WNIJ Good Friday Perspective
“You’ll be gone by spring,” said the same voice that drove me to retire. I was afraid this might be true, that I’d be dead by the time the weather warmed. Recent estate planning put death on my mind. I’ve heard enough about the frailty of old age, that it’d be all right by me to leave here with my faculties intact.
You’ll be gone by spring. I couldn’t tell Bruce. Then came the snotty nose, my appetite gone, and sleep rising. While my pneumonia wasn’t Covid 19, I needed breathing treatments four times a day. Good doctors cared. I tell you there is healing beyond the science, in their touch, their listening.
Then a dear friend said he might not survive this pandemic. An author wrote she was sick with Covid 19. You’ll be gone by spring. Was it Jesus’ voice or the voice, clanging like a train banging from one track to another, the cars jostling against their couplings, the voice of my life, maybe all our lives, rolling onto a siding while the pandemic roared by?
Here on Good Friday we remember how we killed God. What can be more wicked? And yet his last words were “Father Forgive them.” As C.S. Lewis writes, “When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” Death is wrecked for good. And if it’s wrecked, why be afraid when our time comes?
I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.
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Some More Thoughts on Hearing God’s Voice, A Commentary on my Perspective
I started thinking about hearing God’s voice when I read what Seth Haines wrote in his challenging book, Coming Clean, a book that asks the question, what happens if God doesn’t heal? He asks, “What if the answers in your head are the voice of God Himself? What if they square with circumstance and Scripture, or do not contradict them? What if they are confirmed by your community and the world around you?” (152).
I remembered how I used to write automatic writing, where I’d say something in my journal and then get answered back. The voice could have been God, or it could have been my kinder, gentler self. Lately those words have nudged me like daffodils pushing through the spring dirt. I have kicked more dirt over them, afraid to hear the kindness. Could God actually be telling me “well done” when I’ve spent a day on Facebook darting around making comments? Does God see that maybe that’s the best I can do? At any rate, I need to listen again with my journal open and see what comes.
Even back in college, when I was open to this kind of writing, I heard a voice telling me I’d marry George when I was in college. He seemed to match me spiritually. And he’d look at me across the dining hall like a man looks at a woman, a telling, connected look. He said I reminded him of someone from his past. Thank goodness I did not marry him. I learned later that the connection to trust is not the surface spiritual one. It was my body leaping and jumping in joy, that told me Bruce would be my husband, my body, not Bible study or prayer. As we grew together I saw how we were matched in our values and spirits and even places where we were broken clicked together like well made gears. So maybe this hearing God’s voice comes as much from our bodies as our reason. Martha Beck says we can tell what our North Star is or our calling or what the right decision is for us, by how it feels in our bodies. Does a decision feel like shutters flying open, breezes flowing in, or like shutters closed, the room darkening, becoming musty? I hear God’s voice through my desires. If this is something I want to do, if my heart leaps up at the thought, then maybe that’s where I should head. If God made me, and laid in those desires, then maybe we should explore them.
I’ve known people who were sure they hear God’s voice. People have prophesied to me, ugly, scary images that sounded more like imagination than God’s voice. Once I was told I was like a rainbow wrapped in a black cloud. Another said she saw a black something standing behind me. (No joke. I was grieving.) Neither knew me. Their words were cruel like the accuser in Zechariah 3, against Joshua who was dressed in dirty rags. God’s response? Not to shame the priest but to bring clean linen clothes to clothe his nakedness. And a turban to wrap around his head. Tears came to my eyes when I read this. Imagine God standing up to our accuser and giving us clean clothes instead of dirty rags. I don’t know how anyone could be so confident they’re hearing God’s voice with regards to someone they don’t know. My pastor is adamant, saying, “Anyone who wants to play prophet needs to match God’s word and really be a good friend of mine. Not just anyone gets to speak for God.”
I have had too many instincts, and voices saying, “This could go badly” shout in my ear. Fears of abandonment, springing from earlier grief, made me flinch. Zach Williams’ Fear is a Liar and Don Williams’ Ghost Story both address how false narratives from past hurts can haunt us. Zach Williams sings, “When he told you’re not good enough. When he told you you’re not right..” Don Williams sings, “I’ve seen how you tremble/Whenever he walks through your mind/Stirring up memories that cloud up your eyes/Where the light of our love ought to shine.” I am not alone in this.
How I Got Sick
Bruce got a cold and then I did. Only mine turned into a nasty cough and a trip to Immediate Care. I’d lost my appetite and wanted to sleep. I caught the attention of the physician’s assistant who used a more pulse oximeter than the one they put on your finger. He gave me a breathing treatment and sent me home with albuterol because I have a nebulizer left over from an earlier bout with pneumonia. My chest x ray confirmed a pneumonia starting. I didn’t tell anyone on Facebook because people’s responses can be overwhelming and exhausting. But my pastor and my church prayed for me.
