“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20
Don’t laugh at me. And don’t tell me you’ve never gotten down on your hands and knees to triple check that there isn’t anything or anyone lurking in the shadows of your bedskirt. Ok, maybe you haven’t lately. But I have. Yep. Very recently in fact. Before you close the screen because this doesn’t apply to you, hear me out.
I had been looking forward to this weekend for months. A whole weekend focusing solely on my writing and my spiritual growth. I was ready to relax, refresh my soul, and spend a calm, peaceful weekend with God and my computer, while fellowshipping with other Christian authors. After all, the conference was called “Renew.”
Well, I showed up just in time for my critique appointment, and in order to make it I left my luggage in the car. After the appointment I had a half hour before they were doing a celebration panel of authors who published in the last year. Perfect! Time for me to get my things, find my room, use the facilities, freshen up, etc. Well when I finally managed to ask the front table where the celebration would take place, I was told all the authors on the panel were currently meeting in the front room. How did I miss that email? I stepped into the doorway just in time to basically hear, “Ok, and that’s how it’s going to work. Let’s just have fun!” Not to mention when they saw me there they asked if I had my 5 books I needed, and I said, yes, in my room. Oops.
So I had to run up to my room, throw the books onto the table, and settle myself into my seat, just in time for the interview panel to begin. I felt like I was in a whirlwind. I wanted to cry. I tried to compose myself. I took deep breaths. I prayed. I smiled. And I prayed some more as they called up the first panel of 7 authors, myself being one of them, but for some reason I missed my name the first time.
Long story shorter, after sitting in the wrong seat (how could I miss that each seat had the author’s book on it!), blindly finding my way to the dining room down the stairs and pretty sure located in another state, I managing to keep myself composed through dinner with one of my most favorite authors. After dinner I scrambled back upstairs to get the rest of my books into the “store” and priced. Then I found myself alone in my room.
I was tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and most significantly, spiritually. Where was God? Here I am at a spiritual writer’s retreat, surrounded by people who love two of the same things I do, and yet I struggled. Where was God? I prayed for peace. I sure didn’t feel it. I prayed for it to be a great weekend. So far we were off to a not so great start. Surely He didn’t set all this up for me just to waste the entire weekend in misery and despair.
I talked to my husband on the phone, and had some time to sort through all the books I purchased, as well as my freebies. I told him if I could just get myself organized, I’d feel better. So, I did that. Then the next wave came. I felt like I was almost being suffocated. I felt fear, anxiety, and confusion. And then the monsters showed up. You know what I’m talking about. The sense that someone is standing behind you. You know they’re there, even though you haven’t turned around yet.
How many years has it been since I’ve even thought about a monster under my bed? But that was the next thought. What if someone was lurking under my bed, waiting for me? And not even what if. It was more like, who or what am I going to find when I lift up the skirt? Then I did what every sane forty-year old does. I went to the foot of the bed, moved back a bit (just in case they lashed out at me with a knife), and put my head to the floor. Surprise!! Nothing. Of course not. But that wasn’t good enough. I got down and looked again. Then I went to the side of the bed and looked again. And when I left the room that night, I looked again when I returned. Each time I saw nothing. But what I felt was so real, I knew I had an enemy in the room with me.
You see, God set this weekend up for me. And often, when God has great plans for us, the enemy will try to fight it. In this case it was through fear, because that’s one area that is a struggle for me, and Satan knows that. So I had a choice to make. Was I going to stay up all night in fear, that someone was going to come in or that someone was hiding under the bed I checked fifty times? Or was I going to lie down in peace? David said in Psalm 4 verse 8, “I will both like down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” It was more clear than ever that this weekend was divinely appointed, so I was not going to let my peace be stolen. I hit the floor and prayed until God showed Himself and the peace I was craving wrapped itself around me.
By now I should end my story, with all of you saying, “Praise God! Ya, He is real!” But it doesn’t end here. Literally within ten minutes after that, the mental attack struck again. I was standing at the desk in my room and knocked over a very full cup of water. I had no idea how much water fit into that cup. Big deal, you say. Well, it is when you’re struggling to keep peace in your mind. All my toiletries were on that desk, my computer, Bible, books, notes, etc. Once I clumsily cleaned it up and mopped the floor, I still refused to let my peace be stolen. I climbed into bed and gratefully thanked God for the day and looked forward to a new day.
The next morning, yes, after checking for monsters twice during the night, I woke feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day! Upon looking at my phone, and realizing I had a half hour till breakfast (I never sleep that late, so I didn’t see any need to set an alarm), I hurried up and went to the showers. Ok, little frazzled, not a big deal. Ready in plenty of time, just missing the prayer time but that was ok because I would have my own time with God. Finishing up getting dressed, I felt good about things and bent down to pick up my conditioner bottle off the floor. Standing up, I banged the front of my head onto the towel bar. Ok, dumb move. Just clumsy. We all bang our heads. Yes we do, but this hurt so badly and all I could think about was the concussion I received from hitting my head against a cabinet. So here we go again. A little nauseous, I finished up and went to breakfast, smiling all the way as I greeted others. With a throbbing head I asked the dining room manager for a bag of ice.
In the bathroom, as I squatted against a wall with a large plastic bag of ice against my head, I had another decision to make. It was almost more than I could bear. Ok God, did you really not want me to come here this weekend? I finally asked. But then I pushed that aside and knew in my heart that once again, the enemy was finding every single device he could use against me to get me to give up. To go home and miss out on all the blessings that were prepared for me. I told him that he’d have to do better than that to get me to leave. I wasn’t giving up. Then and there I made the decision. I stood, iced for a few more seconds, and walked out of there resolved to stay here until the bitter end.
Why did I tell you all this? Did you really need to hear a play by play of all the things that went wrong with my weekend? Of course not. But let me tell you, the weekend was beyond even my own imagination, and in more than one way. I met several amazing women who encouraged me and loved me. I reconnected with an acquaintance. I heard real women speak about real life and I learned so much from each of them. And I had a chance to write some more and read it to a group of people who offered advice and suggestions. Not to mention I learned a lot about the next step in this journey, public speaking.
So was it worth it? Absolutely. The times we go through the fire are the times when we are being made perfect. If I gave in to my fears and anxiety and left the conference, I would’ve missed out on the great reward. Remember, what the devil has planned for our harm, God means it for our good!
Photo by LP