Chapter 7 – My Pain


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A Desire So Strong

Chapter 7 – My Pain


Marie was awakened by the ringing of the phone. “If that’s one of those telemarketers,” she said out loud glancing at the clock, “I may just lose it. And at 7 p.m. too—man.” No one except Satan could tilt a halo any more than a telemarketer could, and that’s the truth. He’s probably the one who orchestrates these calls daily—three, four, five, and six times a day she thought. And some of these times it’s the very same ones I just hanged up on she thought. She recalled one recent episode with a telemarketer: “Sweetie, call my house one more time and I’ll have something for you,” she’d said to the caller.
         “I can’t believe he hung up on me God,” she said laughing. “I’m the one who’s supposed to do that. The nerve . . . .”
         “Marie? “Yeah God?
         “Nuts. Just nuts.” He said.
         “Walnuts, almonds, pecans, or cashews?” she’d asked reaching for the can of mixed nuts on her kitchen counter. She and God had laughed for a while over that one.
         Not bothering to look at the Caller ID, Marie picked up the phone.
         “Hello?” she answered.
         “Hey girl. How you doing?” said the cheerful voice on the other end.
         “Jen?” Marie asked surprised to hear her friend’s voice.
         “Yeah, girl. Who’d you think I was?” Jen asked.
         “Girl, I thought you were a telemarketer, and I was ‘bouts to make your night,” Marie said laughing.
         “I can about imagine,” Jen replied laughing too. She knew Marie better than anyone else except God. “Girl you are nuts!” Now where had Marie heard that before?
         “Jen, let me tell you about these telemarketers. I have asked those jokers to put me on their Do Not Call List, their, don’t even- think-about-it list, their, you-should-really-think-twice before-you-call list, but they still ring this phone—the same ones too.” By now, Marie could hear that Jen was laughing hard.
         “Jen, let me tell you about this particular company. I picked up the phone and the recording said, ‘We have just viewed your credit card account and have seen that all is in good standing; however, we’d like to give you the opportunity to lower your interest rate. Press one to speak with a representative now.’ Girl, you know I hurried up and pressed one, don’t you?” Marie asked laughing. “Anyway, this man comes on the phone asking me if I was calling concerning lowering my interest rate, and I’m saying to myself, ‘I’m calling to raise this halo up from under my eyes where it has fallen.’” Jen roared with laughter.
         “Jen, I answered the man like this: ‘I’m calling because I’d like to know how you’ve viewed a credit card account that I don’t have. Mister, I don’t use credit cards; I cash it and carry it or see it and leave it. What?’”
         Jen laughed until she cried. “What did he say?” she finally asked.
         “He said, click. The joker hung up on me. Girl, can you believe that?” Marie howled. “You know they’ve been doing that a lot lately, and I just can’t understand why.”
         “Girl, you are wild!” Jen roared.
         “Wild,” Marie said rolling the word around in her mouth. “Could you hold for a minute Jen?” She’d felt the presence of God and a slight pain in the rear of her mouth from the tooth she knew needed fixing. I may just have something lodged in this tooth she thought.
         Marie went into the bathroom. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she jumped back in surprise. Her hair was standing straight up on her head. Remembering the many times she’d laughed at her daughter when her hair had been standing straight up on her head, Marie smiled. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but knowing how bitterly she and Kira could disagree, Marie sure could see how storms and strong winds could blow that apple a long way away.
         Brushing her teeth quickly, she heard the Lord say, “Marie,
Jen wants to talk. She wants to meet. Schedule us a date with her for tomorrow—whatever time that is convenient for her.”
         “Gotcha Lord. And God?
         “Yes, Marie?”
         “How are you feeling?”
         “Like a Father Marie—like a Father—and thanks for asking.”
         She ran back to the phone. “Thank you for holding. This is
Marie. How may I help you?”
         “Girl, I ain’t even gonna ask what took you so long!” Jen said laughing.
         “So Jen, what’s on your mind?”
         “Oh, I passed by your house and saw your truck in the yard and decided to give you a call.”
         “So, Jen, what’s on your mind? Marie asked again knowing what the Lord had told her.
         “Well, I’m on vacation this week, and I passed by your house, and . . .”
         “You’re on what?” Marie asked.
         “Vacation,” Jen replied.
         “You know what Jen? Now that I think about it, I must have done something bad to vacation because, I’ve not seen him in years. I don’t know what I said or what I did to him, but he left about seven years ago and ain’t been back since! Imagine that.”
         Jen laughed. “You might need to search him out Marie. Everybody needs some down time. Seven years is a lot of days to be working consistently, and you’ve been double jobbing it for quite some time.”
         “You’re right Jen; however, a girl has gotta do what a girl has gotta do. So Jen, what’s on your mind?”
         The silence on the other end of the phone was piercing. Marie immediately thought on the silence that must have stood between Jesus and Peter after Peter’s betrayal. She knew from her readings from Matthew and John that Peter, a man of many weaknesses before his conversion, had denied knowing Jesus not only once, but three times. This, after Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would indeed deny Him and after Peter’s emphatic rejection of such claims. It was then, after Peter’s final denial that Peter felt the weight of his betrayal and fled, hounded by his guilt and shame.
         Days after His resurrection, Jesus met with the disciples on the shores of the Tiberias Sea. There He talked with Peter and asked Peter not once but three times, “Lovest thou me?” The first two times Peter proclaimed his love for the Lord without hesitation. But on the third time, Peter became grieved. The silence, speaking a million words, stood between the two as Peter remembered his own foolish pride and confidence before his failure. Finally breaking the silence, Peter answered, “Lord thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee”
(John 21:15-17).

