One Wednesday morning a couple weeks ago, a friend texted me a snapshot of a photo from several years back that she presently has displayed on her windowsill. The framed pic is of my friend Mandy and her young daughter Tatum at Cook Children’s Medical Center; Tatum had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Adhered to the frame is a note I wrote Mandy during that Christmas season, the words of Jesus to the father of an ill child: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Her message was a note of simple thanks, and I immediately wrote back: “Thanks for reminding me to believe. It’s been a challenge for me my entire life, on several levels. I love that my note has encouraged you over the years; thanks for encouraging ME today.” Mandy replied: “We recently spoke at church on the verses in Mark when the father of the sick boy says, ‘I believe…help my unbelief!’ Any other verse I would have said no to speaking. But we live this verse daily. We believe! Help us stay there, Lord.”
Later that morning, I booted up Miracle on 34th Street so I could have a festive holiday flick playing in the background as my toddler and I festooned the tree. In and out of the room, I missed half the movie, but happened to be watching with rapt attention when Doris Walker says to her precocious daughter Susan: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Just because things don’t turn out the way you want them to the first time, you’ve still got to believe.”
Then, as I strolled into our house of worship that evening, I glanced through the open blinds of someone’s office and observed the colorful block letters across the top of a wall: BELIEVE. I hadn’t noticed them before. Okay. OKAY. I got it, Spirit. You want me to believe. You want me to believe. Believe WHAT?
Rumination commenced. For the next three days, I rolled that word over and over in my head. Believe. Believe…that God exists? that there is a Divine Entity permeating our lives? that Love took human form to give humanity a primer on how to be? that Jesus came back to life? that the note I have hanging on my mirror: ‘I am well. I am healed. I am whole. I am Loved.’ is true? that I really am good enough, in my fragile/broken/neurotic/sometimes anxious state of mind? that humanity is rife with good and truth and light and Love, even when the networks and news feeds insist otherwise? What am I to believe?
I didn’t come up with anything. No more coinciding texts-from-friends, movie scenes, and wall signs elaborating on an answer to my inquiry. The curious synchronicity of Wednesday’s events began to fade.
On Saturday morning, our family-of-five and two friends drove to a nearby field we had spotted a week earlier growing a crop of plastic baggery. We donned our gloves and started plucking litter from the thorny weeds. I noticed a nondescript index card wedged into the dry, dormant grass. I could see there was one word written in the middle of the card in another language. My first thought was Russian. Because if it’s not English or Spanish, it’s all Greek to me. Turns out it actually WAS Greek. Possibly written by the hand of a Bible major at the nearby Christian university. With the telltale signs of being a flashcard gone AWOL, I flipped it over and almost dropped to my knees. There I was, standing in the middle of a field, suddenly weeping, my skin goosebumping, my son yelling across the plastic bags at me, “Mom! You okay? What are you looking at?” Of all the fields, of all the flashcards, of all the words…it was THAT field, THAT flashcard, THAT word. What are the odds? The Greek was πιστεύω. Its translation? I believe.
When I relayed the whole story to my 10yo, he exclaimed, “That’s so WEIRD!” When I asked his thoughts on what I needed to believe, he replied, “That God is real?” His dad responded: “Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Believe that this period of your life will pass and you’ll be better because of it. And believe that your husband is awesome.” Such wisdom 😉
I don’t know exactly. But I don’t need to. And I feel pretty okay about it. It wouldn’t be God if there wasn’t some mystery surrounding Her, right? I don’t need to know right now. It’s enough to be in the middle of a barren west Texas plain, the wind whipping around me, and find a holy index card (that now has a prominent spot atop our upright piano). Makes me think of Elijah hiding out in a cave, searching in the wind, earthquake, inferno…and finding God in a whisper. Makes me think of shepherds in a field over two thousand years ago, being spoken to by a heavenly presence. I wasn’t guarding sheep, just picking up trash. But maybe a heavenly presence was whispering to me too. Right now it’s enough to know that Someone is talking to me at all.
This sort of thing rarely happens to me. Or maybe it happens often and I’m just not tuned in enough. Whatever the case, I can’t help but think Someone Somewhere was trying to get my attention. IS trying. Yours too. The details – the people, the events, the flashcards – of our lives are different, but the Teacher is the same. Believe it. I do.