Why Do We Turn Away?

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

The long hours of nightime darkness that invite questions that demand answers.  The quiet hours of daylight that insist on playing a home movie of the years that went before. Forcing me to wrestle.  Tossing me in the ring of trying to reconcile this tragedy with my worldview.

And many people turn away from the spectacle.  

Even good, loving, Christ-following friends find it hard to stick around and watch.

Because it challenges their worldview too.  

It makes them wonder if what they have always believed about God is true.  It makes them fearful that if it could happen to my son and to me, it could happen to their child and to them.  Ir raises questions, they’d rather not answer.

And they don’t have to answer them-YET-because their lives haven’t been turned upside down and inside out.

So they run.

They stop calling, they stop coming and they keep their distance in public spaces.

It hurts.

A lot.

It’s human nature to avoid pain.  No one marches headlong into suffering. Empathy requres energy.  Compassion demands opening your heart to the hurt hiding inside someone else’s.

I understand, truly I do.  

If I could find a place where sorrow and longing couldn’t find me, I would stay there forever.  But I can’t.  I have to carry this load, I have to face the tough questions, I have to work hard to give my heart a chance.

It is so much easier when others come alongside.  I feel so much stronger when others choose to call courage to my broken heart.  I find great comfort in knowing that someone is willing to risk their own comfort to bear witness to my pain and struggle.

Please don’t lower your eyes and hide.  Raise them and help heal.

I know it’s hard and you don’t have to, but please don’t turn away.  

compassion is a choice

 

 

 

 

 

Light Years

Part of my Lenten observance includes reading the book of John.  

The words are not new to me, I’ve read them over and over-probably dozens of times in the past 30 years.  So I decided to use a different translation this time around in order to shake out some new insights and cause me to pay closer attention to what God might have for me right here, right now.

The very first reading did just that:

 Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

    The Voice was and is God.
This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
    His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
    all things that exist were birthed in Him.
His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

John 1: 1-5 VOICE

What struck me fresh was verse 5-“A light that THRIVES….BLAZES….It CANNOT and WILL NOT  be quenched.”

light shines edge of earth

So many times I think of light as barely fighting back darkness.  I carry my flashlight to check on the horses and its piercing beam burns through to give me limited visibility.  It FEELS like darkness wins and I push it back only a little.

But what this rendering of John 1:5 declares to my heart is this:  The light of Christ isn’t fighting the darkness, it thrives in the darkness.  It’s in the darkness that its power is revealed.

It’s the darkness that makes light undeniably present.

Darkness can and will be vanquished.

But the True Light will last forever.

I know very, very little about astronomy.  But I do know this:  Light generated eons ago is still traveling through space.  Light doesn’t end.  It goes on and on and on.

So even though this part of my life is dark, even though I may have trouble discerning the Light, the darkness hasn’t quenched it.

The Light is coming.

It’s no battle of equals.

The darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

sunrise brightest
Summer meadow park on sunset

Of Leaking Buckets and Grief

I first wrote about this a few months back when I was pondering the FACT that no matter how wonderful the moment, how beautiful the gift, how marvelous the fellowship of family or friends, I am simply unable to feel the same overflowing abundant joy I once experienced.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about the great heroes of Scripture and studying their stories in detail.

I may be wrong, but I haven’t found one whose life did not contain pain.

It appears that sorrow and suffering in this world is one of the chief tools God uses to help the hearts of His people long for the world for which we are made-the eternal city whose Builder is God:

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the summons to go out to a place which he would eventually possess, and he set out in complete ignorance of his destination. It was faith that kept him journeying like a foreigner through the land of promise, with no more home than the tents which he shared with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs with him of the promise. For Abraham’s eyes were looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.

Hebrews 11: 8-10 PHILLIPS

Some point to  lack of abundant joy as proof of a weak faith.

I counter that obedience, in spite of the lack of abundant joy is proof of rock-solid faith.

Walking on in spite of my empty bucket means that I am trusting God to fill it even when I can’t see how.

Here’s the original post:  There’s a Hole in My Bucket

 

Arguing with God

I don’t expect to win and I don’t think I’ll get an audible answer, but I will tell you I’ve had some rip-roaring, humdinger arguments with God.

Now the pious among us will probably be shocked. They may tell me I’m pushing the envelope of grace or even sinning by asking God what exactly He is doing in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That doesn’t deter me-there are plenty of scriptural precedents for asking God, “why” and begging Him for an answer to the pain of this broken world.

