Friendly faces just weren’t popping up on our radar.  Life was hard. 

We had moved to Illinois for my husband to attend graduate school.  The Mid-West was in the midst of a drought and the landscape was a uniform brown as the summer sun scorched the earth.  It was a hard time of change. While Bill went to school, I supported our family by holding down two jobs.


Bill was the one officially attending classes, but God enrolled me in His own school. I think my curriculum was harder than Bill’s. The lessons I learned weren’t from the church we attended – that congregation was going through internal struggles. Spiritual and emotional wounds bloodied the aisles of the sanctuary. The lessons weren’t from the school where I taught – they were going through a time of turmoil. The lessons I learned were in the dark, before dawn. I could not sleep, so I took long walks around town.


I was desperately homesick, lonely, and longing for some continuity of life.  My heart was broken. Life was rough. The support system and affirmations I had previously known were in the dust. Friendly faces just weren’t popping up on our radar.  Life was hard. 


After the first year, things turned especially brutal at the school where I taught.  The administrator had made some awful life choices and they surrounded him like a black cloud.  He took his troubles out on the staff. I remember one “coaching session” in which he berated me for 45 minutes straight.  The teaching skills I had previously had confidence in were ridiculed. I was shaken to the core.


It was during that dark night of my soul when I learned to pray.  No more formula prayers for me.  No quick and easy fixes.  My prayer life took place during very long walks in which I would pour out my heart to God. Finally, finally I began to quiet down and listen to God.  The part of me which previously had life pretty much under control ceased to exist. There was only God in the silence. 


Ruth Haley Barton refers to “the jealous love of God.” She writes in Sacred Rhythms, “As long as we continue to reduce prayer to occasional piety we keep running away from the mystery of God’s jealous love.” When I didn’t feel like anyone else wanted me, God jealously loved me and desired my companionship. That was unfathomable.  I felt worthless, yet the God of the Universe wanted to talk to me in the dark at 5 AM? 


God had His work more than cut out.  My cold stubborn heart had to (as I personalize Barton’s writing) “let God’s creative love touch the most hidden places of my being and …to listen with attentive, undivided heart to the inner movement of the Spirit of Jesus, even when that Spirit was leading me to places I would rather not go.”  I was not in control of our finances, my work, our family, or my church.  I was locked out and didn’t know the way back in. 


I began to let God pry my fingers off those things I had previously treasured.  I begged God for what He alone wanted to transpire in my life, as hard and painful as it was. He had leveled all my previous comforts.  God wanted to build my life in a new and closer way. 


It was in Illinois I learned what I call my “Sidewalk Prayer”: “Lord, I choose to trust You.” I repeated this over every crack in the sidewalk, every step in the dark.  I had no answers and couldn’t find words to express my distress. As Barton says, “We come to Him with empty hands and empty heart, having no agenda.  Half the time we don’t even know what we need; we just come with a sense of our own spiritual poverty.”  I dumped all of it, every awful shaming moment of it all, and came to the cross as an impoverished sinner.  “Lord, I choose to trust You.”  It was in the gloom of the hours before dawn when I learned to listen to the God Who sees in the dark.


It is easy to presume that asking, seeking, or approaching that door to knock upon it is a waste of time. But God is not this way

It was a winter day when Bill made the trip to my parents’ home. His intention was to ask my dad for his daughter’s hand in marriage. I didn’t travel along for the ride. Bill was beyond nervous. A quick synopsis of the conversation is that interchange with my parents quickly went down the tubes. Dad (LaVerne) gave Bill a resounding “No!” LaVerne didn’t even want to discuss the possibility of marriage. He blocked that conversation with a barricade higher than the Berlin Wall.

What if instead, LaVerne had said to Bill: “Let me think this through and process this.  I love you both dearly and would love to see how we could work this out.” Bill would have left my house a great deal happier, seeing hope.  That’s what open doors do; they provide pathways to light.  Walls do not. Bill almost stopped knocking after his exchange with LaVerne.

In contrast to Bill’s experience, God has given to His children an incredible promise in Matthew 7:7-11 that has to do with coming before out Heavenly Father with requests. Notice the repeated words: “keep on.” Keep on asking, seeking and knocking. God, the Creator of the Universe, actually wants to hear from us over and over again. He doesn’t get bored with us, or consider it an inconvenience. However, “It is easy to presume that asking, seeking, or approaching that door to knock upon it is a waste of time. But God is not this way.” God has built a door and wants to open it for us.

This doesn’t mean that God is a spiritual genie. There are no magical words. Nowhere does it say, “Name it and claim it and the jackpot will appear”. God the Giver is good and not the author of some half-baked scheme of our own making. Because He is God, He is the One who gets to define what is good—not us! (Read the Book of Job or Hebrews 11:32-38 to give you a much clearer view on that.) God always has our best interests at heart. He is all-knowing and will only give us things that are good for us. His door is made for opening with goodness waiting for us.

This knocking is for the unskilled, just like us. If we are truthful, we all fit in with what Charles Spurgeon termed, “the ignorant and short witted”. Sometimes I’m not even sure regarding what I am praying for and how it fits into God’s plan, but I keep knocking. “The point seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you find God immediately close at hand, almost touchable with his nearness, or hard to see. Even with barriers between, He will hear, and He will give good things to you because you looked to Him and not another.”

I praise God that my husband persisted and finally gained my father’s permission to marry.  But better yet, due to a lot of asking, seeking and knocking in prayer before our Heavenly Father, this marriage has lasted almost 50 years. Piper writes, “It is a great mercy to us and to the world that we do not get all we ask.” I asked for Prince Charming and got something much better, my Bill.  God knew what was best from the very beginning (regardless of what LaVerne thought).