Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Inconvenient Friends May 5, 2012

Filed under: 1 Samuel — Stephanie Rische @ 9:47 am
Tags: , ,

Someone once told me there are three types of friends: Christmas Card Friends (the ones you’d like to see a photo of each year but that’s sufficient), 7-11 Friends (the ones who are convenient but you probably won’t call them at 2 a.m.), and Kidney Donor Friends (the ones you’d give one of your kidneys to, if need be).

 

The year I turned 25, I realized how much I needed those Kidney Donor Friends. Even though my kidneys were functioning just fine, thank you.

 

Within the span of a few months, my two best friends got married and so did my little brother, and my baby sister packed her bags and headed off to college. Making matters worse in my litany of first-world single-girl problems, one of the friends who had gotten hitched was my former roommate. Which meant I was living alone, for the first time in my life.

 

***

 

If anyone was in need of a faithful, kidney-level friend, it was David. He’d had his share of successes—killing a giant, notching some significant battle victories, and being anointed the future king. But now the current king, Saul, was trying to kill him, and he was forced to flee the very country he was supposed to rule someday.

 

Strangely, it was Saul’s son—the heir apparent—who showed David true friendship. On more than one occasion, and at great risk to himself, Jonathan saved his friend’s life, effectively handing over the crown that should have been his.

 

***

 

After a few weeks of general moping and ringing up astronomical electric bills trying to scare away would-be boogeymen, I decided something needed to change. And in my experience, change feels so much more novel if it comes in the form of a movement…or better yet, a campaign. So I dubbed my little program the ALC: the Anti-Loneliness Campaign.

 

The premise was simple: I knew that anytime I was feeling low, I would get a case of emotional amnesia, and I’d forget all the people who loved me. So I put a list on my refrigerator with names on it—people who agreed to let me call them anytime, night or day, in a crisis or for no reason at all. I even asked these people to sign my refrigerator covenant (yes, I have forebearing friends). That way whenever I heard the whispers that I was utterly alone, that no one loved me, those signatures could tell me otherwise.

 

Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

—1 Samuel 20:17

 

If David had had a refrigerator, I have no doubt he would have posted his vow of friendship there.

 

***

One of the unexpected perks of the ALC, aside from discovering that I really did have Kidney Donor Friends, was the way their faithfulness reminded me of God’s faithfulness. The same seemed to be true for David. After he and Jonathan said their good-byes, David fled from Saul and hid in a cave. From there he wrote a heart-wrenching psalm about the enemies who had set a trap for him and how weary he was. But shortly thereafter his psalm turns a corner:

My heart is confident in you, O God;

my heart is confident.

No wonder I can sing your praises!

—Psalm 57:6-7

 

Scripture doesn’t specifically say this, but I have to wonder if it was Jonathan’s friendship, at least in part, that helped David believe God hadn’t left him after all.

 

I have since taken the ALC papers off the fridge, and I hope I never need to call in a kidney favor from one of my friends. But I’m grateful to know that I am never truly alone. Like David, my heart can be confident in my God.

 

***

 

Question: Do you have a Kidney Donor Friend?

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

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Waiting and Other Acts of Heroism May 1, 2012

Filed under: 1 Samuel — Stephanie Rische @ 7:55 am
Tags: , ,

At this point in my chronological Bible reading, heroes abound: Samson, the muscle man who famously took down the Philistine temple with his bare hands. Gideon, the army commander who led a band of ragtag soldiers to defeat a daunting enemy. Ehud, the leftie who plunged his dagger into the gut of the opposing king.

But it wasn’t until I hit 1 Samuel that I discovered someone truly heroic: an unassuming woman named Hannah. She had no battle victories under her belt, no enemy kills, no feats of physical strength. Her claim to fame: she was a good waiter.

Hannah longed desperately for a baby, but month after month, year after year, nothing changed. She was raw with the waiting, aching over the silence that met her request each time. She didn’t try to hide the hurt of her unanswered prayers. When she went to the Tabernacle to cry out to God, Scripture says she “was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:10).

Yet even in the face of her anguish, she didn’t give up hope. In my book, that takes more courage than any battlefield heroics.

My friend Heather has been aching for a baby for six long years. After several miscarriages and unsuccessful medical interventions, she and her husband have ventured onto the roller coaster of domestic adoption. I’ve watched their hopes soar and plummet with each new possibility, each phone call.

After carefully filling out form after form in what Heather refers to as a “paper pregnancy,” going through a battery of interviews and tests, and writing an extensive profile complete with photos and essays, Heather and Rick figured the only thing left to do was wait.

They just never imagined they’d be waiting this long.

One birth mother agreed to have them adopt her little girl, but near the end of her pregnancy she decided she wanted siblings for the baby and went with another family instead. A teenage girl they’d connected with miscarried late term. Another woman changed her mind and decided to raise her child on her own.

Right now Heather and Rick find themselves in the position of waiting yet again. They were scheduled to meet with another birth mother last week, but she canceled at the last minute, saying she needed more time to think.

Like Hannah, there are days when Heather grieves and cries out in anguish to her God. Yet she keeps hoping, even when it means putting her heart out there to get hurt again. She keeps praying, even when it feels like her prayers are met with haunting silence. And through it all, she keeps holding on to the very God who heard Hannah’s cries.

The part of Hannah’s story that I find most inspiring is the timing of her heart change. I guess I’d always assumed her grieving stopped after her miracle baby was born. But as I look more closely at the story, I realize that’s not quite the chronology:

“In that case,” Eli [the priest] said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

 

“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

—1 Samuel 1:17-18

The joy came first, then the answer.

Hannah’s joy didn’t depend on having the miracle in hand. It was enough that God heard her plea.

Someday, by God’s grace, I hope I’ll be able to wait with that kind of joy. Like my heroes, Hannah and Heather.

***

Question: What are you waiting for right now?

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.