Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dance. (for my girl)


She said, “You haven't written about me.”

And she's right.
Technically.

All the things I have written since I became a mother have been about her. She is my daughter. I am not the person I am without her. But technically she's right. I havent written solely about her.

So I thought about it. Why havent I written about her? My most lame excuse is because she's hasn't moved out.
Yet.
I haven't thought about life without her and consequently life with her.
My other sorry excuse is that writing has been much more difficult lately. Peri-menopause is 
No. Joke. It feels as if someone is stirring your brain.
Enough excuses.

The real truth is that I have always always felt that I could never be a mother to a daughter. I was a needy scattered daughter with a needy scattered mother. I was terrified to have a girl and I have cried many tears over the breathtakingly tender gift that is my girl, Bethany Kate. I often feel that I have let her down and failed to be what she needed me to be, a strong wise gentle woman. So when she reminded me (in her quiet questioning way) that I had not written about her, I knew it was true for all the wrong reasons.
So I began to pray and ask God what I should write.
I prayed and prayed.
Then one day this picture popped in my head.


2002. We were on her first trip to Disney World. The whole family had flown to Florida to have a Disney vacation courtesy of my in-laws who worked at WDW. This meant that sometimes we entered the park through alternate ways. This morning we were going in by way of a hotel that had beautiful topiaries out front trimmed to the shape of different characters. At age five she was actually a two year veteran of dance lessons and loved to watch the “big girls” who danced “real ballet”. So when I saw the hippo and alligator (from the movie Fantasia) on pirouette I suggested she jump up on the low wall and pose with them for a picture. I awkwardly did my ballerina imitation (”like this”). She gracefully mimicked me (10,000X better) and I snapped away.

This is the picture the Lord reminded me of.

Because of the story she recently told me.

My grown kids are now of an age where they delight in telling me the “real” story from their childhood adventures. The things that happened when I left them alone, or at a friends house, or the back story on getting away with something. (They relish my dismay and disbelief at some of these tales. And sometimes I wonder if we really were at the same place at the same time.)
Anyway, she relates the back story of this photo.

She says she had no idea what the heck I was telling her to do. She had no idea that the bushes were animals or that they were Disney characters or that they were doing ballet poses. She was completely clueless as to why I had her pirouette. But as you can see there she is. Mugging it up. All sweetly graceful and little girl charm. Even a little goofy grin in the squinty hot Florida sun.
And no clue why she was doing it.

That's my girl.

She has always - even when she didn't know why - trusted me. And she has always had a tender heart to obey what shes asked to do. I didn't make her that way. I certainly did appreciate it when she was small as it made my crazy busy mama life much easier. But that is the way she came to us.
Obedient. Compliant.
Even if she did question or rebel what she was told to do, she still did it.
She would most always (she wasn't a saint) obey.
It's a part of who she is.

Its not popular now to say a girl was obedient. That she would do without question what you asked her to do. And I know it isn't always good to be the “good” girl. But she was and God has shown me that it is a part of her, her very heart to comply, to yield to others but mostly to Him.

She was the quiet one. The baby of a family of loud, exciting, daring, gregarious brothers. There were often other loud rude boys around who ignored her or excluded her from their good times. She tried to tag along but for the most part made no waves.

She was my girl. My girly girl. So when the boys were having their rough fun we did girl stuff. We did dresses and Mary Janes. We did dance lessons and American Girl dolls. We did doll houses and Madeline books. She complied with all the girly things I wanted to do, even hair curlers and ribbons. I think sometimes it was much more fun for me than her. She always went along with what I proposed and we had fun together.

I remember one day we were at Busch Gardens theme park. She and I had gone to the ladies room. It had a full length mirror by the exit door. I stopped and checked myself and told her “A lady always checks herself before she leaves the restroom, to make sure everything about her is in place.” I twisted in front of the mirror looking at myself with her in front of me, as I stepped aside she delicately fluttered her arms over her head like a flower and twirled around glancing at her self all the way around. Like a daisy in the wind.

Obedient, with a twist.

She loved fiercely as a little girl. She may have been the quiet one but she was your loyal companion if you were her friend. It became unthinkable to have a celebration without her pals. Heather was her super hero: her alter ego and guiding light. Her fellow dog and horse worshipper and confidant. They plotted business ventures together and talked the mothers into driving them to various barns to muck stalls to save money for their own horse someday. They had a kindred spirit that is true but Bethany's willingness to follow Heather's lead was the cement that held them together.

