Two little girls sat side by side in gray folding chairs, tight-covered legs swinging as they sang Sunday school songs.
“The wise man built his house upon the rock…”
Petra and Sandy giggled doing the hand motions.
“The rains came down and the floods came up…”
Dust particles danced along in the rectangular beams of sunlight that shone through the basement windows, providing spotlights for the young singers.
“And the house on the rock stood firm!”
Petra and Sandy sat together through all the sunshiny days of youth: in Sunday school, girl scouts, algebra and finally, graduation. Then they parted ways, (each bound for different colleges) promising to keep in touch.
Petra enjoyed college, working hard, praying, and waiting to see in which direction God would take her. Though far from home, she visited churches until she found one that felt right and found a new family there.
Petra called Sandy regularly, but their friendship was changing. Sandy, an honors student, was working hard at law school. She said she’d get around to “church shopping,” but seemed far more interested in discussing her new friends and the beach house she hoped to one day own. With every phone call, the girls seemed to have less in common.
Several years later, the girls managed to squeeze in a visit; both were home for Christmas. In a familiar old pew the two sang Christmas carols, Petra singing from her heart, Sandy singing mechanically and clock-watching.
Afterwards, they had lunch. Sitting at a table bathed in sunlight, Sandy gushed about the job she’d landed in a successful law firm and her new luxurious lifestyle. Petra grinned and held up her hand, displaying a tiny diamond. She shared about her upcoming wedding to Mark, an aspiring pastor, and the apartment they were going to rent. Both girls were happy, their futures bright.
Petra sat on the examination table, shivering in her paper gown. Waiting for the doctor, she gazed up through the skylight. The dark clouds seemed to be crowding together to get a look at her. She closed her eyes.
“Lord, I trust You. Please prepare me for whatever he says.”
That night, rain pelted the roof. Petra sobbed in her husband’s arms.
“Mark, I know God is in control, but I’m afraid. I can’t imagine you pushing me in a wheelchair, dressing me, helping me in the bathroom…” Petra’s voice broke and Mark held her.
Late into the night, they rocked together, praying that God would help them face a future with MS. The rain picked up speed. Petra fell asleep listening to a weatherman warn of flooding.
Sandy sat in her beach house, drinking wine. The rain droplets racing down the window competed with the tears descending her cheeks. She ran her hands through her professionally colored hair, which came out in clumps. The thunder laughed menacingly, seemed bent on her destruction.
“I don’t deserve this!” she screamed.
Sandy’s prognosis was poor even with treatment; she’d decided to stop and drink the pain away instead. None of her “upper-class” friends kept in touch after she resigned; cancer seemed to make them uncomfortable.
Hearing of Sandy’s condition, Petra called weekly, always offering to pray. Unfortunately, her offers were met with bitterness.
“Don’t you get it, Petra? God isn’t helping either of us. You’ll be in a wheelchair soon and I’ll be dead. God doesn’t care. Don’t pray for me.”
Petra protested through tears. “No Sandy, that’s not true. God gives me peace. He loves us.”
But Sandy wouldn’t listen. She stayed in her beach house, drowning in alcohol and depression until she fell in the bathroom one day and died.
Petra and Mark served God together, while the stages of Petra’s MS advanced. Though the storm of MS wreaked havoc on her body, a deep peace flooded Petra’s soul as she leaned on God for strength. She developed an Internet ministry, writing Bible studies and devotionals that offered hope to the physically afflicted. When Petra’s fingers became too numb to type, volunteers from church typed for her. Daily she received dozens of emails from women thankful for the encouragement.
Petra died at seventy-six. The huge turnout at her funeral testified to the lives she had touched. One after another spoke the same words: “She was the strongest woman I knew.”
“ the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matt. 7:25
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