Today marks a dubious anniversary in my life. On this date last year, I was flat on my back, having just received a one-word explanation for why I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck: mono.
It had been a whirlwind of a month leading up to the diagnosis. Within the span of just a few weeks, the man of my dreams put a sparkly thing on my finger and asked me to marry him; I went on vacation with my future in-laws; and shortly thereafter I hopped into a minivan with my family for a cross-country trip to meet my new nephew. All this while in the throes of planning a wedding scheduled for less than six months away. It’s little wonder, I suppose, that I found myself unable to get out of bed one morning not long after the whirlwind subsided.
One of the worst parts about the mono (aside from the fire in my throat and the relentless teasing about how I’d contracted “the kissing disease”) was the solitary nature of it. I couldn’t go to work; I didn’t want to contaminate my friends and family; and based on the swollen state of my adenoids, even talking on the phone sounded like torture. With a warning from the doctor about a six-week recovery time, suffice it say I was feeling pretty lonely.
Enter Prince Charming.
Daniel faithfully came over to my house when I was sick, bearing gifts of throat spray, Tylenol, chicken noodle soup, and ice cream (purely for medicinal throat-soothing purposes, of course). But the best gift he gave me was his presence.
I was poor company, and I knew it. One glance at my unshowered self in the mirror, complete with my manic hair and sweatpants-of-the-week, and I wondered if this fiancé of mine was going to take back that thing he’d said about “the rest of our lives.”
But that’s not what happened. Daniel looked at me, having sacrificed his other plans for the evening to sit on the couch beside a girl with little energy and fewer coherent thoughts, and said one of the most wonderful sentences ever uttered. “I know you don’t feel beautiful right now,” he told me. “But you have never looked more beautiful to me than you do right now.”
When the Israelites were on the long road from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, they had plenty of needs—basics like food, water, and physical safety. But they also had a need for something deeper from God: his company.
Once the thrill of freedom wore off, I’m sure it didn’t take long for them to panic and realize they were in the middle of the desert and didn’t exactly have a map to show them where they were going. They didn’t just need physical supplies; they needed God to sit with them, even when they were mopey and unshowered and in general just lousy company. They needed the comfort of God’s presence.
This need was reflected in Moses’ prayer for his people: “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession” (Exodus 34:9).
And that’s just what God gave them—in the form of a cloud by day a pillar of fire by night. That gift wasn’t so different from the gift I received in my sweatpantsed-state. It’s the gift of love. It’s the gift of presence.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.