When she did get immersed into horses it was this same urge for obeying that made her a firm horse woman. I will never forget seeing this maybe 4'10” little teenage girl grab a giant huge over 6' tall horse by the lead rope and jerk his disobedient head down and bellow in her tiny voice “Walk On!” and the behemoth trembled slightly then acquiesced to her command. He could have easily shook her off like a fly but something stony in her voice convinced him otherwise.
I loved working at the barn with my Bethy Kate; switching roles and letting her be the teacher as she patiently showed me how to muck and groom and feed the ponies she loved so. One afternoon we were cleaning the empty barn as all the horses had been turned out into the field. As we finished she realized that a big storm was coming quickly and we had several horses to bring into the barn, quickly. They were in separate fields and had to come in separately. As we rushed out and began quickly snapping lead ropes onto horses' halters the heavens opened up. How we got all the ponies into the barn without slipping in the mud or a horse running away across the pasture or one of us getting trampled to death, only God knows. But my, how we laughed and laughed when we finished, as we stood there completely dripping, drenched, wet to the skin, in that barn, surrounded by the rain beating a tattoo on the metal roof and the horses quietly munching their early dinner. I didn't take lightly God's grace or the training she had instilled in those beasts, that day.

My little girl has suffered because of her obedient heart too. She has given too much to others and they used it up and demanded more from her. She has loved and trusted deeply that others were motivated by obedience too and it has hurt. Sometimes I think she doesn't even know how unprecedented her golden faith and trustful following appear to others. They don't think its real. No one could love that sacrificially. But she does.

She does.


Now we are on the doorstep of her last goodbye. She is ready to fly. She has put her hand in the hand of the man God had planned for her. She looks into his eyes with that same quiet obedience (and the same firmness of expectation). She is trusting that the Lord has her next chapter in His hands and she will follow – with doubts to be sure- but she will follow where He leads. Because He made her that way. 
And Jesse, even if she doesn't know that the bushes are ballerinas.

If you ask her,
she will dance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Worthy

Her aunt looked at her in exasperation and said,

“Don't you know you are worth so much more than to be treated like that? You deserve someone who loves you.”

In her brokenhearted state the words filtered in slowly. She lifted her gaze and through the tears she replied,
“Do you really think so? Do you really think I am?”

The older woman shook her head, incredulous at such a reply.

“Yes, I do. I really do.” Her voice firm and resolute, trying desperately to convince this beautiful young woman, young mother, that she was a person of value - a life worth saving, worth treasuring and cherishing.


When I heard that story it shook me. In my cocoon of Jesus and Church and Words of Comfort I was jolted into reality by this young woman's cry for assurance. Do they really feel that way?  I assumed only a few did. I was wrong. How can a girl know her priceless worth? How can a woman be confident in herself and her place in this world? It seems overwhelming. How to begin?

Begin at the beginning.

God created.

I opened my Bible. His Word plainly says,
For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139: 13-14 NIV

As I read these verses I felt them saying to her,

He made you - sweet girl, young mama - He made you just like the precious little ones that grew under your own heart. They were made of what you thought was love between you and their dad. Just like them, God made you. They were no accident and you are no accident. No chance “hook up” made you or them. There really is no “chance”. God is the Giver of Life. People have sex all the time and do not conceive a child: every life is planned by God.

You are no mere happenstance, you were planned and wanted by your Father God.

Look at those words of His again,
You created me...I am wonderfully made...Your works are wonderful.

Wonderfully Made.
Full of wonder.
Unexplained joy.

We love wonderful. It is a word that says this thing is superior and great. But the Hebrew (the language of the Jews and the first writings of the Bible) here shines a little more light on this word, it says to be wonderful is to be set apart. I am wonderful because I am set apart, distinct from all others. God has created me for a distinct life; I am set apart for a specific plan and His plan is wonderful.

Do you see what value there is when someone is set apart? They are not interchangeable with another. If someone discards you in a relationship; a parent abandons you, or a lover dismisses you they are saying you are not special enough to be of value to them.
They are showing you that you are replaceable.

You are not unique, treasured or wanted.

The beautiful thing is that God has a Word that is more powerful than theirs. He has actions that outweigh the hurt of any human relationship. His words can heal every single rejection and pain.