          Jen’s long hard sigh broke the silence that stood between her and Marie. Clearing her head of the bible scriptures, Marie listened as Jen finally admitted that she needed to talk. Although she wanted to come over right then, Marie did as the Lord had asked and set up a lunch date with Jen for noon the next day. Thursday was also an off day. What better day to spend with a good friend than an off day Marie mused. Even though Jen was troubled, it still would be good to see her and to fellowship together like they’d done so often years ago.
         Even after they’d said their good-byes, Marie could feel the heaviness of Jen’s spirit and dropped to her knees before the Lord to pray for her sister and friend. She dared not leave the presence of God until she felt the weight from Jen’s spirit lift. She thanked God for both hearing and answering her prayers. Resting in that blessed assurance, she made herself comfortable and returned to her meditation. Marie knew that God would inform her of anything she needed to know in His own time, so she didn’t bother to even question Him about what troubled her dear friend.
         Marie’s mind went back to the bible’s account of Jesus and Peter that day on the shores of the Tiberias Sea. She agonized with Peter as he agonized with himself, filled with guilt and shame because he had denied his Lord. Oh how many times had she done the same?
         Though she’d never verbally denied Jesus, Marie knew that many times through her thoughts she’d said, “I don’t know the man.” Through her actions to appease the flesh she’d cried, “I don’t know this Jesus!” Retaliation asked, “Jesus Who?” Selfishness, greed, and lust said, “I don’t know Him.” Lying, stealing, and fornication said, “I’ve never heard of Him.” Anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and jealousy said, “There is no such man.”
         After discovering Jay’s infidelity years ago, Marie had fled to the beach seeking comfort in the solitude it offered. Thinking back to that day, she realized that the greatest pain she felt came not from Jay’s unfaithfulness but from her own unfaithfulness to her God. She could relate to what Peter must have felt after acknowledging his own unfaithfulness to the Lord. It was then that God had asked her, “Marie was it because I was ugly?” As she thought on the silence that stood between her and God that day, the silence that spoke to her without words, she was certain that she and Peter were on the same page. Marie knew in her heart that her silence spoke the same message that Peter heard on the night he denied Jesus. It was a message of arrogance and pride, and one which brought crushing pain. “Oh, and that look in Jesus’ eyes,” Marie said aloud. She imagined it asking, “Peter am I a Liar?” She imagined Peter’s sorrow-filled eyes responding, “No Lord, I am.” And she imagined that Peter experienced his own R period. What she couldn’t imagine was the breadth of his pain. Of course, she didn’t have to imagine her own.
         Pain is powerful in two ways, she continued to herself. It either breaks and makes or breaks and destroys. She’d seen times in her life when individuals had allowed their pain to rob them of everything. It robbed them of their desire to participate in life, so they stopped living and simply existed. Some even allowed their pain to end their lives completely.
         Marie knew personally that it was imperative to decide wisely how to deal with pain. Observation and experience had shown her that no one should make rash decisions when dealing with life’s pains and disappointments. She’d seen people worsen their own conditions by making rash decisions.
         Marie thought about the many times she’d repented before the Lord asking forgiveness for her insensitivity toward the pain of others. It’s so easy to make light of another person’s pain when you’re on the outside looking in she thought.
Especially when you’ve experienced the same conditions with little or no effect. Experience had taught her that everyone doesn’t have the same amount of strength.
         She remembered a day when her co-worker Merna had come to work fighting back tears. Concerned, Marie asked her if she’d like to talk. Between sobs, Merna explained that the night before, her husband chose to go out with his friends and come home late rather than spend quality time with her as he had promised. Because Merna had been so excited about their time together and had made a special dinner, she was especially hurt. Though Marie had given words of encouragement, in her mind she was thinking, girl, is that it? Is that all? Shucks—that’s nothing to get your underwear in a knot about.”
         Later that same evening, Marie found herself sitting in her car in her driveway watching the neighbor’s children play. When the children’s father came barreling out of the house headed for his car suit jacket in hand, the littlest boy, with football in hand, pleaded with the man, “Daddy, can you come play with me?” The father turned and smiled at the boy without breaking his stride, tossed his jacket on the passenger’s seat of the car, and drove away.
         The broken look on the child’s face sent Marie into her house heavy in spirit. She threw her keys and lunch bag on the love seat and hastily made her way to her bedroom to meet with God. She’d had every intention of sharing with Him how she had just been affected. Marie retrieved her journal and sat in the presence of her God. Before she could utter a word, God said, “Your insensitivity today has incited me to give you this.” Marie began to write:

