Faithful Obedience by Christine Cohen

Christine is a relatively new friend. A young mom with her hands and days full of good gifts, and her heart and mouth filled with good words. I knew I wanted to call her friend and learn from her when I saw her loving on her grandmother who had dementia and was ready to depart with the Lord. How Chritine loved on her grandma each week and how she helped her mom take her always gladly, always with a smile was a beautiful thing to witness. There she was, being faithful in her daily life. Obedient in her walk with the Lord. Doing the next thing without giving it too much thought, because this obedience, this faithfulness, was her joy.

I am grateful to have her on the blog today so that you can taste a bit of how lovely Christine is.

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Romaine Conversion
by Christine Cohen

My third floor study is seafoam green, cluttered with stuffed animals and books, and smelling like the moss one of my children brought up for decoration. I hear my son coming to join me upstairs, bare feet slapping each step like a giant laying waste to hilltop villages, a scenario he’s likely enacting in his mind. When his ascent is complete, he rushes toward me, in a hurry to place a sticky hand on my arm.

“Can I have a snack?”

An additional snack. The chocolate traces of a granola bar are already smeared around his mouth.

“Fruit leather,” I say, and he races away.

A delighted shriek soars through the open window, launched by my middle child who is spinning circles on the tire swing, ringlets flying while my eldest pushes her close to the maple tree, the rubber skimming the bark.

The fruit leather should buy me another five minutes. I pause my word count and open Facebook. The red notification bubble is for a bible reading group. A new member asks a question I’ve seen several times over the last couple of years:

“I want to have a really real quiet time with the Lord. I want to feel like I’ve connected with Him, but it’s so hard with my kids running around. And I can’t wake up any earlier. What do I do?”

I understand what she’s craving; I’ve felt that pull too, as has almost any woman, especially if you have an Instagram account. Click the sherbet-colored camera icon and enter a world of curated aesthetic moments. Scroll the bible hashtags. Look at all those cozy knit fingerless gloves! Dancing flames in a cast iron stove! A cup of coffee and leaf-dappled sunlight! If I adorn my table with votive candles and eucalyptus leaves before I read, my emotions might rise to a gnostic height where I can better commune with God. Who wouldn’t want that?

When I was eight, maybe nine years old, I attended a weekly youth group night at my church. One night in particular has come back to me recently. We’d broken into small groups, sitting cross-legged on the taupe Berber carpet. One by one the kids around me gave their conversion stories, testimonies as inspiring as the music we’d just sung. As the minutes ticked by, I started to fidget, dreading the moment when all eyes would turn towards me.

I wasn’t unregenerate; I had what felt like an even bigger problem. I couldn’t remember my conversion. When the modern evangelical kid is asked for the reason for the hope that is in her, she’s supposed to sound like she was a young Wyatt Earp, and not a head of lettuce waiting to be picked off the produce shelf by the hand of Providence.

The small Romaine waits patiently beside its fellow leafy vegetables, having done no wrong save turning faintly brown at the edges. The mister hits its curling outer tips, the phosphorescent rays shine down on its glistening leaves. A cart squeaks to a stop.

“No, not that one, that one,” a mother’s voice declares, and tiny hands encircle it and carry it home to the heaven of a strawberry pecan salad.

There is no glory in a Romaine conversion. Not for the lettuce, at least, but it’s all I’ve got. Unless. Unless…

The kid beside me was wrapping up. Everyone sighed with appreciation, and it was my turn.

Adrenaline kicked in, and I started improvising.

“Well,” I began, “I don’t talk about this much.”

The circle leaned in. I had their attention.

Warmth rushed to my face as I carried them along on a narratival sea of emotions. I told the tale of a world-weary six- or seven-year-old lying in bed one night, wracked with the same questions that countless philosophers had struggled with before me. And then….(pause for dramatic effect)…and then…right out my window, I see a shooting star! A sign from God, just for me. A promise that He was real, that He was there for me.

“Wow,” our small group leader breathed. Awe filled the faces of my peers. I adopted my best mock-humble expression. I may have even offered a modest shrug as if to say, “Don’t we all have shooting stars herald the moment of our re-birth?” I was convincing. So convincing that the lie stuck and was forgotten, gaining me glory in the moment only to be buried deep in my memory basements for decades until it reemerged in early adulthood.

Another shriek sails through my study window, this one tinged with pain. Someone needs tending, my moment of solitude is up. I think of the woman online who’s frustrated that her kids are keeping her from authentically connecting with the Lord. Children in spiritual Instagram posts are never crying or sticky or hanging from their mother’s front pockets asking for food fifteen minutes after dinner.

But where is Christ in these moments? What are the tethers that connect us to Him? Whatever you do for the least of these.

On the floor of First Presbyterian Church, I sought to manufacture a moment as emotional and authentic as I believed an encounter with my Creator should be. And now, as a mom, I understand that same temptation: to seek for God in a time or a place He hasn’t given me. As if what He did give me isn’t enough. Dole out snacks to village-stomping future men, He instructs. Not now, Lord, I’m reading my Bible in this perfect ray of sunshine, can’t you see I want to obey you? Read your Bible here on this jam-smudged table instead. With all these kids running around and dishes in the sink? The decapitated doll head on the floor? That might actually break Instagram, Lord. I can’t seek you there.

I shut my computer and stand up, stretching tight muscles. Yes, there are instances of extreme conversion. There are stories that will make a small group circle gasp with awe. But I can’t remember my moment of conversion any more than I can remember my first taste of ice cream, and that doesn’t cheapen its value. I don’t often read my Bible under the aesthetic approval of a fiddle leaf fig tree but that doesn’t make it any less authentic. God is not bound by the square borders of an Instagram post. He’s in the duties set before me.

I start down the stairs, thankful for the clarity of what God requires of me in this small, everyday moment. A hug. A kiss. A strawberry shortcake bandage. All done in faith, sustained by a promise. I am with you, always.

Christine Cohen

*****

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