If you believe Him.

God says,
You are Wonderful in My Eyes.
Set apart from all others.

Your Heavenly Father loves you in a deeply personal way because you are irreplaceable to Him. There is no one else He would rather have. No one else to be His daughter, His own. He wants no one else to live your life, to love your family, to learn and grow in your purpose.

You are worthy because you are you.
Think about that one long and hard. And let it push out the words of rejection that have labeled you for so long.


The next part says His works are wonderfully made. But the Living Bible says it a little differently:

Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.
Psalm 139:14 NLT

On further study that word conveys the meaning that you are something that was made in a way that was:
difficult to do,
extraordinary,
beyond one's own power to do.

So when the doubts about your own worth creep in and you feel as if you failed God over and over you can remember that your failings in no way cancel out His view of you as marvelous because HE makes you so.
 It is beyond your own power to be marvelous.
 It is when you rely on Him that you are something to marvel over, something extraordinary. And the cherry on top is that He calls you marvelous before you really are. He called you extraordinary when you were growing in your mother's womb. Before you could do or be anything to anyone
you
were
marvelous.

What would I say if I could to that tender girl, so vulnerable in a life where she has never rested securely in her worth? That beautiful young woman who craves love so much she's willing to lay down her own needs to gain a counterfeit love to fill her emptiness. That precious Daughter of the King who is lost in a culture that tells her the only way to be respected is to fight everyone who tries to love her purely and selflessly. She believes she is of worth only for her pretty face and her body. She is a trophy to be held overhead and put on a shelf when the next one is brought home in her place.

I would say, Daughter, there is more.

Hidden in the soft places of your heart you know this to be true: there is a Father who has stored up for you all the love you will ever need. There is nothing you need give in exchange for it, except your faith and trust in Him who made you.
And He will bind your wounds,
bring healing to your soul.

Simply surrender to the one who is the lover of your soul,
the anchor in your storm,
 the Protector of your heart.

And you will know your worth.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lost and Found

I am back.
Returned.

I want to whoop and sigh and dance and weep. I have been through a Valley. With a capital V. It has honestly felt like a journey of Tolkian ilk; certainly not a vacation. Not a respite but a workout of body mind and spirit.

And it has taken years.
Years of screaming in the darkness,
I. Still. Need. You. God.
Dont leave me, here. Alone

A long time ago when the heaviness was just beginning I was walking down a isolated lane. Surrounded by green trembling leaves and arched cathedral trees. When gently but sorrowfully a Voice said,
It is going to get worse before it gets better.

What?
What does that mean? I am daily seeking your Face, Lord, daily asking for intervention and your mercy. I feel the darkness coming. I need assurance and love.
I need you to Fix. This.
I cant take much more. And all you can say is buckle up, buttercup?
I was petrified.
And boy did it get worse.

The attack began on what I could see and touch. I came a hair's breadth away from loosing all my material things; house, car, income. My lifestyle of staying home, volunteering at church, homeschooling my kids, chauffeuring them around was very likely going to crumble to pieces.
I was beyond terrified and I clung to God.

No. That's a lie. I really began to walk away from Him.

Not that anyone would have been able to see it. I still was very active in church. I still prayed with my children and diligently taught them God's Word. I still worshiped and went on retreats. But in my spirit I was mad and hurt.
God did get my family out of a pickle. But it was not a long term fix. I knew that in my core; that there was a malignancy that was hiding away just under the surface. I was able to keep my house and the income did rebound. For a while I was able to stay home with my kids.
Itt slowly began to unravel again.
And my anger and bitterness prospered more than anything else.
It was righteous anger in my mind. I had been wronged and hurt by those I loved and trusted the most. I was justified in my cancerous thoughts and flailing rage.
To those who knew me then, you might be surprised. Maybe you wont be. I thought I hid it very well. I hid it from my self quite successfully. I was the victim, hurt by family friends and God. And I could easily show you with Scripture how I was right and they were wrong.

