for trying to capture my son and me in our vulnerability.

Not so quietly, I remind the enemy and the world, exactly Who we belong to.  Exactly Whose wing we live under.  I am grateful too, then, that three years ago I learned how to pray this way.  A listening muscle was developed in me, and all the hurt and damage which has been done since then did not destroy it.

The wind is blowing in Elizabethtown this week.  I am back in my hotel room and I know God has met me here in an equally strong and valiant way as when He met me in east Africa.

And a truth has been built in me.

About the character of the God we love.  God, the Father, the storyteller.  Who foreshadows.  Who prepares us and equips us for battles.

March 1, 2010: I will be reaping this for the rest of my life.