By Lynn Paris
What I Needed
I am a questioning, searching, hoping, and yes, even doubting person. And for the two weeks before Christmas—with work all but over for the year and plenty of time for introspection—I was feeling down, unmotivated, too aware of my aches and pains, my lack of motivation, and a sense that I’d lost my purpose. I knew there was something “off” and I was trying to confront it.
Of course, I was trying on my own, and getting nowhere. I was listening to too many voices and becoming confused. Here’s what I knew. I knew that I felt disillusioned with some people and things, and that my disappointment in them was negatively affecting me. I knew that I was doing what I always do when I encounter situations like that; I was distancing. I knew that instead of doing more outreach, as I wanted to do, I was reaching in and coming up empty.
Of course, I was forgetting that God always seems to have a plan for me if only I let Him do His thing. Somehow, He knew what I needed and it was up to me to relinquish control, open my heart and listen. I really didn’t have to do anything. Just “be still and listen.”
It began with my husband. At first I’d avoided telling him how I was feeling. After all, I was pulling off acting fine around everyone. But nothing felt authentic, and I needed to express it. That old problem of not wanting him to “fix” it but simply to listen had prevented me from opening up, but I finally decided that you don’t have to go far to do outreach . . . sometimes you just need to reach out.. I ended my lament with the statement that I felt like I had no purpose. And he emphatically replied, “Well, I do.” I asked him what his purpose was, and he said, “It’s you. My purpose is 100 percent you.” I was immediately touched by how simple yet profound his words were. And it was something I needed to hear, because it reminded me how much I meant to him and how much he meant to me. I needed to be still and remember that sometimes our purpose isn’t as grand or lofty as we might want it to be. But, if we are focused on making even one person’s life better, or loving them harder, we’re doing God’s work.
A good friend gave me a book for Christmas and as is always the case; it was a book I needed to read at exactly that time. I read it on the plane ride to New York, and it both calmed and uplifted my spirit. That’s just what I needed. I was about to see my grandchildren for the first time in a year and the visit had me excited but slightly apprehensive. Would my beautiful, autistic five-year-old grandson remember me? Would I be able to bond with my 16-month old grandson? Did they consider my ex-husband and his wife, who they saw all the time, their grandparents and how would that make me feel? I asked God for the wisdom and patience I needed. I put all of it in His hands.
I was being picked up at the airport and staying at the home of my oldest and closest friend, Julie, whom I also hadn’t seen for a year. She was going through a horrible divorce, and I had no idea what I’d find. What I found was the joy and comfort of an enduring friendship, one that had weathered many storms and remained a source of strength, laughter and shared memories. God had put us in each other’s lives for a reason twenty-six years ago, and brought us together at this moment in our lives for that same reason . . . we needed to be together. Good friends are one of the ways we experience God’s love.
And surely, another way is through grandchildren, and mine are amazing. Henry, the sixteen-month old, is a veritable love-bug. He’s as affectionate, demonstrative and outgoing as his older brother Sean used to be withdrawn and uncommunicative. It was love at first hug. But, Sean has progressed beyond anything I could have imagined, thanks in great measure to the unbelievable dedication and hard work of my daughter-in-law and reinforced by the love and patience of my son. Sean blew my mind. He is communicating and interacting incredibly well, and his mind is a marvel. Sean has a brilliance that is awesome, along with his beauty and inherent sweetness. He’s a force to be reckoned with.
So I found myself trekking through malls and arcades, parks and playgrounds, with little thought of my aching back. I pushed a stroller and occasionally carried Henry, despite my throbbing shoulder. I ate cookies and French fries for lunch with no concern for my poor digestive system. I watched with love in my heart as Sean reached out protectively for his little brother’s hand and forgot about all my other minor problems. Grandchildren will do that to you. God knew what I needed.
Of course, it wasn’t all sweetness and light. There was the pain of a bitter divorce for Julie. There was the compassion I felt for my son, who is struggling to come to terms with his own marriage and the fact that it may never be right, for either of them, no matter how much he wants it to be. It’s my belief that God has a plan for his life too, and it includes him some day receiving the love and companionship he needs. I can only pray that when the time comes, he’ll open his heart, be still and listen.
On the last night of my stay, I had dinner with Julie and her daughter Melanie, a young woman who is almost a daughter to me as well. In fact, the only one missing to make it absolute perfection was my own daughter, Jill, who was definitely there with all of us in spirit. The evening was as delightful, loving and relaxed as any I can remember. It was exactly what I needed.
I came home feeling changed. I was energized. Grateful. Filled with God’s love. The trick, of course, is to hold on to that. And the joy comes from reaching out and spreading it around.