Then it all really went crazy.
This time the attack wasn't on my finances, my house, my car, my lifestyle. It was an outright personal attack against me, my husband, my children. When I say attack I don't mean like an eagle seizing a trout. I mean like a terrorist flying a plane into my soul.
Suddenly I was alone. Just me and the Lord. My husband was slipping away. My family thinning and weak. And I knew what I had to do this time. I jumped into God like a swimmer leaping from a burning boat into the ocean. I served Him with my whole heart. Bitterness was gone. Anger was gone. I abandoned everything to follow where He would lead. I wanted only God's healing, I would obey whatever He said.
Then it got better.

No. Then it got worse.
My husband was completely gone and life as I knew it was never going to be the same again.
The ocean I had plunged into had become a crashing sea of boiling waves. I was very certainly going to go down and not make it up again. My whole adult life was dedicated to being a Christian, a Wife and a Mother. And now that reality had disappeared in a vapor, my core identity was being blown to pieces. So in this tumultuous sea of turmoil I did what any child of God would do. I began to learn how to turn over on my back and float. I saw what it was like to realize how to give up the struggle. I had spent the last year repairing my heart before the Lord and I was ready to turn it all over to Him. At the absolute critical moment.
Don't be fooled. That choice to float rather than struggle was a minute by minute struggle to keep going. A whole year of repair work. A year of reconstructive surgeries. Graft after graft. Stitch after stitch.

New life began to open up. But anyone who knows anything about recovery knows every single hiccup can put you right back in the ER. My husband, in humility before the Lord, took my hand and we began to see what God had in mind all along. We tried to pick up every piece that the tornado had scattered. But you cant pick up every one and somethings just cant be glued back together. A new thing had to begin.
But I wasn't me.
I had lost myself in the chaos. I had entered this millennium as a mother of a preschooler and a two rapidly growing boys. A SAHM who was more often than not in church. I was now an empty nester who needed to find a job. I had no idea who I was. I tried to find the edge pieces. You know, the beginning pieces to the 5,000 piece puzzle. The flat edges of Truth. The Corners of God, Faith, Trust, Peace.

Just when I had begun to punch the destination in the GPS that would lead me to my new career, my mother fell ill. Just three months after my dad had died my mom went for surgery and never left the hospital.
That is a journey I am still processing a year later.

But today.
Today, I went for a long walk. I saw brilliant May skies and liquid lavender wild flowers. I wanted to speak kindly. I was excited to hear from Jesus and to follow His next adventure. I thought with schoolgirl love of my husband at work. I opened my hand and cast my grown children to God's care. I felt purposeful. And maybe even happy. Certainly peaceful and suddenly, there I was.

I was back. The vulnerable girl of 8
the gawky 18
the unteachable 25
the tender 33
the chaotic angry 48
suddenly all merged into me again.
I am back. Whole. And I'm finally able to live again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Damascus


The sun crushes my vision. I duck my head and squint, Saul like, and grimace at the irony of my prayer, 
Speak Lord. 
My heart snatches back at the prayer. Perhaps too reckless, too bold. But as I keep moving down the city street, obediently, mechanically walking to the hospital I know I need- beyond the word itself- beyond any previous meaning of need that I have ever known- I need to hear from Him.

Inside the giant bully of a building a small frail 72 year old woman helplessly waits. Unable to speak for the trach in her neck, unable to lift depleted limbs, unable to calm a fluttering heart, at the mercy of man, medicine, and my signatures of consent- she waits.

So I need answers.
The Mind of God. All knowing- past yesterday and beyond tomorrow.
Answers to the implications of an unknown future. Answers that die in certainty and do not live in my doubts, my dreams, my daytime business. When only one name fits on the line to sign away misgivings it is a very lonely thing. Even consulting doesn't add another place for a signature on a surgical consent, blood consent, procedure consent... Life and death by my name like the Queen of Hearts.

And the weariness. I know I must exude weariness like a perfume cloud. I am so saturated with it- it must leak out of me, through my porous bones into my thinning skin. I cover it with oils that mean to revive and calm but I know; I reek of tired.

My mind snatches at words, trying to hold the clarity and purpose of
Vasopressor, Dialysis, Tube-feeds, Epinephrine, PEEPS, Atrial Fibrillation,
Med Line, Tidal Volumes, TPN, A Lines, OT, PT, Creatinine, Transfusion,
Palliative Care,
DNR.
I must know them all. And know what to say when the doctor's monologue ends with the inevitable...

“Do you have any questions?”

