....grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
I had a newborn baby and two kids in training pants. My husband, an architecture student at the University of Tennessee, spent 12+ hours a day at school either in classes or working in the design studio. After a quick pit stop for dinner, he'd head back out to a night job that helped us eke by month to month. Too little money, a tiny apartment, three small children, and isolated from other adults - that last year of school was a dark, difficult time for me.
But God did not let me despair completely. When I felt particularly lonely, someone from church would call or stop by unannounced, just to check in. Money was running low at the end of the month - Mary, a sweet sister in Christ, called to say she had found a sale on chicken that she couldn't pass up at the local Food Lion. She had bought all the chicken left in the case, but had nowhere to store so much meat - could she bring some of it by for my family to use? When I stood staring vacantly out the kitchen window one morning with tear-filled eyes, praying for some sign that God cared that life was so hard for me at the moment...God sent a tremendous, irridescent male peacock strolling through the yard. A peacock! How weird is that?! I wiped my eyes and laughed aloud.
Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually - everything about life at the time felt like leaning into the harness of a two-ton wagon. Much labor, much weariness, very little rest or joy. One Sunday afternoon when Steve didn't have to be at school or work and was free to watch the babies, I left the apartment alone and drove to the nearby WalMart to just wander up and down the aisles by myself. I remember as I drove home, thinking, "What's to keep me from just driving all the way to California?" I had the car. I had the gas card. It would be days before anyone would be able to figure out where I'd gone. I could just disappear into the sunset. Hmmmm.... I pulled into the driveway and headed back inside to the yoke.
Later, I told a dear friend that, during those bleak months, God's grace to me had been a short and heavy chain. "What?!" she asked.
"I could have run away," I explained. "There were days I wanted nothing more than to just walk out and leave everything. Lots of women do, you know." My friend looked at me in disbelief. I continued, "But God constrained me to stay."
Nearly 20 years have passed since that dark season. Although the horizon has not been cloudless all those years (rather, it has sometimes been again quite as dark), I can confess that there has been much, much light along the way. Much light that I would have missed if I had run away to California. Not a day passes that I don't thank God for His intervention in my life, for holding me still when, in the flesh, I would foolishly run away. Seems I'm made most acutely aware of my need of salvation in the dark places, and it's in the midst of these low valleys that Grace comes distilled to its sweetest and brightest.
What about you? If you are in a very dark place, if it feels like you are chained in a small box with no light - do not despair. God can squeeze close to you inside the narrowest box, and heavy chains are often forged of Grace.
But the Lord said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10