I have one memory of childhood that I have not forgotten all these years. And now that I am bedbound and unable to go out and see the outside world, this memory comes to me more often.
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I played in our neighbor’s spacious backyard together with my siblings, cousins, and other kids from around the neighborhood. I think the family, the owner of the property where we played, had already left for the States by then, for I can’t remember playing with their kids at this time, or being shy encountering the older ones. So, only the caretakers occupied the house, and since the backyard didn’t have a gate, we went in and out of it at any time of the day.
One afternoon while we played there, I got to be so near a room (this was the back of the house) that I got a glimpse of a very old woman, her face was lined with deep wrinkles, her long hair was grey. She didn’t look at me as I stared through the window, shocked to see her (for I hadn’t seen her nor known of her existence until then). She was sitting at the edge of the bed near the narrow window of a very dark room, staring blankly into space, all light and brightness gone from her mien. I was scared to see her.
Later on, I asked my father (or grandmother, I’m not sure now) who the old woman was and why she didn’t come out of her room all those years that I went to play in their backyard. I learned that she was the grandmother of the family who had gone to the States, and well, she just chose to not venture out of her room for years.
As an active child, I marvelled then why a human being would choose to stay in his/her room and would not want to go out even for a few minutes, and how one could survive such solitude, such lonely life.
In all of my 47 years, with regard to spending time outdoors – soaking up the sun, breathing in fresh air, listening to the warbling of the birds in the trees or the whispering of tall grasses as they sway with the breeze, looking up to an unobstructed view of the azure sky, so vast and deep and endless – my heart has not changed one bit.
No, I’m not here to tell you that being cooped up indoors for months and years is fantastic. But though I have learned to not live my days endlessly grumbling but looking for God’s grace and keeping a grateful heart, I still believe that being able to go out and spend time outdoors is a wonderful blessing. I still think that walking in the sand barefoot, the gentle waves lapping at my feet, as I search for unique shells and small sea creatures is an activity that brings me closer to the sweet presence of God, like we are in it together. I can imagine that running in the beach with my kids on either side of me, my hair and long summer dress billowing in the wind, and our laughter ringing out toward the clouds is a celebration of God’s love. For doesn’t the Bible say, Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord…?
But I can’t do those things. I stay in this room and my beautiful thoughts stay in my mind and my fervent desires stay locked up in my heart. But I don’t complain. What do I do? Saint Paul tells us his secret.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13 ESV)
In our hard places, it is the Lord who gives us strength to still give thanks, have some measure of joy and contentment, and to do things for His Kingdom within the boundaries of our meantime places. In prison, Saint Paul wrote letters to the churches, – teaching, reminding them of the hope of the Gospel, and encouraging them to be steadfast in the faith. Our Church’s beloved workers in the far-flung provinces who suffer hunger either from prolonged fasting or forced fasting (there is lack of food due to hardships) are strengthened to make sacrifices for the Kingdom – praying with tears for the salvation of souls and healing of the sick.
I am strengthened to continue to believe in the goodness of God and to pray unceasingly. The Lord strengthens and inspires me to never stop reading His Word, to meditate on it and journal the things He’s teaching me and share to others. He encourages and inspires me to write for His Kingdom (although I need to rest in between writing paragraphs ).
Yes, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength, even in this hard place.
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Journey with Jesus,