Moses wanted to know how come he got stuck leading a bunch of whiny migrants tramping through the desert.

Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his flesh.

Jesus and Job both asked the question.

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
‭‭Job‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We usually don’t quote the last half of that verse, do we?

We stop at the affirmation and leave off the doubt-Job’s desperate desire to understand just what God was doing when it seemed unfair and capricious.

Most of the book of Job is full of questions.  Job asking why he was targeted and his friends asking him what sin he was hiding.

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 NRSV

God invites us to ask.  He opens the door to questions.

He is willing to “talk”.

But He doesn’t always answer every question. 

In the end, Job’s mouth was shut not by God giving him assurance of anything except His “otherness” and the fact that He IS God.

A difficult truth to embrace.

One I ponder often.

I hurt, I sorrow, I agonize over the loss that has come into my life. A precious life has been taken away. I feel great grief and pain. It sears my every waking hour and casts a puzzling dreary shadow across my life’s journey.

At a time like this, it is imperative that I remember that God has not promised to keep my life bubbling with pleasing sensations. I must not prostitute God by giving Him the responsibility of being an indulgent Santa Claus in the heavens. God is not my servant. I am His servant.

As I come to grips with my grief, I reject the sentimentalized, sickly religion so popular today. God’s comfort is not insulation from difficulty; it is spiritual fortification sufficient to enable me to stand firm, undefeated in the fiery trials of life. God’s provision is not always green pastures and still waters. Sometimes God leads into the valley of the shadow, but I may walk there with confidence, assured of the love and presence of God.

No longer can I offer a mindless, frivolous assertion that God always measures up to my every expectation of Him and always gives His children goodies. I must declare that some things are beyond my human understanding in the ways of God. Those mysteries have destroyed my comfortable existence, but I proclaim: ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ (Job 13:15). I will hurt for years to come. A hundred times a day I feel keenly the void left by death’s cruel blow. That pain, however, must drive me to stronger trust in God whose providence is not always compatible with my desires.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

New Year, New You?

January is the month of resolutions and new beginnings!

So I boldly declare that THIS year I will (take your pick):

  • Lose weight
  • Eat only healthy food
  • Exercise more
  • Read more books
  • Declutter my house
  • Spend more time with family
  • Spend less time with electronics
  • Blah,blah,blah

Wouldn’t it be grand if all it took was the turn of a calendar page to make all things new?

How wonderful if I could wipe the slate clean and start afresh just because the earth had made another round of the sun!

But the average length of time these commitments last is just 7-10 days. (Which by now, most of us have already found out.)

Why?

Because we can rarely make sweeping changes that go against habits and character traits just because we say it aloud or write it on a special piece of paper.

new-years-resolutions-list

Life’s not like that.

Life is an amalgamation of thousands of small and a few not-so-small choices that combine to make me who I am.

Choices become habits and habits become character.

And then there are the other thingsthe things I didn’t choose-that slam into me and violently reshape who I am-ready or not.

How I respond to what I can’t control continues to remake who I am.

There is ONE resolution that can remake me from the inside out.

There is one habit that that will not only make THIS year new, but will make ME new.

There is a single choice that I can make every day that will affect me and everyone around me.

It’s not hard, but there will be resistance.  It doesn’t require special equipment, but it requires commitment.  I don’t have to be in shape-as a matter of fact, the more out-of-shape I am, the more remarkable the transformation.

If I place my heart in the hands of Jesus by sitting in silence with Him each day, reading His Word and asking Him to open my eyes to the beauty He places in my path-even this rocky road of child loss-He will renew my mind and transform my character so that I am conformed to His image.

He is the Potter.

The work is His.

I am the clay.

he who began a good work in you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: Hallelujah is an Exhale

You can’t hold your breath forever.

But when you first learn your child is dead you want to–oh, how you want to.

I don’t know if it was defiance or hope that made me certain that if I could just stop breathing, I could freeze time.

Read the rest here:  Hallelujah is an Exhale

Repost: God of the Day and God of the Night

I was afraid of the dark until I was almost forty years old.

My fear was rooted in scary childhood moments and even years of adult experience could not rip it from the soil of my psyche. I never could convince my heart what my head knew to be true: there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t also there in the light.

It was fear, not darkness, that controlled me.

There is great darkness in grief.  So many unanswerable questions, so much anquish, so much pain.

Read the rest here:  God of the Day and God of the Night