                                      My Pain 

            I sit here by this window, looking out from space;
            Heavily, heavily laden by the sadness in this place.
            I see little children playing outside in the street;
            One child yells to Daddy, “won’t you come to play with me?”
            The father comes outside, dressed for his own games to play;
            Throws his things in the van, and simply drives away.
            The child starts to cry and falls down to the ground;
            He’s left alone in his pain, with no comfort to be found.
            A housewife is all excited about the special dinner that she’s made;
            She stands back and marvels—the table is beautifully arrayed.
            She stops by a mirror, pushing a hair into place;
            She’s anxious because honey is coming home—
                        there’s a smile upon her face.
            The candles are burned down and the dinner no longer is hot.
            She glances up to see the time—exactly twelve o’clock.
            She hears the keys rattle, sees honey stagger through the door;
            He looks at her, hiccups, and bothers to say no more.
            “Mom, I need some help with this. I don’t know what to do.”
            “Girl, I don’t have time. I’m going out. Let someone else help you.”
            She throws the papers to the floor and flops down in a chair.
            “Oh, mommy is never here for me; she doesn’t really care.”
            He’d been on the job for fourteen years, a man who everyone admired.
            When layoffs came around, he was the first one that they fired.
            Looking around the waiting room, some held him as he cried.
            His best friend and wife of seventy years, closed her eyes and died.
            He stands up on the bridge looking down below.
            “The loneliness in this life is so great; I’ll end this life—I know.
            He looks around him grasping for one last hope.
            “I see this as the only way,” he said through sobs that choked.
            He looks down at the rocks, and then to the sky above.
            He jumps from the bridge shouting, “All I wanted was love!”

          Marie read, re-read, and re-read again what she’d written. Oh, the tears that flowed as she recognized her own insensitivity to Merna’s pain. How many other times she’d done the same? Worse yet, how many times had she laughed with others at someone else’s pain or troubles? Closing her eyes, she pictured
a portion of scripture that she’d read many times: “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:4).
         Thinking about the Lord’s compassion, Marie decided she’d do a study on the compassion of Christ. Because of the Lord’s compassion and her own insensitivity, she knew she’d have to listen to the music that chastisement would play. She knew that the poem was just the beginning of correction from the Lord, but this she welcomed. With much sorrow and full of repentance, she picked up her pen, concluding what the Lord had given her: 

          My pain may be different than the pain you feel.
          Every pain has a hurt, and this I know is real.
          No matter how great the pain, no matter how very small,
          Pain has introduced itself to us, one and all.
          Never make fun of what pains a person’s heart;
          For pain the size of a pin’s head, can tear a world apart.

           Slipping back from her memory, Marie laughed as she said to God, “Between, the poem and the words you spoke about being like Jesus—you sure wore out my hips that evening Lord.”
         “I did indeed Marie,” the Lord laughed.
         “In my opinion Lord, the poem was chastisement enough. But oh no—you had to choose to take me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and show me how Jesus was sensitive to the hurts and pains of the people who came to Him regardless of how great or small the pain. Thanks for doing that Lord. You always know what is best. Also Lord, in thinking about chastisement, I’m thinking about the truth that the motivational speaker spoke about relationships. He said some relationships are seasonal and others are for a lifetime. I can say the same thing about chastisement. Some rebukes last for a season and others—man, they last for a whole lifetime. I can still feel the sting of insensitivity’s rebuke Lord—ouch.”
         “A rebuke that is so strong lingers and serves as an agent to keep you on the straight path of righteousness. Never forget that.”
         Lord, how can I forget? Ouch!”
         “Marie, do you remember what else you did that evening?” the Lord asked laughing hard.
         Thinking back to that evening again, she began cracking up. John P. Kee had a song out during this time called “More Like Jesus.” Marie had worn out the record, literally, from playing it over and over and over. The vocalist sang of emulating her mother and her sister. She sang of accomplishing some of what her brother had achieved, and she sang of some personal accomplishments like winning a Grammy and seeing her name in lights. However, the greatest of her desires was to be more like Jesus.
         What touched Marie the most about the vocalist’s personal accomplishments was that those accomplishments were not the fulfillment of her strongest desire. The strongest of her desires was to be more like Jesus. The vocalist desired to walk like Jesus and talk like Him. She wanted to pray like Him, love like Him, and be holy like Him.
         Marie closed her eyes as she heard the song playing in her mind. “That vocalist sang of a desire so strong, a desire so real, a desire so attainable.”
         “Yes, she did Marie. She also sang the answer to attaining the desire. That answer is me,” He said. “‘I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the Life’ (John 14:6). I am the way you should live, I am the truth that you should live, and I am the life that you should live—desire attained.”
“And I am speechless, Lord.”
          “Finally!” God had replied teasingly.
         Marie spent the rest of the afternoon with the love of her life, fellowshipping, reading, and praying. He joined her as she enjoyed the warm soothing waters of her bath and watched the flickers from the lighted candles as they sent sweet aromas sweeping through the air. She sighed, welcoming the security of the bubbles that embraced her, laughing at the few that had inched their way into her hair. “Thank you for life Lord” she said to her God lovingly.
“You are welcome, Marie. You are welcome.”  


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