For some reason I have been wondering what I posted on exactly a year ago today, 5th December. It actually wasn’t much – just a short paragraph and a favourite old photo we have as a framed poster on a wall upstairs – here it is again: Sam toddling through some trees, entranced by the shadows at his feet. I took this photo in the late 80’s on a family visit to Anglesey Abbey, the National Trust property in Cambridgeshire… it was another life. The short post on 5.12.10 is called ‘the beginning of Sam’s story’ and simply has a link to the ‘my story’ page on the blog, which I had just succeeded in bringing up as far as Sam’s arrival in the world…
Well birth is the beginning, isn’t it? I remember the trouble I had writing that bit, because when a dear life is threatened it is hard to look back to the blank sheet, the time of carefree promise and hope at the start. Even last December seems like another life now – I can hardly remember it without the aid of old photos or a diary. What a lot more has happened in our story in the past 12 months! All recorded here – ha! – but not very comfortable to go back and read; we carry a lot of sadness.
On this day one year later, 24 and a half year old Sam is 2/3 through his time overseas; he will be returning home on Christmas Day, and after that the New Year of 2012 is an unknown… I can look back but not forward. At the end of a calendar year many of us tend to look back, of course, perhaps in writing our Christmas newsletters and as they will in those programmes on TV assessing 2011. It has been an incredible year on the world stage… it has also been an incredible year for our family!
If I look back further there are other markers around this date. 6 years ago I had just returned from Genoa in Italy where I had been part of a small prayer-walking team on the way to Rome (I mentioned it in the post 20:20 vision). That has proved to be a week with many repercussions and the 4 of us who shared it still meet up sporadically to assess how those events are unfolding – the character-building challenges and sweet fulfillments of big prayers we prayed as our little lives reflect the grand purposes of God and we are amazed to discern a prophetic flow that has grown wider and deeper and joined with other streams.
If you ever feel that going prayer-walking would be a good thing to do, remember that putting your life out there and walking as a living prayer is sure to have consequences! Certainly if the Genoa team ever thought we were out for ‘a walk in the park’ or a holiday by the Med, we know better now. After spending tiring and often frustrating days travelling along the north Italian coast – pressing forward to keep on schedule for an appointment in St Peter’s Square on 21.12.105! – in the evenings we relaxed over pasta and wine and bread and wine, and took the opportunity to specifically pray over each others’ futures. For me the key word was about being a mother – ‘a mother in England and a mother in Europe…’ but, wow, what does that mean? I still don’t really know, but it is planted very deeply in my heart.
All I know is since then I have stood with, prayed for, carried, mentored, so many younger generation friends – as well as facilitating the Mother’s Cry prayer gatherings in 2008 for the lost young people in our nation. We have continued to be part of a growing church full of younger people, honoured among them as a ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and learning how to take our lead from them – mutual respect brings so much blessing. This very weekend, exactly 6 years on from those prayers in Genoa, we were at the wedding of a significant couple from our church, both of Sam’s age – a son and daughter in the faith, who have lived in our house and shared some difficult months of our lives. We are very much part of the same family and – though I sat in the church and cried that Sam’s own wedding didn’t happen as we had hoped when 2 parallel sets of marriage plans were being made in our house 4 months ago – I am over-joyed to have seen the birth, the beginning, of Mr and Mrs McSharry junior, full of promise and hope.
Perhaps seeing this fulfilment, being to some extent a maternal presence among this generation, is a sign of the extent of my mothering and part of the fulfilment of that word over me … yet how great has been the cost. I have carried a mother’s pain close to home, a living prayer in my own family. But we haven’t seen the end of the story – the end of Sam’s story – yet, have we? We are still holding out for redemption and restitution, for much fruit and many children. That’s why I am calling for it again in the Mercy Cry: Future Hope gathering in February 2012.
Meanwhile, we cannot see the end from the beginning. I love the juxtaposition in Mark 5v21-43, of 12 year old Jarius’ daughter and the woman who had been haemorrhaging for 12 years. Yes – as Martin Scott first pointed out some time ago – 12 years previously there had been 2 simultaneous events, one the beginning of a new life, a new daughter, and the other the start of a chronic disease of the womb. The woman got worse and worse and spent all she had; the young girl grew bigger and stronger as she approached womanhood – 2 parallel stories that one day collided in the person of Jesus. As the woman heard of Him her hope and faith began to grow – ‘If I can just touch the hem of his robe I will be healed’; in another part of town hope was dying as the daughter’s illness grew worse and her father ran out in desperation to look for the Teacher. The woman’s courageous ‘pushy’ faith seemed to rob him of his window of time… but not so – even death could not defeat the Lord. Jesus was willing to let an unclean woman touch Him and draw power out of Him with her faith (v30) and then, double jeopardy, to enter the house of the dead to bring life back to a family: it seems He hadn’t heard of being too late.
Whatever the trajectory, whether downward or upward, whatever the need, whether chronic or acute – whether a poor, ostracised outsider or a righteous leader of the godly – Jesus can bring life into the story when we have faith in Him. On this day in Mark 5, He brought hope to 2 women; on this day 5.12.11, He brings hope to me again as I look back down the road we have travelled over 24, 23, 22 years, 6 years or just 1 year…
‘For He says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, today is the day of salvation’ 2 Corinthians 6v2