|Dappled morning sunlight...|
I was planning a wedding less than two weeks away when I turned twenty. I turned thirty in the midst of a corporate career with one young child. When I turned forty, I had a teenager and a surprise (albeit very welcome) young child.
But I don't remember my fiftieth birthday at all. Those years are enveloped in a haze of trials and tribulation. I thought I had experienced difficult trials before. I had no idea there would be days I had to remind myself to breath. Long days when the future was encased in a fog of uncertainty.
The years surrounding my fiftieth birthday... before and after... were when I had my Jacob experience. I wrestled with God and He won. Except instead of one night's struggle... I spent a few years in a wrestling match between my will and His. I didn't realize that was what it was about until later.
Like Jacob, I came away from those years with a limp. Physically I was never the same. We never recovered financially. Many hopes and dreams and desires of the heart were laid at the feet of Jesus when I finally gave Him what He desired most. My will, my goals, my very idea of what success in life looks like.
He didn't leave me damaged in the dust. Eventually He replaced the large house with this brick ranch at the corner of the forest. He replaced money in the bank with provision just when it is needed... and the gift of Godly desires here and there. Dreams of doing something big for God were replaced with obedience in the doing of small things.
I have been reading through the Book of Acts and recently came upon a favorite story of the early Church. It is found in the 9th Chapter where we learn of the passing of Dorcas (also translated Tabitha).
Peter was ministering nearby and was asked to come to Joppa, where Dorcas lived. I am not certain if it was to hold a funeral or if the disciples had hoped he could heal her in time but she had passed on when he arrived.
He was met there by widows who showed him the fine garments Dorcas had made them. They must have been beautifully stitched and sewn, each an act of love from the hands that made them.
Stories of Dorcas' compassion and good works were shared. She had to be a woman willing to listen to those in the depth of trials. For especially widows in those days were often dependent on the help of others. She showed her love in what she did best... sewing... and not just a quick pattern with cheap material. Her gifts were of such quality that the recipients showed them off to the visiting Apostle.
So God had Peter raise her from the dead.
I don't recall Lydia, the seller of purple, being raised from the dead. Neither do we hear that Priscilla, who worked with Paul alongside her husband Aquila, was raised from the dead. While both of these women had significant impact on the early Church... it was a woman who stayed at home and used her gifts to help others that we read about centuries later as being raised from the dead to continue her humble ministry.
What God taught me in the Jacob years can be found in the story of Dorcas. We are to use His gifts as He desires to serve our family and those around us. We are not told if Dorcas at one time had young children at home but if she did, I am certain they also wore clothing made by Mother. Now in the empty nest period of life, she didn't consider her work done but used her gifts to be a blessing to others.
You see, those of us raised in the Baby Boomer years were told we could accomplish great things and great things were expected of us. Only great accomplishments would be accepted. But that is not Biblical... it is cultural.
And sometimes God has to wrestle with us to teach us that Truth. He gave us our gifts. They are to be used as He has ordained.
Some will do great things for Christ when measured by the number of people reached. But if that is not our calling, then we are to work within our realm of influence. When we realize He has placed our boundary lines, true peace comes when we accept them.
So what does the story of Dorcas teach us?
The story of Dorcas teaches us that no circumstances are too small to be used by God. As she sat in her home and stitched, she was doing God's work just as much as the women whose work we also read about in Scripture.
The story of Dorcas teaches us that no God given talent is to be taken for granted. He can use talented seamstresses and cooks and bakers and basket makers and knitters and quilters and flower gardeners and growers of veggies. He uses those who listen to the lonely while serving cookies and tea sipped from pretty cups. He depends on His people who offer a mug of hot coffee in winter or a cold drink in summer.
The story of Dorcas teaches us the importance of those who give to others in need. God loves a cheerful giver (and those of us who have been needy know often it is the gifts of others that have shown us God is still at work in our life).
The story of Dorcas teaches us the great value of doing small things for a Big God... and how that opens the way to share His love to those in need of Living Water.
I also think the story of Dorcas proves the value of the work of women. Not as we are told in today's culture but in the eyes of the Lord. Just as He gave value to women by talking to them at the well and appearing to them after being raised from the dead... He gives value to the humble work women do each day of their life as givers and nurturers and keepers of the simple things in life.
So with those lessons I celebrate this zero birthday. I may be a slow learner but eventually He gets through. ;)