Today I am steering my writing a little towards the musicians in our circle. Some of you have been in churches all over this country. You have learned the deep things of God through pain and the joys of worship. Some of you know our family’s story intimately because you have walked with us. Others of you have prayed for us as we have walked. But only a few of you know the roadblocks that have been placed in my pathway to make sure I didn’t make the wrong turns.
There are very few times a roadblock was in front of me that made me want to give up on life. Only one of those times made me seriously question God. I have no pretense of being a super spiritual woman of God, but a wife, a mom to five children, a voice teacher who believes music is powerful, and a sojourner to find more of God and less of me. I don’t travel lightly, though. I carry with me the stuff of life that’s necessary for me to have cared for one of these children who had a progressive disease.
On my journey, I confronted several roadblocks when, at age 17, I tried desperately to attend a university with a degree program in music therapy. Every school I researched was not the right fit. At that young age, my inclination was to give up. It seemed impossible to find a school that worked. I believe several roadblocks were placed very deliberately in my pathway to keep me from going to any other university other than the one I attended, Oral Roberts University (ORU), even though ORU did not offer my preferred program. I sincerely believe that, if I had pursued that music therapy degree, Chris and I may not have met at ORU. Then, our Robert would not have blessed this earth with his presence.
Major roadblocks continued to appear on my path of caring for Robert as Chris was completing the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I was asked during our year there to join the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) as a solo artist on the weekends. I was blessed to minister with Dr. John Wesley White, Franklin Graham, and countless amazing musicians.
And then it happened—an invitation (and my heart’s desire) to sing a solo at a Billy Graham Crusade where Billy Graham himself was preaching. It would take place on September 22, 1993, at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The big Crusades! I was overwhelmed, grateful, and humbled. However, a few months before the crusade, I contracted spinal meningitis.
How could this be? I had things to do! I was seven months pregnant with our third child. We were building a house long distance and moving back to San Antonio, Texas. I was completing a new CD and I had what? As I was being admitted into Mayo Clinic, not completely in my right mind, my response to the excruciating headache and fever was, “Well, give me some drugs for the headache, and let me go home. I have things to do!”
But the doctor’s response was to put me in the hospital for 10 days so I wouldn’t die or, much worse, lose the baby and die. (Not. Good.) So, I sat for 10 days receiving IV antibiotics while they cared for me and our soon-to-be-born baby boy. Towards the end of that hospital stay, I was stuffing printed liner cards into CD cases in my hospital gown before they were sent off to be shrink-wrapped because I had promised the BGEA hundreds of CDs to sell. Like I said, I had things to do!
The end result of that scary experience was that I did see God’s hand in delivering our first son, James III, perfectly (three weeks before the crusade), and I found favor and rewarding music ministry at the crusade. Meningitis could have been a very significant and final roadblock.
All of these mentioned roadblocks brought me to a place and a day that I will never forget. I remember, in detail, the day I seriously questioned God when I rightfully perceived that this new roadblock was to be more than a pebble or even a boulder. This one would drop squarely in the middle of my winding path and bring with it a huge avalanche.
I had just spent several days at home with our youngest son, Robert, watching his fragile body seize for hours. The ambulance had driven away, leaving me and Robert alone in the house with his siblings. It was very still again. My husband came home from work, and I left the house and drove immediately to the Target parking lot to let God have it!
Once there, I reminded God of the many years we had watched Robert’s body regress and the countless times the doctors had no answers. I reminded Him that I had told Him after Robert’s brain surgery to help stop the hundreds of daily seizures, that I was not doing this again if the seizures returned. I used every curse word I could think of (I only knew three.) to make my point. For an hour, I sat soaked in flowing tears, yelling at the top of my lungs and feeling hopeless. I am really glad that Target’s security personnel did not spot me. Surely, I would have been very suspect to them…covered in tears, in the dark, and in the parking lot. It was the end for me.
This was my accusation:
“I thought we had an agreement:
1. I agree to Robert’s very dangerous brain surgery.
2. You stop the seizures and mental regression.”
I did my part.
I was devastated—truly devastated to a depth that rocked my faith and trust. I didn’t want to question God. I didn’t want to live with doubt. You may possess a stronger, deeper faith, but it may have grown deeper after a significant trial. I knew my life was anchored securely but, in that parking lot on that evening, my anchor started to rise and float. It was something that was foreign and terrifying to me.
A very long year followed that evening of refusing to accept who God was showing Himself to be—a God of love and compassion who also lets us run into roadblocks and brick walls in order for us to carry out His plan for our lives. I refused to accept that this was the God I loved. How could this be my God?
Our family had many discussions about this idea of our God not being big enough to handle Robert. Sometimes, it went like this:
My husband would ask me on our way home from church,
“How are you doing with worshipping God?”
My very raw and broken-hearted reply, often after helping to lead worship at our church, would be:
“I told you that you can worship God if you want to, but He is not big enough for me. Either He is too small or He is choosing to withhold healing from my child and choosing to watch Robert suffer. That is cruel and I will not serve a god like that. You can do what you want, but I am not worshiping a god like that. I will put on a great church face, but do not ask me to worship Him right now, because I can’t.”
Roadblocks. What do they look like in our lives? What are their purposes? I have had years now to reflect on that day in the Target parking lot. I have had time to let God work on my heart. He had me travel on this journey to prepare me for that ultimate brick wall. There was no kicking down the brick wall or roadblock marked “Death.” There was only submission at the end of that road.
Growing up, my parents never let anything cloud our eyes as we raced for “the prize.” There was nothing we couldn’t do. That was the way we were raised. I just didn’t know I couldn’t run through brick walls, and I had never seen a wall like this one.
I have learned through many roadblocks that when it came to my two sons, particularly, God was in charge. It took me a few years to realize that I had been prepared to be their mom, whether I thought I was enough or not. I have also learned that nothing can separate me from the love of God…not even my sad attempts at throwing dirt on Him or my periods of deep doubt.
It is not easy. Our inclination as advocates and caregivers is to kick and fight to make it better. However, let me offer the suggestion that when you, as a sojourner, find that kicking your stubborn roadblock is futile, please just rest on that path a bit. That roadblock may have been deliberately placed in your journey to point you in a different direction. Your journey may need a detour to prepare you for the construction ahead. Don’t be afraid, He has already gone before you.
Listening Library: You’re Gonna Be OK (Jenn Johnson)
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 NIV)
You’re Gonna Be OK
I know it's all you've got to just, be strong And it's a fight just to keep it together, together I know you think, that you are too far gone But hope is never lost Hope is never lost Hold on, don't let go Hold on, don't let go Just take, one step, closer Put one foot in front of the other You'll, get through this Just follow the light in the darkness You're gonna be ok I know your heart is heavy from those nights Just remember that you're a fighter, a fighter You never know just what tomorrow holds And you're stronger than you know Stronger than you know Hold on, don't let go Hold on, don't let go Just take, one step, closer Put one foot in front of the other You'll, get through this Just follow the light in the darkness One step, closer Put one foot in front of the other You'll, get through this Just follow the light in the darkness You're gonna be ok And when the night, is closing in Don't give up and don't give in This won't last, it's not the end, it's not the end You're gonna be ok When the night, is closing in Don't give up and don't give in This won't last, it's not the end, it's not the end You're gonna be ok
Writer(s): Seth David Mosley, Jeremy Riddle, Jenn Johnson © 2016 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) / CentricSongs (SESAC) / These Tunes Go To 11 (SESAC) (adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com)