A Quiet Place

A change from the chaos of uncertainty

by Constance B. Fink

Wednesday, January 29, 1997, was one of those days that becomes a point of reference for the rest of life, when events are explained as having occurred either “before” or “after.” It started as a typical day in a rural Midwestern town in winter. But by night, it was quite different.

After seeing my husband off to work, I looked at my calendar. Not too busy a day. Just a few errands and, if I get an early start, I can even curl up with a good book and a cup of tea. So, with grocery list in hand, I headed out.

I did not dilly-dally at the store; I wanted to get home and snuggle in. Walking toward the checkout lanes with a smile on my face and contentment in my eyes, I thanked God for my husband’s job, which freed me to enjoy the things I love: friends, Bible study, writing, women’s ministries, reading, and homemaking. But eight hours later, everything would change, and neither I nor my circumstances would remain the same.

Anxious waiting

At 5:00 p.m. dinner was almost ready. Dave should be home any minute. But an hour passed. Where is he? With each passing minute, my anxiety increased. Then the phone rang, startling every nerve in my body. My concern shot up another level when the caller, my husband’s associate, asked for Dave.

“Isn’t he at work?” I asked. The associate answered vaguely, and my heart started beating fiercely. A frightening picture began to form: a husband, drained and stressed, enduring several difficult weeks at work; ominous talk of downsizing the company. The caller finally said, “When I left, I saw a stack of empty boxes outside Dave’s cubicle, and the personnel director was with him.” The blood drained from my face.

I immediately dialed Dave’s number. He answered professionally and politely. Everything seemed normal. “When will you be home? Are you okay?”

He replied, “I’ll be home in an hour, and I’ll explain then.” He sounded calm and composed.

A prayer remembered

But I wasn’t. What am I going to do to get through the next hour? I couldn’t even think of what I might soon have to face emotionally, spiritually, and physically. “Lord,” I prayed, “I need Your help to deal with whatever it is in love, wisdom, and strength.”

As I waited, I recalled that a few days earlier I had asked God to encourage Dave and accomplish His purpose, no matter what the cost to me. I began to sense God’s preparation and presence. At that moment, God attached the stabilizing threads of hope and peace deep within my heart.

Fearful reality

Finally, the garage door opened. As Dave walked toward me, he calmly said, “I don’t work at my job anymore. Look-here are all my things.” The back of his truck was filled with boxes containing five years of memories and effort. He was so calm; it seemed so surreal.

As we sat together, Dave shared the details. Reality began to sink in-fear for the future, sadness for the loss. A list began to form in my mind of all I would lose. “But I love my house!” I cried. Just the previous weekend we finished unpacking and hung the last of the pictures. I cried uncontrollably.

Shared pain

In an attempt to get my bearings, I glanced at my calendar. My plans were now either on hold or had to be erased. How could I lead other women when I was knocked down? Would we have to move after recently finding the home that seemed so right? Would I have to give up everything I loved the last five years in order to go back to work? That night fear, resentment, anger, hurt, embarrassment, and sadness set up residence deep in my heart.

But I pushed my pain aside when I noticed the sadness in Dave’s eyes — sadness that came from his heart, that reached out to me, that drew us together. We cried for ourselves and for each other; we cried outwardly and inwardly. As we held each other, God held us both. Immeasurable peace found its place in my heart — a place that I would cherish and return to often.

Inner cry

That January Wednesday was just the beginning of years of intense financial, emotional, and spiritual stress. Instead of much-needed relief, disappointments continued. We dealt with unanswered prayers and unanswered questions, rejection letters and bills, sleepless nights and tear-filled days. I struggled to stay connected to my friends, home, and church, while trying to detach myself from the house. Maybe then the pain of moving day would not hurt as much.

Friends showed care in many ways, but my heart cried for expression. If only someone had asked how I was doing. Instead, an optimistic friend told me, “You’ll have a better home, a better church.” Inwardly, I protested, But I don’t want anything better!

A concerned friend asked, “What are you going to do?” I answered in panic, “I don’t know; I can’t think past lunch!”

A compassionate friend would ask, “How is your husband?” From deep within myself I heard the cry Please ask how I am and acknowledge that I am struggling, too. Sometimes I felt lost and afraid, sometimes alone and sad, most times exhausted.

New trail

Living in a rural area made it difficult for my husband to find employment. Although a clerical position opened up for me in a short time, it took over a year for Dave to find an engineering job. But it was three hours away. For personal reasons, we decided not to relocate, so Dave stayed near his job during the week. Though we needed the money, the living arrangement did not seem fair.

Despite panic-filled questions and disheartening concerns, Dave and I started down the new trail. Overwhelming emotions, conflicting thoughts, and unfocused faith flooded me, and the path grew darker. I no longer enjoyed the carefree days of activity. Instead, the nights seemed long and, as the weeks dragged on, my body grew wearier.

Rich discovery

One night, however, I caught a glimpse of insight. I began to see seclusion as a haven where I discovered a treasure: quietness. Four evenings by myself — unique for a woman in her forties. I may never have this time again, I admitted to myself. I must cherish it. So, over the next two years I retreated to this place of refuge and I discovered the richness of God.

I saw that He was always with me. He was my shepherd, giving me guidance. He was my rock, upholding me. He protected me and gave strength and confidence. He was my husband with whom I could share my deepest hurts. He was my Father I sought for comfort. He was my brother I turned to for companionship. He knew every tear, every need, every hope, and every loss.

He provided. He was faithful. He caught me when I fell. He heard my unspoken whispers and calmed my stormy emotions. His love was unconditional. His grace was sufficient. His will was clear and His promises true. And through it all was His reminder to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).

Keeping the treasure

Now, several years later, we still have our home, and I still have my job. However, recently Dave’s out-of-town employment ended. Though unexpected to us, we soon discovered this change of direction was part of God’s bigger plan of preparing Dave for full-time ministry. He is now enrolled in a nearby Bible college. And still intact is my treasure of personal quiet time, although it does not look the same. Instead of four hours each evening, I have ten minutes here or a half an hour there. Everyday I look for quiet moments to spend with God.

Through the years of questions, discoveries, and changes since that January Wednesday, the faithfulness of God has prevailed, bringing a measure of security that has set the pace for the rest of my life. Finding a quiet place with Him in the midst of chaos has been more vital than finding a way out of it. For with Him are stability, rest, and hope no matter the path.