Originally published in Blog Magazine 3/2012
My 1998 Ford Explorer moaned like a wounded cow in heat all the way up that California Highway 99. The truck moaned all the way from Turlock to Livermore as I, taunted by the relentless rays of the sun that bored its rays through the windshield, frantically searched for an off ramp to the nearest mall. I was afraid to use the air conditioner in the truck because of the vehicle’s mournful wails, so I fought my way back to the Bay Area through those fierce waves of heat that shimmied up and down the highway with just the relief of the open window on the driver’s side because the window on the passenger side no longer responded to the remote push of a button.
It was a miserable and laborious two-hour trek that July Saturday afternoon. The repressive valley heat brusquely hitched a ride with me back in Turlock, and it continuously beamed at me from the passenger seat next to that unresponsive window. I was aiming for home, that fog shrouded air-conditioned City by the Bay home, still thirty miles away from Livermore, but I was frenzied for respite. I steered the still grousing SUV into the parking lot of the first available mall where I frantically poured myself out onto the pavement and stumbled as quickly as I could across the parking lot to the nearest air conditioned restaurant. After what seemed like an interminable wait in line, I tapped into the last of my energy reserves to crawl to the counter and order bottled water, a large Pepsi and a hot dog (my offering to the food chain god for a cool place to rest my heat dazed bones). I grasped the cold bottle of water to my breast and staggered over to the soda fountain to set the empty soda cup under the ice dispenser. I all but licked my parched lips as I pressed the cup against the ice dispenser and watched frosty cubes of ice tumble down, one by one, into the cup. I moved the cup over to the Pepsi dispenser and as my hands trembled I filled the cup to the brim with the icy brown liquid. I walked over to an empty table, sat down, and set the cup of Pepsi and the bottle of water on the table side by side. I contemplated them both for a second then exhaled slowly as I reached out to pick up the cup of Pepsi and lift it to my lips. It was so sweet and sharp and satisfying. The cool sweetness of the brown liquid flowing down my throat felt as though the heavens opened and angels descended to celebrate the return of one more wayfaring soul.
I do not remember how long I sat wrapped in cool satisfaction after that first sip, but each moment and each sip was like being in an oasis where cool breezes whispered through a circle of palm trees that overlooked a quiet pool of crystal clear water. But, no matter how satisfying that moment of relief was, I still had to go back to my moaning car to make the rest of the trip home.I dreaded the journey, but it was something that had to be done.
The times after the death of my husband felt like that parched trip home that hot summer day. There were times when I just was not sure I was going to survive the heat of the challenges that seemed to come at me one strength draining wave after another. The moments of loss seemed interminable as I dragged my way through each day, silently moaning over my loss and pain. As soon as I thought I had overcome the heat of one challenge, another scorcher would show up. Death of a husband, loss of a home, loss of a church family, loss of ministry circles, would it never end? Every time I found what I thought was a Mall of Respite, an Oasis of Refreshing, more heat shimmers would rise and the oasis would disappear. This is what I finally realized: When the fire of life threatens to consume me, I must rush to the Mall of Christ’s Care, to rest in the cool calm of His presence, to sit quietly and listen for His voice, and to lay every burden at His feet. In his Mall there is comfort and care, protection and peace. The key to survival: Christ, for in Him we can find rest for our weary and parched souls, always (Matthew 11:28-31).