Friday, November 12, 2010

A Pillar of Fire by Night

If you know our story, you know it is one of surrender to Christ, of living for him and being led by him through dark, painful paths as well as indescribable beauty. The Eby family's story is full of baffling roadblocks, torturous detours, and some of the most amazing answers to prayer that one could witness (boy, can we tell you stories!). As long as I have sensed God leading us, as long as I've seen his hand prepare the way, I've been willing to follow. It has only been recently that the paralyzing fear that we have been abandoned occasionally pushes it's way into my mind.

I know that we have not been. I know that the God who called Matt's heart and mine to himself and then brought us together will bring us to the end of the path he's set us on. I know that our continued faithfulness to him even when we are weak and he is hidden only brings him more glory. But there are moments, when the children are quietly sleeping, and Matt and I are praying for a job and a house for the millionth time, when I just feel abandoned.

Lately Matt and I have taken comfort, ironically, in just how awful some circumstances have been. Last week Matt actually had a job offer over the phone, and we told the kids that Daddy had a job, and their little eyes glowed, and we celebrated! But several hours later the company had to renege because, though they were well aware that Matt's dad worked at the same place, they weren't aware that their company's hiring policy forbid them to hire two family members. "Well," Matt said, "only God could orchestrate something that awful." And, though we're not exactly sure what God was trying to work in that situation, it gave us a strange sense of comfort to know he's doing something in our lives.

If you know our story, you know that sometimes when God has felt furthest from us, in his mercy, he has sent a small reminder of his presence to strengthen us, a little light to make the dark path less lonely: a random e-mail asking if I would nanny for a new baby the day after Matt and I had prayed that God would give me a job, or a minivan given to us just after I learned I was expecting my third child. Do you remember the comforters he sent our way this August? (For that full story click here then scroll down to 8/10/10 "Comfort".) When I began baking our own gluten-free bread this fall I realized that I would need a better bread pan, and the next day I went to a gluten-free expo at our hospital and happened to win a door prize: a Pampered Chef bread pan. In those moments I am ashamed that I ever doubted his care for us, the path is still every bit as thorny, but I feel much less pain just knowing he's walking it with me. Tonight was one of those moments.

Matt and I decided to put the kids in their pajamas, put them in the strollers, and soak up the last of the warmer cool fall air as we walked a nearly mile-long circle around our neighborhood in the black night. Naomi decided to count the stars. Leaning her head back in the double stroller, she made it to twenty before Matt broke in to remind her not to count the blinking ones, because they're airplanes. I added, "or the streaking ones because those are shooting stars..." Naomi sat up and interrupted me, "Yeah, and shooting stars aren't really stars. They're rocks falling to earth and burning up as they fall."

"Did you know Daddy and I once saw a shooting star?" I asked the girls. They listened eagerly as we walked on through the dark, quiet streets. "We were just married when..."

"Were we married?" Matt interrupted, "I think that was before we were married."

"Anyway," I continued, "and we were laying on the grass on the soccer field..."

"No," Matt shook his head, "we were sitting on the hill."

"OK...we were outside," I muttered, "but I said...or was that you who said it?" I asked Matt.

"It was me," he said sternly, looking at me as if I was hopeless.

"So we were outside together, at night," I recapped, "when Daddy said, 'wouldn't it be amazing if we saw a shooting star?' and right then, right in front of us a star streaked all the way across the sky!" I waved my hand across the sky dramatically as I finished the story. Naomi and Hannah grinned, but Emma had fallen asleep. "It was really beautiful, girls," I added, "Maybe you'll see one, one day." I looked up at the bare tree branches outlined by the moonlight as we walked, and the beautiful black expanse beyond them, as I have on a thousand late-night walks with Matt since that night: no shooting stars. A familiar longing panged my heart, God doesn't show himself to us that way anymore, he is hidden now.

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, than the sky lit with a solitary fireball streak, blazing down to earth directly in front of us. In a split second, it was gone. Matt and I both stopped, stunned. "Oh, wow!" Matt said, "Did you see that, Kathy?!" I had seen it.

It really doesn't matter to me whether it's a minivan just when we'd outgrown our sedan, comforters just when my girls' feet had outstretched their toddler-bed blankets, a bread pan just when our new diet called for homemade bread, or rock falling to earth just as I'd longed for it--I know it isn't coincidence. He knows my weakness, he strengthens my feet, he lightens the load and bids me to go on, and I'm happy to go on, as long as he's leading us.

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