I could not have been more excited when Warner told me we were moving to Peru. It was as if it was God answering a prayer I had never even dared to think, much less verbalize. It opened my mind to a dream I hadn’t taken the risk to envision for fear of disappointment. For the past 14 years we have served in Peru from a distance with occasional short term mission trips there each year. In many ways it seems more like home to me than here. But move there, live there every day??!!? What a strange and wonderful thought…….
PERU!! I love the people – greeting everyone with a hug and a kiss and a “Dios te bendiga!” I love their openness and lack of pretense, the passionate animated conversations, the heartfelt prayers. I love the sounds – roosters crowing at 5am, vendors peddling their goods through megaphones at 6am, horns honking, music blasting and dogs barking at all hours – the total absence of quiet. I love the way that folks add all kinds of color to transform nature’s dust and brownness that surrounds them. I love the crowded busses, the language, the food. I love staying up at all hours, carrying hand sanitizer and toilet paper in my purse, the lack of toilet seats. I love it all……except for cold showers.
I know, I know. I’m spoiled. But I really hate cold showers. From my point of view, they are brutal and just plain wrong. Understanding that it was something I was going to face, probably more times than not, I determined to conquer this one thing that I actually dreaded about moving to Peru.
Beginning the 1st of September, every morning I turned the water as hot as I could handle for my shower. I wanted to get my fill of hot water – enough to last a year or more. As I stepped in, I began my prayer time by thanking God for hot water and then asking for Him to prepare me to learn to love to go without it. My shower time was transformed into a sacred moment of worship. Totally transparent and bare before the Lord (literally and figuratively!) I used that time to lay down my weaknesses and lift up all my petitions, questions, ideas, concerns and thoughts related to the SCA ministry and each person involved in it in Peru. I used the time to listen to the Lord and really hear Him. My shower time went from a 5 minute “in and out” to over a ½ hour, by far the best part of the day.
Then the dream died. Warner’s cancer is back. We are not going to Peru. We are battling stage 4 colon cancer that is spreading throughout Warner’s body. I didn’t need to pray for courage to sustain a cold shower after all. That issue had been resolved. My morning shower became a time of crying out to the Lord, begging for the comfort that only the Holy Spirit can give.
A few days before Lent I had an “ah ha!” moment – I realized what I’m certain is obvious to everyone else. I didn’t have to go to Peru for a cold shower. I could take cold showers right here at home! My strong Puritan ethic kicked in and, of course that’s what I decided to do. The changes in diet and routine, the doctor appointments, chemo, and emotional roller coasters as we adjusted to life with cancer weren’t enough. I had to blow away what had become the best part of my day. I had to be the martyr. I had to suffer through, prove I could.
It only lasted 5 days. On two of these I actually didn’t shower and felt guilty all day. I was a grouch on the three that I did shower. I was a pitiful, wimpy mess. Until… I understood that during all those months of begging God to teach me to bear one moment of difficulty a day, He was actually preparing me for a figurative rather than a literal cold shower. He was teaching me the intimate joy and safety in bringing my weaknesses and limitations to Him, trusting Him to magnify himself in them through his immeasurable, loving, gracious power. And He is doing this, every single day. Great is His faithfulness.
God has given me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe in this season of sadness, physical suffering and mental duress. No, I’m not in Peru. Yes, my life feels like a cold shower more times than not. But I am learning to appreciate these “showers,” to truly experience them and allow God to use them to do His great work in me through them.
What about you? Are you running from a cold shower? Are you about to step into one? Are you drowning in one? I encourage you to consider that they may be from God, part of His covenant of peace, “I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26).”
Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit, let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” or “Your work has no handles?” Isaiah 45:8, 9