Questions?
My, oh, my do I have questions.
Questions that would make you back away from the sheer raw pain.
Why is first.
Why?
It is a rare complication. Why her? Why now? Why are you so kind, Doctor, and so compassionate, so smart, so able to save and heal others but not my mother?
Why.

and How.
How do we know this is what “Needs to be done” ? How can she ever get out of this hospital that has held her here these 4 months? How does she who has been silent for 17 weeks speak again? How do I see beyond this bed that has become her ship in stormy seas. How do I remember health? How do I keep on making pictures of recovery and normal everyday life to distract her vision away from the endless tubes and needles?
How.

When will hope return?
Who will she be when we reach the end. A sinner saved by grace- welcomed in peace and freedom from pain. Or will she be broken and forever walled in by machines. Life outside the window forever removed and out of reach. Alive enough to live, sick enough to die.


My feet ache from the walk, the long walk to go from me to my mother. And I selfishly gather the pain and rub my sadness into it. But larger than my inconveniences is her need.
So I walk I to the hospital,
elevator,
floor,
hallway,
and her room.

I walk into her need.
Larger than life- than my life- larger than everything
and pray God speaks.

Damascus words. Of love

and life.  

Tryst



It is light outside my closed eyes
It is light mid the midnight
She sings a siren song
louder still now against the snow
not absorbed by the flat white
but reflected
bounced
and pounced
like a self absorbed cat
heedless of my need for sleep
she calls
my sister moon
my lunar daughter
begs me awake
to admire her
lumosity
her sensuous embrace
her winter kiss

I have never in the day
loved and known such lure
as the blue sylvian
glide that draws
me in this deep night
as the curved silver
lunar girl
my sister moon
My fragile soul was born from her light
my thin heart
a paper copy
crumpled reflection

Some nights she seeks
me on my pillow
her eye cast on my dark head
her smooth hand brushes
my slumbering cheek
and curls inside my flesh

I cannot sleep
we must speak
the silence of the night
she brings me
with no fear
she shows me only now
only breathe
and my interlaced stacked up
mess of life and obligation
untwists in the shadows
of winter twigs on azure pillows of frost and ice
Untwist
Uncurl

My breath craves the
enchanted allure of wet damp air
the healing of breathing
moon drenched
midnight breaths
fill my lungs with trust
to
catch and hold aloft my dreams

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

You Will Always Be His Momma

  • She wrote that her first born was moving out.
  • Oh, how I know that excitement and heartache. I have had two leave home for college and beyond. My baby girl is testing her wings right now. I rushed off these words to my friend and thought maybe some other mommas might find encouragement in them as well.
    Dear Sweet Friend,
    You are right to not feel ready, you are never ready. Because you will always be his momma. He will always be your baby.
    But that now becomes a secret that you hide in your heart. You must remember the strength you had when you were in labor and you felt like you had given everything and it was still too hard but you did it anyway. That momma strength will see you through.
    You will remember that God loves this manchild more than you could ever ever imagine and give him to the Lord...again. The love he shows you and the communication may dwindle to a drip. He may even be a little hateful, but it is just to cut the ties he feels to you. He doesn’t know how to do it any other way.
    You will cry and cry.
    Everything will remind you of the boy years and, heaven forbid, the baby years too. But you will be strong and know this is God's plan for him and all boys who are walking into manhood.
    You will try to find a balance between being truthful in missing him and being morose and letting this rob you of your joy. And you will make that balance work because the other kids are missing him too and watching you and wondering how to live it out.
    Now you get to become his cheer leader and prayer partner.
    Always give hope, always encourage.
    Never say I wish you had talked to me first, because he needs to own and learn from his mistakes. Enjoy his independence with him, even when everything in you wants to lock him in the closet and never let him out.
    It will get better.
    Your life will change and your world  grow larger again. You will find delight in the small freedoms and new (sometimes scary) opportunities that will begin to unfold for you. You will remember the girl you were before you were mom. You will dream old dreams and live new ones that God had planned all along.
     You will make it!
    And you will do it again and again as each one makes their way out to begin their own journey. Children are like a River... they leave and leave and suddenly return like the tide, needing you like never before.
    What lies before you is such joy in having adult children.
    The joy of hearing "Mom, Ive been praying about this job and I think Ive got it!"
    And "Mom, there's this girl..."
    Then, " Mom, could you help me look at rings?"

