Be Still

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections at 9:05 pm by Libbie

My apologies for not letting you know on Friday what is up with my tooth. I put off the next attempt at crowning it because my jaw was still very tender, and my mouth wouldn’t open very wide at all. Hopefully by Monday both of those conditions will be better and we’ll have another go at it.

I’ve also put off writing because I’ve been mulling over how to put into words what I’ve been thinking and learning from the recalcitrant tooth incident. Here goes an attempt at it.

My first thought when the tooth wouldn’t go numb on Monday was that I should have asked people to pray for that. I’d meant to do so over the weekend and just hadn’t managed to come up with the time to sit down and write a request. So, older and wiser, I asked you all to pray for the appointment on Wednesday, and you did. (In fact when I walked into the office on Wednesday the dentist said she had heard ”from another patient who happens to work at Westminster” that the whole seminary was praying for her and for me and my tooth. I don’t actually know what she thinks about prayer or about God being real and listening, but we laughed about it, and after several unsuccessful shots she had the receptionist call one of the women at Westminster with the cryptic message to “pray harder.” It was pretty funny, and we all had a good chuckle about it.) I was confident that once people were praying for the situation everything would go smoothly.

Evidently not. Clearly the Lord had other plans. He must have had to superintend things in detail to keep an excellent dentist from finding the right nerve on eleven tries over two days! But what was he up to? It certainly had to be related to the whole challenge of Al’s melanoma. Both had the feel of one option seeming to be the obvious best outcome (my jaw to go numb, Al not to have terminal cancer) and yet the Lord choosing what would seem to be the less optimal path. Of course he is 100% able to choose and accomplish my numbing and Al’s healing; there is no question about either of those, and we will continue to ask him to do both. But he is choosing a different outcome. Why?

In the case of Al’s cancer, the whole thing seems so big, and beyond us, and mysterious, that it’s almost easier to think, “Well, God’s ways are higher than ours, and he knows how to bring great good, and blessing and glory out of very hard things, so we’ll just walk with him and see how he does that in this situation.” On the other hand, my stubborn tooth is such a piddly, insignificant, mundane thing that it wouldn’t necessarily occur to me to think of it as being in the same boat. Yet there I was on Wednesday wondering why the Lord would bother to hide my nerve from the needle rather than let the tooth get uneventfully crowned and forgotten about. That would make so much more sense to me. After all, we’ve got plenty going on right now, and lots of other things to think about and spend our time on besides me sitting in the dentist’s chair for hours, over and over.

And that began to be a clue. Too many things to do and think about, too many other things to spend our time on. Hmmm.

What I’ve sensed so far about this question is that I am busy doing the having-a-sick-husband thing. I’m busy figuring out what that looks like, how I can love Al best right now, how I can process this in faith, how I can help the kids process it in faith, etc., etc., etc. I’m busy doing. I’m always busy doing. That’s the story of my life. I’m a doer. Always have been. Probably always will be.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a doer. That’s the way God made some of us, and that’s fine. But like anything else, a strength has a flipside that is a potential weakness. It comes with a certain tendency, a certain temptation: to depend on yourself and to forget to depend on God. It’s so easy for me to get busy doing what I think I need to do (often perfectly good things, things that God really does in fact want me to do) and to forget what’s more important.

This whole thing is about growing to know God better. I don’t mean just that the tooth crowning is about that. Or even that Al’s melanoma is about that. Life is about that. The amazing God who made the universe is willing, even eager, to let us know him personally, intimately. And since we are blind enough not to be interested in that most of the time, he goes out of his way (and nudges us out of ours) to encourage us to get to know him. Sometimes it takes more than nudging to get our attention.

Last week as I asked the Lord why he didn’t want my tooth to get numbed and crowned so I could get on with the rest of life that needed tending to, I realized that I had to kneel before him as the Lord, the king, the master who calls the shots and orders our days, who knows what is really best for us. Eventually I ended up just kneeling quietly at his feet. He really is the shepherd, my shepherd, the good shepherd, who knows where the quiet waters and the green pastures are and who leads me there. He is the LORD, and I can be genuinely content in his care and his sovereignty. His choices of pasture may not always make sense to me. Other choices may seem much more practical, sensible, fruitful, or beneficial. But he is the Lord. It’s his job to choose the way, and mine to follow. And in that there is such peace. In that quiet, still place at his feet, resting in the care of my Father and shepherd and trusting him, is perfect peace that passes understanding.

My jaw is still sore, but the fruit of the dental ordeal is sweet. It was good of God to remind me who he is, my Lord and my shepherd; and who I am, his subject, his sheep and his child; and how much he loves me; and that he will choose my way and take care of me. I have a hunch that all those reminders will be very helpful in the months ahead.


  1. Christian Cryder said,

    April 1, 2006 at 11:39 pm

    Very, very insightful, Libbie. Thanks for sharing. We continue to pray, and to learn by watching you walk through this…

  2. Michele McGinty said,

    April 2, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    Libby, you and Professor Groves are in my heart and prayers. I have been praying for you both since I found out and I have posted your requests to by blogs. I’m thankful to the Lord that He is giving you comfort and a greater understanding of His love and mercy and I am thankful that you are sharing that knowledge with us.

  3. Charis Liang said,

    April 3, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Dear Libbie

    What an insightful and uplifting message you have shared with us. I was reminded again how big God was, how small I was, and yet how He had every little thing in care and control. I’m really touched by both of your ministry on this blog, and I’ll continue praying for you and Prof. Groves.


  4. Mindy Withrow said,

    April 7, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    Amen, Libbie–an encouragement to us other doers!

  5. David Covington said,

    April 11, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Dear Libbie and Al,

    I, too, am a doer; when at a loss, or even perhaps depressed I often comfort myself with simply doing whatever happens to be close at hand, assuming that even if I am confused, troubled, even upset or angry, I can hardly go wrong by just sweeping the floor, doing the dishes, pulling weeds. Your reflections sweeten and restore the heart with the reminder that Christ Himself is the deliberate center of our minute-by-minute awareness. This, as you, Al, observed, is a direct result of His astonishing resurrection. Sharon joins me in sending you both our dearest love in Him.

    P.S. Our five-year-old grandson Collin was about to be spanked for disobedience when he rather transparently explained to his barely-contained mother, “I keep trying to explalin to you that I want to run this family!” I suspect this became, once she recovered her composure, a wonderful discipleship opportunity! May God do so to me, and more also….D.

  6. barbara finlay said,

    April 15, 2006 at 7:56 am

    Dear Libby,

    So appreciated your reflections, such an encouragement and help. Rea (my hubby) has fibromyalgia and I can identify with so much with your thoughts and feelings. Like you it is sometimes so much easier to do (good) things rather than be still before God but God is such a loving and patient God and teaches us so much at times like these. Through Rea’s illness He has drawn us so much closer to Himself and revealed His mighty power to us. To God be the glory. Am continuing to prayer for you both at this very, very tough time. May God give you both the strength daily to live in His victory.

    lots of love and prayer

  7. nick muller said,

    April 28, 2006 at 6:29 am

    joined you today in prayer;


Leave a Comment