October 24, 2021
Last week Gary Cleveland and I would have celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary. If you’ve followed me at all, you know that didn’t happen. Gary died two-weeks shy of our 42nd Anniversary. I’ve had eight years to get over it. Of course, we all know that you don’t just get over heartbreak. You learn how to ‘deal’ the best you can. I’ve been fortunate to have been loved by more than one person, a long list of folks who have walked beside me, pulled the covers off, taken care of me, and gently nudged me forward. And, of course, I have a God who hasn’t taken ‘no’ for an answer. His patience has been other-worldly, literarily. His discipline relentless, and His comfort soul-saving. Most times I obeyed Him kicking and screaming and other times I tried to pull a ‘Jonah’ on Him. Eventually, he’s always sent a big fish to sniff me out. After a couple of years of hiding behind busyness, contrived purpose, and disappointment, the big fish came in the form of a broken leg, a femur to be exact, that swallowed me whole and spit me out on my couch surrounded by crutches and lots of extra-strength Tylenol.
The God of love wasn’t showing any, not to me. He had once given me a gift and a calling and now sat in my living room on my blue leather chair demanding accountability. He made it clear that death of a loved one was no excuse to abandon a Holy tap on the shoulder. My good works during the eight years didn’t even get a smile out of Him. The fact that I sat on a board of a Christian youth camp and was even the president did not impress the Creator of the sun, moon and stars. His exact words were, “I’ve called others to do those things. I’ve called you to something else.” Or more accurately he might have said, “There are varieties of gifts and ministries, but the Spirit distributes to each person individually as He wills. None is insignificant or more important.” I’m pretty sure He wanted me to understand that one size did not fit all.
After six months of physical therapy, pain management and learning how to walk again God had my attention and He was calling for change. The weight of grief, among other things, had blinded me to the truth of how God planned to use me. Things had not turned out the way I had hoped. I had begun to think of my writing as a profession that had failed. My speaking and teaching opportunities dried up causing me to doubt my relevance to God’s Kingdom. I decided on my own to put these things away and looked for other ways to serve or excuses not to.
Confusion, anger, and disappointment in God and myself kept me riled up. A good night’s sleep abandoned me. Doubt, hurt and fatigue plagued me. My plea to the God-Head was, “I’ll do anything you want, just please let me know what it is!” Of course, that wasn’t exactly true and He knew it.
Just when I had given up hope of an answer, the Spirit nudged. It was time to get off the couch. It was time to clear my calendar of any and everything that did not fill God with joy when he looked at me. It was time to return to my calling. As unsuccessful as I thought the calling had been and with no idea how God would use my surrender, a few days ago, I bowed and leaned whole heartedly into the prodding of God.
I’m still grieving. Sorrow has not left my house. Oh, how I wished Gary Cleveland were still here, especially on this our 50th Anniversary. Yet, my time on the couch was not in vain. I am determined to be true to my calling, not insist it look a certain way, and not be longing for someone else’s gifts. My calling. My gifts. From my Lord.
Have you bowed to your calling and God’s gifts?