Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Feel (emotions) (08/26/10)
TITLE: Feel It All
By Beth Muehlhausen
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One Monday afternoon in August, Jack Rudolph unexpectedly lived his final moments at the age of forty-nine. He was a healthy, muscle-bound, God-fearing farmer who by everyone’s standards should have lived much longer. Unfortunately, accidents don’t take into account a person’s expected longevity. His wife, Marilyn, fell into despair.
By Sunday evening, the funeral had come and gone. Jack’s handsome body lay buried beneath a weeping willow tree in the family plot. Visiting family and friends were back in their own homes. Marilyn found herself painfully alone, slowly pacing the hardwood floor, staring at an old family picture on the wall. She felt stripped and vulnerable. Panic loomed close to the surface, ready to strangle her.
That night the red lights on her digital clock trudged through minutes and hours as if they’d been drugged. In the darkness Marilyn fingered the pillow where Jack’s head laid just a week before, remembering his scent, his shape, his snore. Shadows played on the walls as Marilyn wept tears overflowing from an inner well that refused to run dry.
The next morning she woke late. Bright sunshine already streamed through the east window, and a soft breeze breathed with fresh promise. Was the world outside introducing something new – something good? Did she dare feel hopeful? Marilyn squinted against the sunlight while her broken heart wrestled with the very idea of optimism. Finally she kicked back the blankets. She must confront the day.
An hour later Marilyn straddled a neatly manicured row of green beans in Jack’s beloved vegetable garden. Rows of carrots, tomatoes, beets, and corn surrounded her as well as patches of squash and pumpkins. Beaming marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers also encircled the edge of the plot. Bird songs filled the air with their melodic strains. A bunny hopped by on his way to a favorite clover patch bursting with sweet lavender blossoms.
Paralyzed with sentimentality, Marilyn longed to be visited – to be relieved of her loneliness. Could she hope for God’s presence? Her bare toes wriggled in the dry earth as she recalled a recent conversation with Jack.
“What are we going to do, Jack? Our checkbook’s not balancing. Next month will only be worse,” Marilyn said.
“The present moment is all we have, babe,” he replied.
“I know, but shouldn’t we be figuring out the future?” she replied. “How can there be any security without planning for success?”
Jack’s eyes were filled with both understanding and compassion. “Honey, we’re doing our best. That’s all we can do. The kind of security you’re talking about, when you try to manipulate the future, is an emotional fabrication – an illusion. Real security is found only in trusting God’s presence with us, moment-by-moment.”
Marilyn stepped over the beans and scuffed her way slowly down a row of large, overgrown beets whose bulging red bodies were trying to push their way out of the ground. She wanted to live in the moment and grow and flourish where she was planted - to carry on Jack’s faithful, trusting legacy.
However, she felt crippled. Stifled. Suppressed.
At the other end of the plot, pumpkin plants tangled beneath her feet. As she stepped carefully through the fruit-bearing vines, she spotted a yet-unripe pumpkin. It sat quietly, half-hidden beneath the canopy of a giant leaf, as if to say, “I’m waiting – just waiting.”
Maybe that’s what my focus should be: waiting, Marilyn said to herself. Could she wait on God in that very moment? Was that the most she could do?
She worked her way through the pumpkin patch toward a row of towering sunflowers with fresh expectancy. Could the Lord surprise her? Could she afford to be surprised by Him? Could she put aside anxiety, trusting it would be replaced with hope? Could she become a more fruitful branch of His vine?
The sunflowers patiently but persistently beckoned her. Finally Marilyn stood beneath their knowing, nodding faces, listening with her heart.
“Don’t be afraid; the Father is here.”
“Grieve in your own way and your own time. Give yourself grace.”
“Accept reality. Expect it to be redeemed.”
“Feel. Feel it all. Feel the pain. Feel the hope. Feel the love of a Lord who died so you may live. Jack is gone, but you have a life to live. Now go live it!”
Fresh tears spilled onto Marilyn’s cheeks as the sunflower heads drooped with empathy. Although broken by sadness and sorrow, she would heal. God’s mercy would be enough. She could feel it.
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