My hands were on fire. The pain was so intense, there should have been blood, but there wasn’t. In fact, bleeding would have been a relief, at least blood would have been warm.
I had been foolish. I had gone to get fireworks in late December in Alaska. The temperature was about -40, if I remember correctly. I was just driving up to the fireworks stand, close to my house, and did not dress my hands properly. “It’s only going to be a few minutes,” I thought.
But there was a line and a lot of decision making. Long story short, I was out in the elements for almost an hour with only thin gloves.
I realized I was in trouble when I got back to my truck and couldn’t move my fingers to open the door. I had to paw the door open which caused me to wince a bit from the ache deep by the bone, but my skin was too numb to feel anything, and the muscles were freezing.
Alarmed and unable to drive, I held my hands in front of the vent. As they thawed, the pain crescendo’d. It was like someone took ice shards, dipped them in acid, then set it on fire, then was grinding those into my flesh. I sobbed and I broke. Somewhere in that torment, I finally succumbed to the will of God in my life.
12 years previous, we had moved to the Interior of Alaska, cold and desolate, where I had to chip ice away from sockets to plug in my toaster, and where there was often a 120 degree difference between the outside temperature and the inside. A place where the shortest day was 3 hours and 41 minutes, and it was winter from October to May.
I grew to hate the tundra. It was too dark for my single-eyed vision, and too dry for my twitchy lungs, and too frigid for my cold nature. It was too far away from my mom who was struggling with cancer, chips that didn’t cost $7 a bag, and the actual sun. The air hurt, the dark crowded, and the distance abandoned.
I tried to force, in my will, to move from there. I hounded my husband and scoured the internet for jobs. I remember thinking I would literally go crazy in the snow one day and just start walking to the Canadian border to head south through the Yukon.
The Lord never let me leave. In fact, not only that, but He had my cousin prophesy to me that I would not leave there for 7 years, but I fought against it. In my mental gyrations, I hoped He meant we would live there a total of 7 years, not that we would be there for an additional 7 years.
And in my angst, I missed enjoying a lot of blessing that surrounded me. Clean air and a safe place to raise the kids. Learning how to be self sufficient, cooking on a woodstove, making sourdough, gathering fruit and harvesting moose. Being surrounded by good-hearted people. Seeing the majesty of the Lord’s creation from what seemed like another planet where it had to warm up to snow, where the aurora shone in the night like liquid emerald, where the sun rose and set in the south in the winter, and where it was light enough to read a book outside at 2 am in the summer.
I wanted none of it. I wanted warm and humid. I wanted magnolias and my mom. I wanted southern drawls and languid summers.
But at that moment, accompanied by excruciating pain that was walking beside me like a somber counsel, I finally surrendered my will to the Lord’s. Even if He made me stay there for the rest of my life, I vowed I would do so for His glory. I even asked Him not to let me leave until I had not complained for a year.
Then, 2 weeks shy of a year later, we drove out of Alaska (then hit a bison in the Yukon, but that is another story).
Did the Lord want me to have weak lungs and bleeding hands and impenetrable loneliness? No. He wanted me to trust Him. He wanted me to surrender to Him. I wonder how much shorter our stay in Alaska would have been if I had just surrendered to Him many years before in joy and obedience.
But then if I had had joy and obedience in Him, I would not have minded the time in Alaska. Either way, I would have won if I had only surrendered my will to Him.
Oh I still would have had asthma attacks. I still would be half blind and away from my mom, but I would have been content. I would have looked to Him for my sustaining, not to a more comfortable latitude. It would have been ok because I would be with Him. I would not be suffering anything more than Jesus suffered for me, in fact, much less. It would have been an easy “hard thing”.
A few years and some mild winters have passed and I realize that I would not trade the “agony” of all those years for the world. Learning to embrace the Lord and His will, learning to trust Him….honestly it would have been worth it even if I had to stay there the rest of my days. He is good. He knows what we really need. I have learned to stop trying to push on a rope and just rest in Him. It makes the hard things easy.