Is it coming true, this premonition, that I’d be gone by spring? The voice turned ugly, accusatory. But a friend, Deborah, who is a mystic, sent me a video from Bruce Lipton about the placebo and nocebo affect. Ah yes. I’d read about how the placebo effect is so powerful, medical testing has to insure a medication is helping people beyond how their brains can heal them. Our minds can make us well or make us sick (the nocebo effect). She caught me up short because she heard my fear across the miles, without me saying. Then I saw a lung specialist. I’d made the appointment six months earlier because insurance required I see him for my sleep apnea. There are some doctors who are healers because of their ability to be present, to listen. The voice about dying by spring slammed out of my soul. He sent me for another chest x ray and then one three weeks later as well as a breathing test. By the time he saw me, the pneumonia had resolved and I passed the breathing test.
I Wasn’t Alone Feeling this Dread
I had been ashamed and afraid and didn’t even tell Bruce or friends I felt like my time was up. I was afraid to come to the page, afraid of what I might hear. I did not want to write a final letter to him, or to my people. I’ve barely written directions for the animals’ care. Estate planning presses a person’s face against mortality. I coughed and hacked and took my breathing treatments. Word about the C-19 virus started to circulate in the news.
Then a friend said he thought his time was ending. He was writing poem after poem, so he’d leave words behind. His poems came fully formed. If these were my last days all I wanted was sleep because God has told his servants he’d meet them in sleep, and he given them visions. An author I follow wrote how she might die from Covid-19 because her symptoms matched the CDC’s guidelines. I took to my bed hoping God would say something I could use or maybe emotions could rise that couldn’t rise otherwise. After my parents died I would sleep off whole Saturdays and wake up feeling I’d accomplished something. Once I even dreamed I shouted how I hated her because her mouth was set in silence and she would not tell me what I’d done wrong. Sleep released that fury. With Covid-19 I started hearing about others thinking they might die. Any one of us could be taken. So maybe I was hearing the locomotive of dread roaring into our lives from this pandemic.
How Do We Hear God’s Voice?
So whose voice was I hearing? A wise premonition giving me grace to get ready? A thief that was out to steal my words because I was so afraid to set these down? A collective voice that was rising as our awareness of C-19 rose? Or was it a sense that my life will change? My dreams have been full of road trips.
So how do I listen for God’s voice? Jesus says we’ll know his voice and follow him. “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow because they will flee from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10: 4 -5. God’s voice is not the voice of the accuser. He doesn’t enflame shame. Even when I’ve been convicted of sin, there was an air of relief, and release as I worked through my sorrow over what I’d done badly. There’s a cleansing like the psalmist says, “Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be white as snow…” There’s that sense of breezes stirring curtains in a window, a lightness, a joy when the voice is calling, “This is the way, walk in it.” Our bodies like quiet animals can be wise. It was wise when I met Bruce and my womb danced. God’s voice follows the mundane things like what scripture in context says. It falls in line with “love God and your neighbor.” Others confirm the path. (Just recently several friends have called me a pastor, which surprises me a little, though I see you, my audience, as my country church, that I try to tend with my words and prayers.) And prayer, both my own for direction and others for me, can also lead us. Doors open or close, both in our spirits and in real life.
Yes I’m Thinking about Death These Days.
I’ve out lived my mother by four years, my brother by thirty years. Yes. My doctor says there’s a pill for that. But the Bible says that numbering our days teaches us wisdom, which sounds all right by me. As far as being afraid of dying, what scares me the most is leaving our estate unsettled, and leaving our animals vulnerable to whatever the state might decide. My parents couldn’t figure out how to divide things between my brother and I so they threw up their hands and left us to each other to figure it out. Bruce’s mother planned things out. I want to be like her.
And yet I am afraid if we get the paperwork done, my time will come. And I don’t want it to come, because there is great grief leaving this world that reeks of God’s love–the horses, Bruce, all that Bruce does for me, the elm tree flinging her shadows on the barn, the dogs jumping in my lap because they both want my attention, Morgen trotting to the gate, whinnying, though how I long to see Jesus, finally to see him face to face, to let him wipe the tears off my face. Sometimes fear that I’ve failed my life so badly that he won’t say, “Well done,” rises up. But that fear is a liar. Perfect love drives out fear. God’s perfect love, that is high and broad and wide and deep. I have seen a man so full of love and light and joy, that now I understand how people dropped everything and followed Jesus. How much greater is the Lord himself? He died so that I don’t have to be afraid of saying goodbye to this body, this world, I don’t have to be a slave to fear. (Heb. 2: 14 – 15). My eyes are turned to the one who made all of creation. As the Psalmist says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147: 3-4)
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