Clara felt the cool night air against her skin, it was 2:00 am and she hadn’t slept a wink. She could hear Ringo breathing in his bed a few feet away. It had been a long evening and she’d gone to bed reluctantly knowing it was more of an empty gesture than anything else. She hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in more days than she cared to recount. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, the noise of traffic drifted faintly through the glass of the window. Life never stops, she thought. Her mind wandered, as it had hundreds of times over the last three weeks, to happier days. Back to when she woke up and went to work at a job she loved, well mostly loved. Back when she and Laura had picnic lunches on the concrete tables just outside the high rise. In those days, she was so proud of her accomplishments and felt so confident in a future that looked promising. I just have to bide my time, she would often remind herself on an especially hard day. It was in the middle of these painful memories a faint thought began to occur to her. She had been so sure how things were going to turn out. So confident in her path. She’d never really asked God if this was what HE had for her; she just assumed. When she’d prayed, it was for God to bless and give her success. But, in the quiet of this night and at the brink of utter despair, the small thought began to grow. What if this was the plan? What if she wasn’t supposed to work at Smith and Smith Architectural Design? She thought she knew what was supposed to happen next, the plan made sense. Clara’s mind started to spin. All the questions she’d not been willing to ask overwhelmed her like a flood.
She rolled over to face the moonlit window, the shadows across the room stretched deep tonight. “Why, Lord?” She spoke to the darkness. “Why do we have to go through such hard things?” She hadn’t been much on speaking terms with her Heavenly Father until last evening. She wasn’t even sure why she’d started praying; it was like she couldn’t help it in that moment. The prayer hadn’t been long, but she could feel her heart begin to thaw in the hours that followed. That small, heartfelt prayer for help, gave her the courage needed to confess a million hurts and disappointments. Clara had no idea how long she laid there or how many tears she cried. She said all the things that caused such deep hurt, and was painfully honest about her disappointments and fears.
As the sun rays began to creep across the room, she knew she’d been changed in the midst of the darkness. Not just the literal darkness of night but the figurative darkness of this time in her life. The sun felt good as it tickled her face and she smiled. “Lord, my heart isn’t in line with what you’re doing in my life right now. I don’t like it and I want back what I had. I am so disappointed and hurt and, honestly, humiliated. BUT, I can’t seem to escape you no matter which way I turn.” She spoke quietly as she scooped Ringo up and laid him on the bed beside her. The thoughts in her mind were still jumbled but this one thing she knew…she had to have Jesus. She had to have time with him, she couldn’t make it without their conversations and the hope he always restored. “Lord, I don’t know much right now. None of it makes sense, but this I KNOW…I need you. Would you please shift my heart to align with yours? I can’t see a way out, but I believe you can. Remind me of your goodness and keep my mind centered on you. I have always loved you, and I love you now. Even though my mind and heart are clouded and I can’t see your love, I believe it’s there. Help me to believe.”
For the first time in weeks, Clara got up, made a pot of coffee and headed to the “Power Hour” chair. She picked up her old Bible with its frayed edges and held it close to her heart. It felt familiar and warm. Just holding it brought long needed comfort. She opened the faithful old book to the Old Testament book of Daniel. She’d loved his story since her childhood days of going to Sunday school. Her favorite was the flannel board. She would always volunteer to help the teacher move the flat people at the appropriate times. She loved how God saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace and Daniel from the lion’s den. Until this day it hadn’t dawned on her how much faith it took to stand on a platform in front of a fire, knowing your life was about to end. And none of them had done anything wrong! She felt a connection to Daniel and his friends like never before. Her Bible flannel board characters had come to life in her mind as she realized they’d been real people who were dealt a devastating blow. They were forced to choose and they chose to trust God. There was no way of knowing whether or not they would be saved, but they trusted anyway. Clara felt a fresh wave of conviction. “Sorry, Lord.” Fresh tears wet the pages of the Holy Script and she vowed again, as she had done in the night, to trust the Lord even if it meant the “fire.”
Clara looked at the clock through eyes blurred with tears. “Wait.” She rubbed her eyes, sure she wasn’t seeing it clearly. “Eleven fifteen?? Ringo, why didn’t you tell me?” She sprang from the chair, taking an extra few seconds to lay her Bible down carefully, and ran to the bathroom to get dressed. She had a lunch date in forty five minutes and she had no idea how she’d change, get to the train and arrive at the restaurant on time.
“It looks fine.” David spoke to himself again in the full length mirror hanging on the back of his bedroom door. He’d changed clothes at least three times and was trying to convince himself this fourth outfit should be the final. It was just a lunch date, he chided himself, why all the nerves? Even as he thought about it, he knew the answer. This girl was different. Something about their encounter felt God-ordained, and Lulu seemed to really like her. And hadn’t he heard dogs were always a good judge of character? It was time. He grabbed his wallet, and headed downstairs and to the train station. He could hardly wait to see Clara, his heart skipped a beat at the thought.
Clara walked into the café feeling a bit unnerved. She’d sprinted once she got off at the station and was sure she looked a disheveled mess. She wanted to be there, but after her long night, she felt raw and vulnerable. Maybe lunch wasn’t such a good idea, maybe she should just leave and text him for a raincheck. She turned toward the door when she spotted him. David. Waving almost embarrassingly to get her attention. Well, guess I’m staying, she thought. She took a deep breath, straightened her corduroy skirt and walked his way.
She prayed as she took off her coat and propped it on the back of the chair. Have your way here, Lord, in this place, in this friendship. I trust you. Her thoughtful prayer startled her, did she trust God after all that had happened? After a fitful night finally leading to full surrender, her answer was a heartfelt yes.
“You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” Psalm 91:13-14