    And suddenly he is looking down at you, with love and gratitude as you dance at his wedding, and you can’t help but remember holding him in your arms and swinging him to your own lullaby.
    Yes, I will pray for you. God has seen you through so much He is faithful to hold you in this too.
    He is the one who put that momma heart in you, after all.










Friday, April 3, 2015

The Unanswered Cry: Understanding Suffering

He walks like a little old man; a limp in his gait and a hitch of his pants. He smiles with no front teeth and looks through me. His eyes beautiful with pain.

He is only five.

His mother is gone. Words like abandoned and abused swirl around him.

He came to our school with confidence and swagger. He sat down in a group of suspicious, newly met children as if they were not there and listened to story time with curiosity and delight.

He liked us.

Unbelievably, he wanted to return to this unknown place with these unknown teachers and children. He was excited to join us. We were captivated by his precocious comments. He was to be mine for five hours a day, five days a week. Mine to watch over and instruct.
I was to be his teacher; he was to be my student.


I learned quickly that he loved the songs, stories, paints, playdo, and learning of preschool. But he did not like change. Do not move his seat. Do not switch the routine. Do not take his favorite car, dress-up uniform, book, or stuffed animal. He does not share. And he does not transition until he is good and ready.

And Oh… the meltdowns.

“This is RE-DIC-A-LIS!” He would scream.
“Miz Cath-room, You’re not the boss of me!”
“I will MAKE you let me”

Sometimes the firestorms would end in him being talked off the ledge by me, in my best calm low teacher voice saying, “Buddy… in our classroom we share with our friends…Sweetie, we must clean up the markers so we can have story time… We don’t talk to teachers like that… 
I am here to keep you safe, buddy…
You are going to be ok.”

Sometimes his screaming was too much for the other children to take and he had to leave our classroom to be comforted and confronted by another teacher. But he always came back repentant, “Miz Cathroom Im sorry I yelled at you"

"I love you Miz Cathroom”

He was always forgiven. Before he even asked.

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of that broken part he usually kept hidden behind rage and indignation.

It had been a tough day and honestly a difficult week for little man. He was angry. Angry in a deep, deep place in his heart. He clutched at control like a drowning man. He argued with me over everything and became angry with himself at each simple mistake he made.

“Oh, NO! I messed up the ‘S’ again!” he yelled as he struggled to write his name.
“Well, Buddy we can start over…”
“NO, We CAN’T! It’s RUINED!” and sobs of frustration ensued.

After a devastating meltdown as we were leaving the gym, (he was admonished for pushing a friend out of line in anger) we came back to class to eat lunch.

Lunch always took him longer because of his lack of teeth. As he finished up, a child brought out a ball and he was drawn to it like a magnet.

He loves balls and sports with a passion. It almost hurts me to help him put his custom made braces on each ankle. I think it’s the footballs and baseballs and basketballs that decorate the braces that tug at my heart strings most. Almost mocking his love of sports as they try to wrench his twisted legs straight.

So he got up from the table to chase after that ball. Another child jockeyed for a chance to grab it and as they collided, he fell.

He falls often, what with the braces and all, but this time it really hurt.

I went to him quickly. I tried to assess his hurts.
“What happened, buddy? Where does it hurt? Can you show me?”

I looked into his face, wretched with pain. No answer, only screams.

I knew he needed to be held. Just held. As I wrapped him in my arms and drew his head to my shoulder his crying cranked up, louder and louder. I began to simply stroke his head and croon, “It’s going to be ok, buddy. It’s going to be alright.”

That’s when it happened.

His crying turned from temper and tempest. He began to cry from a new place; a place buried way down deep. It changed from a cry caused by a bump on the head into a wail that called forth the pain that had laid itself down within his soul.

 Everything in me stopped as I knew this wasn’t tantrum, this was suffering.

 I heard the whisper of the sweet Spirit of God in my ear,
This is the cry of the infant. This is the cry that always went unanswered”

Tears clouded my sight as I pulled him closer and rocked my body with the ancient mother’s rock. I wanted with my whole everything to heal his wounds with that embrace. I felt so much frustration at the injustice that puts that kind of pain and misery inside such a tiny heart. In the presence of such grief I could only respond with a hug?...A caress?...A kiss on the head? I felt so impotent in the face of such unveiled emotion.

 I said with doubt and conviction,
“It’s going to be alright.”

