Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 18, 2019
When you don’t know what to do
In our bedroom there hangs a framed statement crocheted by my mother. It is titled “Marriage” and it reads, “May there be such oneness between you that when one weeps the other will taste salt.”
For many years I paid little attention to the statement. It was just a sweet thing Mama had done for us soon after our marriage. But as the years passed, I experienced one after another of those harrowing moments when my wife was crying and I didn’t know what to do. Then one night not long ago I gazed at that old wall hanging and realized that my Mama knew a lot about life that I was too young to understand at age 20.
That crocheted statement was her way of letting us know that there would be days when laughter would turn to tears as we dealt with life’s adversities. But more than that, she was saying we could make it through the hardships if we had that special “oneness” between us. And it dawned on me that she was also saying, “Your father and I have made it through the trials of our lives because we have tasted the salt of tears many times.”
That night, gazing at those words stitched together by my mother’s own hands, I realized finally what wisdom she had imparted to us with that simple gift. For a few moments I fought back tears as I bowed my head and thanked God for my mother.
There are many life lessons we may learn only through the experience of pain and fear. Looking back now I can recall many times when I began to realize the meaning of Mama’s “oneness.” I think, for example, of a night when Dean was crying because of the excruciating pain of a herniated disc in her back. I was scared and helpless. I didn’t know what to do. But I found myself kissing away her tears – and tasting salt. Despite the pain and tears, we had the oneness Mama had wanted for us.
In those trials when we felt frightened and helpless, we have done what most people do in such an hour; we turned to God for help. We cried out to God like little children for He is our Father and we are his children. He loves us. He wants the best for us. Of that I am certain. Why He permits us to hurt is often a mystery. Still in my most sober moments I am persuaded that there are divine purposes in our suffering. God is always, as Saint Paul declares in his Letter to the Romans, “working for our good.”
I love the stories in the Bible that tell us of scared and helpless people turning to God. One of my favorites is a story about King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. Let me recap the story.
Jehoshaphat was King of Israel for 25 years, about 850 years before Christ. He had an army of a million soldiers. On one occasion several enemy nations banded together and made war on Israel. The king learned a vast army was on its way to destroy Israel. The king knew he was outmanned. So he turned to God and called on the nation of Judah to turn to God. They gathered to pray for God’s help. The king stood and prayed before the people, concluding his prayer by saying, “We don’t know what to do but we are looking to you, our eyes are on you.”
When the king finished praying, a man named Jahaziel stood up. Moved by the Spirit, he addressed the king and the crowd and said, “Listen, don’t be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not yours but God’s. And he will be with you!” After he spoke, the king and all the people bowed with their faces to the ground and began to worship the Lord.
Some of the Levites began to praise the Lord with a very loud voice. The king was so encouraged that he appointed a choir to begin singing and praising God. The choir went out before the army singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” The scripture says that as they began to sing and praise, the Lord began to work and soon victory was theirs!
Such Bible stories can help us when we are scared and helpless, and tasting salt, to remember to turn to God for help. To turn to God is to start praying. To turn to God is to remember that He cares, because He loves us. To turn to God is to realize that He is with us and He is able to give us hope when everything seems hopeless. To turn to God is to discover that despite unrelenting pain and tears on your cheeks, you can still praise God.
When King Jehoshaphat turned to God, he said, “Our eyes are on you.” He looked to God for help. As a Christian I know that God is a Christlike God, so when I don’t know what to do, I can look to Jesus. I can say to our Lord Jesus Christ, “my eyes are on you.” And when my eyes are on Jesus, He comes! He helps me win the battle, though He does not always make the pain vanish. He came to us the night of Dean’s excruciating back pain, and while her pain continued, He gave her the grace and gumption to hang on until the sun rose and we could seek the help of a pain doctor. Hope is one of God’s most precious gifts.
My Mama departed this life some twenty years ago. I wish I could tell her that I finally understood what she meant by that oneness that allows you to taste salt when your soulmate is weeping. God answered her prayers. I know she was praying that Dean and I would learn, as she and Dad learned, that when you don’t know what to do, the best thing you can do is to turn to the God who has promised to wipe away all our tears. + + +