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What I Learned this Summer

This has been a summer for the books. And by that, I mean actual books.

Our unexpected summer included one familiar tradition—visiting Randy’s parents in North Dakota in early August. Here, we’re relaxing before bed in their cozy guest quarters.

As in, if I ever write another book, what I’ve been learning these past few months will permeate the pages in ways I can’t even imagine right now.

When the summer began, my mom was living at home with my dad. Now—following a bad accident, a few weeks in the hospital, a couple of surgeries and almost two months of rehab—she lives at a long-term care center about 10 minutes from my house. (See here for a bit more on all that.)

There’s much more to the story, of course, and I have a feeling it will take a long while to process it all. For now, though, here are a few lessons I’ve already gleaned from this season none of us were expecting.


When in Doubt, Run to the Father

There are some details missing from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, things we might think of as biblical fact that really aren’t there at all.

The Bible doesn’t actually say, for example, what their relationship with God really looked like—how often they experienced His presence and heard His actual voice. But based on Gen. 3:3, which says they “heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume they spent enough time near Him to know what His presence sounded like.

forbidden fruit

I can hardly imagine what it might have been like to be in such close fellowship with God—completely comfortable and free from the slightest trace of guilt or shame. Whatever it was like, that’s what Adam and Eve experienced.

Then they were tempted by Satan, cleverly disguised as a serpent, to eat fruit from the one tree in the Garden that God said was off limits. Forget all the other delicious fruit they’d been eating since Day One. Now, suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly), they want the one they aren’t supposed to have.

That’s how it always is, isn’t it? No wonder Ruth Bell Graham calls it the testing tree in her lovely children’s book One Wintry Night.

I’m pointing no fingers at Eve here. If I had been in her place, I might have done exactly what she did. But it makes me sad, as I think about it now, that her first inclination was not to run to her Creator and ask for help when that serpent first appeared.

This is what conscientious parents teach their children to do, right? I know it’s a lesson Randy and I have tried to impart to our daughters.

“Girls,” we’ve told them, “if you find yourself in a situation or conversation and you don’t know what to do, or you have a funny feeling about it, or you know something’s not right, don’t wait—come and talk to us about it.”

And they do.

“Mom, I need to talk to you,” one will say. And she takes me to the bedroom, shuts the door and asks a question or tells me what’s on her mind. I always go into these conversations with a bit of trepidation because I never know what to expect, but I cherish them nonetheless.

Whatever it is, I always, always want them to ask or tell me. I always want them to feel like they can tell me.

Not that I’m always a big help. I remember Lilly coming home in second grade and quizzing me—more than once, as I recall—about a word she had heard at school.

“Is funk a bad word?” she wanted to know.

“No, of course not,” I answered, without giving it a second thought. “It’s like a rotten mood or something.”

Take a wild guess where this is about to go.

Now that I think about it, I’m sure I heard an occasional cuss word when I was in second grade. But I was not prepared for my innocent little girl to be exposed to the granddaddy of all bad words at that age, so it didn’t even register that she might be asking about the obvious four-letter word that starts with F.

Turns out, it was that word, and not funk, that she was asking about. A too-knowledgeable-for-his-own-good classmate, noticing her naiveté, apparently had gotten a big kick out of teaching her to say it, and their conversation had been overhead by a teacher at recess.

By the time the students had been ushered back to the classroom to deal with this little crisis, Lilly was so frustrated that she exclaimed—loudly and in front of everyone—“But I don’t even know what @#$% means!”

She doesn’t remember this event and thought it was pretty funny when I told her about it recently. But talk about dropping the mom ball. Yikes.

Fortunately, God never drops the ball in such situations. The still, small voice, that feeling I get when I know something’s not right, that specific bit of Scripture that speaks directly into my soul—that’s Him, letting me know which way is the right way, and which way is not.

Which makes me wonder: When the serpent first appeared, why in the name of all things good and holy didn’t Eve get that funny feeling in the pit of her stomach that would have sent her running straight to God? Or, if she did get it, why didn’t she heed it?

There’s no way to know, of course. But still, I can’t help but wonder.

Part of me thinks, if Eve didn’t do this, and she actually physically walked in the presence of God, what hope is there for me? But then I think of another tree, and what Jesus did there—the reason He did it and the finality of His sacrifice. And I know there is always a chance, and another chance, and another chance.

It’s called grace. And how lost we would be without it.

Lois Flowers

Photo credit:FotoGraf-Zahl via photopin cc

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