Just after Christmas I took down the tree, carefully packed up each of the nativities, and vacuumed up the pine needles. Then I settled into the soft yellow chair next to the fireplace and reflected.
As always, it had been a whirlwind of a holiday…some expected adventures, and some unexpected. Amidst the traditions of sledding at Soldier's Hollow, visiting the lights downtown, and cousin gifts at grandma's house we had made two visits to the ER with my daughter Meg, experienced emergency surgery, and sat next to her bedside as she received two blood transfusions.
Now, after New year's I sat there at the fireplace, sorting through the adventures…both expected and unexpected…and there, in the memories, one experience stood out that helped to make sense of them all.
It was a conversation that took place on Christmas day.
You remember Ian, who last Christmas loved to sit next to the fire and entertain us on late evenings by sharing his thoughts on life.
IANspirations, we called them.
His soft, slow voice matching it's rhythm to the flickering flames.
Now he is living across the United States in Indiana ––he gave up two years of his life to share the good news. To preach of Jesus Christ.
It has been hard.
That's what he told us on Christmas day. How hard it was. But also how much he loved the work. God's work.
"What's been the hardest?" I asked.
And he began to describe the worst week. The week when a woman in their apartment building had a seizure. She was walking to her apartment…they were walking down the stairs. And then she fell, hitting her head on the brick wall, blood pouring out everywhere. The calling 911. The mopping up of the blood on the floor. The sitting by her bedside and watching her… Praying for her kidneys to start functioning. Praying for the fluid to leave her lungs. Praying for her to breathe again on her own.
It's hard to find understanding, in those moments.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
"I had been working so hard." He said, "Really working, doing my best, trying to live close to the Spirit. But everything that was happening around me was bad."
So he opened God's word for understanding. A book of ancient scripture. There, in one of the chapters, he read the story of a man who was in need of light. So the man climbed a very high mountain, and moltened 16 stones out of rock, and laid them in a pile, and prayed to the Lord. He asked the Lord if He would touch the stones.
If He would give them light.
And then the prophet saw the finger of the Lord as it touched each of the 16 stones one by one and filled them with light.
It made Ian mad. He closed the book and walked away.
Why did that man get to see the hand of the Lord at work? What was he doing that was any different than what Ian was doing?
He was working diligently, praying with faith, focused on the Lord. Why couldn't he see the hand?
It was some time later when he opened the book again. (I love that he opened the book again…) He opened the book to see what it was, exactly, that had allowed the prophet to see the finger of God.
One phrase stood out to him, "and the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord." (Ether 3:6)
the veil was taken from off his eyes
And Ian wondered…why can't the veil be taken from off my eyes? why can't I see the hand of the Lord at work in my life?
And the Spirit whispered…just because you can't see the hand doesn't mean the hand is not working. Whether or not the veil had been removed the hand of the Lord would have still been at work. The stones would still have been filled with light.
Look for the fingerprint.
It was a profound thought.
Because sometimes we long to see the hand of the Lord at work. We pray. We have faith. We wait for the manifestation in our life.
But, perhaps, what we need to look for is the fingerprint.
On that afternoon after the new year, I sat there in my yellow chair, and I remembered Ian's story from Christmas day.
I will be honest, my heart had wondered if the Lord had remembered us over Christmas…if His hand had been at work in our lives. I questioned it when Meg stood in the garage, bent over coughing, with bright red blood puddling at her feet. I questioned it during our second visit to the ER, with Dr. Hamilton giving orders to the nurses in preparation for the unexpected surgery that was about to take place. I questioned it as the nurse hooked up the first of two blood transfusions that would be needed to restore her health.
I had prayed from the very first moment that her tonsil surgery would go as planned. That she would be well. That she would heal quickly.
And there, sitting next to her bed late in the afternoon and watching her sleep as blood dripped through her IV and into her frail white arm, I wondered if God had heard those prayers.
I wondered why I couldn't see His hand.
And then, I started looking for the fingerprints.
They were there in the conversations Meg and I had had during the late nights when neither of us slept, and I rubbed her feet with soft vanilla lotion, and we discussed her dreams, and her struggles, and her faith.
They were there in the actions of a very dear friend who stood by her side through every minute of those 23 days, bringing strength, and peace, and even joy.
They were there in the wisdom of a doctor.
They were in the prayers.
In the blessings.
In the eventual healing.
Fingerprints scattered everywhere.
And I learned an important truth.
When you can't see God's hand, trust His heart.
look for His fingerprint.