Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Inner Strength (04/20/06)
TITLE: Pilgrimage to Zion
By Beth Muehlhausen
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“Blessed are those whose strength is in you (God), who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5
A faint grayish glow stirs the robins in the maple tree outside my window as the sun begins to rise. They announce the new day expectantly, but I remain oblivious – bound to fitful sleep.
My heart suddenly races in response to the insistent alarm’s raucous “blee-blee-blee-blee…” I throw the blankets back and swing my feet over the edge of the bed, dizzy with adrenaline. Today I must face myself squarely, as well as the test results from the doctor’s office.
The robins continue chirping. I shudder involuntarily, and wonder how I can navigate the five frantic hours until it is time to discover my diagnosis. Still, duty calls. My bakery won’t run itself on its own, I reason.
While the robins sing, my fearful thoughts race. What will I do if the biopsy proves I have cancer, Lord?
You are about to begin a pilgrimage to the Zion of your heart. I am waiting to lead you; I will be with you.
I stumble to the bathroom and stare at my disheveled self in the mirror. I’m traveling to the Zion of my heart? Like the Jews made pilgrimages each year to Jerusalem to observe religious festivals? If you say so, Lord. But I have to get through today, first.
The journey has already begun.
I nod my head, and stare at my mouth full of foamy toothpaste. Sure. But bring on the routine…and then we’ll see about this journey.
Wash face. Fix hair. Get dressed. Gulp vitamins. Drive to the bakery. Mix frosting. Decorate cakes. Set up display case. Turn on the cash register. Plug in “open” sign. Unlock door. Greet the first customer of the day with my heart in my throat. Smile. SMILE! Watch the clock. Only an hour left until the doctor’s office opens.
You seem to be traveling alone. Would you like companionship?
I jump…because in the next split second, the business phone rings. It’s my friend Janet, wondering if I have the test results back yet. I tell her no, but that she can pray for me. I’m feeling a little shaky.
Minutes crawl by like crippled caterpillars, inching toward the appointed time of the call.
Finally, I nervously dial the familiar number and greet the grumpy nurse. She knows me by now. I’m the problem case; the one that’s hard to figure out. What? The tests were inconclusive? You can’t tell me anything? I hang up and stare blankly at pantry shelves laden with nuts – jams – powdered sugar. Nothing. I know nothing.
“I know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”*
Where did that come from?
“…apart from me you can do nothing.”**
My pounding heart seems to freeze.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”***
I face the back wall, shaken, and wipe tears with the corner of my apron.
“May (Jesus) strengthen your heart so that you will be blameless and holy…”****
Blameless and holy? I’m scared and angry, Lord. I can’t do this.
Who says? We have a narrow road ahead of us. Now start walking.
I gather myself and step out of the pantry into a now-busy kitchen. Unknowing employees bustle around the tiny room packed tightly with stack ovens, coolers, and stainless steel work-tables. Customers hang on the glass case, drooling over hand-made cinnamon rolls and other delicacies. Ah yes, life does go on, doesn’t it.
That night I lay in bed, physically and emotionally exhausted. No diagnosis. What will happen next? Am I strong enough to handle the unknowns?
+ + + + +
Just now I heard a robin singing at the top of his lungs. It has been almost exactly ten years since God called me amidst robin voices to travel to my heart’s Zion! Through cancer surgery, years of malfunction, prayers, loneliness, research, set-backs, breakthroughs and divine revelations, I’ve discovered mysterious inroads deep within myself I never knew existed. I am hardly the same person, but am stronger; I am dependent on hope.
Where will You lead me today Lord, in the power of Your Holy Spirit?
The pilgrimage continues.
*I Corinthians 2:2
****I Thessalonians 3:13
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