Slowly his body relaxed and his head fell, heavy on my heart. His sobs slowed and his breathing began to smooth out.

I pulled him from my arms to look into his eyes. Tear soaked, he nodded his head with strength that I could not understand, and stood up and said,

“Im ok now.”

Oh, sweet brave boy I want that for you with all my heart. Be ok.


If I did not understand the grace that grows from suffering; if I did not know in my inmost heart that God’s redemption lives and flourishes within pain, I don’t think I could bear seeing this child’s struggle.

Pain can be redeemed. 
Even pain inflicted on the most undeserving innocent soul.

There is a mystery that Christians don’t talk about. We know we can’t understand everything God knows and gives us. We do know we have unmerited grace that forgives everything. We do know we have joy that supersedes our circumstances. We do know we have wisdom that could never be contained in a classroom or a book. But the mystery that haunts us is the mystery of suffering. 
Why in God’s name do the innocent suffer? Why does injustice seem to prevail?

Paul tries to unravel this idea when he wrote to the Philippians. He saw the way the power of resurrection was inextricably wound around suffering. He saw that resurrection is not only for the end of life but also the beginning and middle.

He writes,  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” Philippians 3:10

I want.
I strive and long for power, he writes.
Don’t we all?

Especially this power he refers to: the power of resurrection. The power to rise up, to rise up from death and to live eternally with the Lord. Paul implies even more meaning than we can understand in English to the word resurrection. He doesn't simply write resurrection with this meaning: Anastasis from ana = up, again + histemi = to cause to stand. Instead he writes  ξανάστασις  ex-anastasis  or “out-rising- up”. And that little bit changes everything.
The way I see it Paul is reaching for more than the assurance that his body will someday rise up to meet God but that he will know now the rising up… the coming out… of resurrection. The moving out of sin life and the agony it is to continue to live in it. It is a chance to live out for Christ in wholeness and peace from today until I am in a resident of Heaven.

But how can one attain that power?

Through suffering.

I know no one likes to think like that but I didn’t write it first.

Paul did. Jesus did. God did.

The mystery that is suffering can release such power in a life for good or devastation. It can wrench the joy and compassion completely away from a life bowed down by pain or it can hold that drowning soul aloft like a life boat. A life yielded to God’s will, and obedient to suffering will attain resurrection, escape from death into life.

I am not glorifying suffering or saying you should, like The Scarlet Letter’s  Rev.Dimmesdale, create or sustain suffering in order to be closer to God. I am only trying to crack open God’s Word and gain some understanding into that cry of desolation and loss I heard from that sweet child’s mouth.

What I glean from this passage is that Paul himself struggled with this. His vulnerable “somehow” leaves the door open for us to see his very human like desire to be free of pain and his very sacred cry to be more like Christ.

 It is a fathomable and intangible mystery.

It is like this: it's through refining that rough materials are brought to their purest state. It is through desolate wild fires that new life is brought to the wilderness.  The problem is that we run from pain and we rebuke disease and distress and discontent. We aren't willing to lay ourselves down in suffering as Christ did. We distance ourselves from pain and grief. It is uncomfortable to think about babies being abandoned, abused, and calculatingly debased over and over. We like to throw money at words like orphans, genocide, sex slave trade, foster children, and addicts.

Suffering won’t be your sacrament unless it is lived and touched and felt.

But we cant live it. It isn’t Christian to suffer.

We have this unspoken code as Christians: we won’t say that we are judging you if your life is suddenly in chaos… but we wonder if somehow… maybe… you deserve it. We view suffering as ungodly and just. We have compassion on your pain but we tremble a little as we wonder if our sins will find us out too.

I have come to the conclusion that I welcome whatever God may bring to me. After some very great pain in my own life I have come to call for that Out- Resurrection with all my heart. I long for not only His unspeakable joy but also His sufferings. I want to not only see the pain of a street kid but touch her hand and walk beside her as she finds God’s grace. I want to lean in and smell the decay of cancer and hold that soul through the valley of the shadow. 

I want to daily reassure a five year old boy that he is loved and wanted and heard, no matter how much he screams.

Why?
Because I want to suffer?  Because I want pain?

No, I cower away from it just like you do. But I do want know Him and the power of His resurrection. To be more like Him. And I know I can trust Him with my everything.

I long for more Jesus every day.

Really, what more is there?