It is our honor to share with you, in no particular order, three honorable mentions selected from the bounty of our Lenten writing contest submissions. We simply could not let these treasures go unread.
This first selection written by Katie Fischer features a line that I wish I had written myself. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one it is.
“What did I do to deserve this, Lord?”
Even at the time I knew it was my doubts and unbelieving sinful nature that gave me those words to say, but I was sad and angry and I didn’t care. I had been praying for years for my husband’s faith and yet on that day he was still off, joining another denomination. Finalizing the break in our Communion fellowship.
I had pleaded my cause in prayer for so long I felt I had nothing to pray that day – only despair.
Unheard, unloved, a woman thrust into a position I never wanted to be in. My number one requirement for marriage was a man who could be my spiritual head, to lead our family in the faith, and who would train our children in the words of the catechism. And yet here I was: unequally yoked and having to take up the headship not intended for me.
I knew the world was broken by sin and we are supposed to do the best with what we have, but I didn’t want that for me. I had prayed for unity of confession within our family countless times, a good gift to desire, and it was like my prayers had fallen on deaf ears.
The years kept passing. I couldn’t change the situation, but I also wouldn’t accept it. In waves the frustrations would resurface to bring a full renewal of the grief.
Usually when my children practice their choir music I don’t purposefully listen in. Not that it’s bad, much to the contrary, I know I’m going to be steeped in it for the next month or two and can take my time to enjoy it. But one day I heard their little voices working on the antiphon, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give to you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I immediately tuned in. I’d heard the verse before. It usually hurt because the desire of my heart received a “no” day after day, year after year. Whether it was due to the recent sermon or the Bible study, I can’t remember which, but that day was different. Instead of hearing it as a rule to follow to get my reward, it was a promise. If my delight is in the Lord He will be my desire and I know He Himself – His mercy and forgiveness flowing from His death on the cross – is what He has promised to give me.
It may not be Law, but it was convicting all the same. I, a poor miserable sinner, was not delighting in the Lord. The desires I prayed for were not for the certain promises given in my baptism. I wanted to twist God’s ear to what I decided was most important. I had made an idol and a god out of having a Lutheran husband, thought of it as necessary to my faith, and was still clinging to that idol even after it had been torn away. I had been focusing on the hearts of others and neglecting my own.
When I cried out He had heard; when I prayed He had answered. It was not the answer I expected (or thought I needed) so I turned away and was blind to it. The circumstances that I wanted bent to my own will didn’t change, but through the preaching of the Word my prayers were changed. A good gift can still be an idol, and by keeping my eyes on the one gift I didn’t have I even robbed joy from the good I did have: a loving husband who works hard for his family. There is much more peace in praying for what God has promised than in pleading to keep an idol of my own building.
That verse, Psalm 37:4, is written on the front page of my hymnal as a reminder, for I certainly need plenty of reminders to lead me back to repentance. For in His mercy He hears and washes me anew every day, even before I cry out for it.
By Katie Fischer