I had not seen her in four months, not since the day she graduated from college. The day I listened to that message – telling me she needed a break from family and that I should not contact her and that she would contact me when she was ready – caused me so much anguish and grief I had nowhere to go but my knees.
The date was Thursday, September 24, 1998. The date is significant to what I am about to write here. September 24, 1998. The twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Read on and you’ll see why.
I was raised an Episcopalian. My parents took my sister and me to church every Sunday when we were children, but in my youth I never thought much about having a personal relationship with God. Instead, I thought of Him as a great being, one far more intelligent than I could ever imagine, one that was so far removed from my earthly pin-dot life. I was sure He didn’t even know I existed, let alone care.
My heart beat wildly inside my chest as it began to dawn on me that she wanted nothing to do with me – at least for a while. Tears stung my eyes and seconds later I sat on my bed and sobbed. I looked around my bedroom. How many times had we lain there, side by side, while talking about everything from what she should study in college to what she would like for a birthday gift. No subject was off limits. At one time, we enjoyed a close mother-daughter relationship. Yes, we fought, too. But most mothers of teen girls say the same thing. I had to tell her to lower her skirt or not go to the dance. I had to tell her “no” when she tried to push for a 1 a.m. curfew. I did what I thought was best for my daughter. She probably perceived me as being too strict, and maybe I was, but it was my job as her mother to keep her safe. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to her.
As I continued to look around the room, my eyes rested on a framed photograph of her. I saw a bottle of body lotion on my bureau – a gift from her. I saw, also, my mother’s old Bible. Steeped in emotional agony, I took the book from the top of my bureau and opened it to a random page. “God, please speak to me. I need you,” I said.
I opened the book to a random page. At the top was written “Haggai.” I had turned to a page in the Old Testament, and Haggai was a minor character but one who had his own book. I had never heard of him. Drying my eyes, I read:
I read the words again. What did they mean? What stood out was the sentence that began, “I struck all the work of your hands … yet you did not return to me.”
It was true. The work of my hands – my marriage, my role as mother – had been struck. And it wasn’t until then that I returned to God. Then I read the final sentence. “From this day on, I will bless you.”
Some people think life is a game. Other people think it’s a journey. I think of it as a magnificent puzzle, and the first piece is laid the day we’re born. Each puzzle piece continues to connect to the next one until the day we die. If we are fortunate enough to live a long life, we can see the picture in the puzzle begin to take shape. We can see the landscape of our lives the Master Puzzle-maker created for each of us.
Take a look at your puzzle. Are all the pieces fitting snugly? Is the picture emerging? Do you think it might be even more beautiful if you turn your life over to the care of God?