“Why Am I Robbed, And Who is Benefited?” Mark Twain on Child Loss

I only recently came across this quote by Mark Twain.   

It’s from a letter he wrote to a close friend after his favorite daughter, Susy, aged 24, died of meningitis while her parents were abroad. 

It is heartbreaking and utterly perfect.  

You have seen our whole voyage.  You have seen us go to sea, a cloud of sail-and the flag at the peak; and you see us now, chartless, adrift-derelicts; battered, water-logged, our sails a ruck of rags, our pride gone.  For it is gone.  And there is nothing in its place.

The vanity of life was all we had, and there is no more vanity left in us.  We are even ashamed of that we had; ashamed that we trusted the promises of life and builded high-to come to this!

I did know that Susy was part of us; I did not know that she could go away; I did not now that she could go away, and take our lives with her, yet leave our dull bodies behind.

And I did not know what she was.  To me she was but treasure in the bank; the amount known, the need to look at it daily, handle it, weigh it, count it, realize it, not necessary; and now that I would do it, it is to late; they tell me it is not there, has vanished away in a night, the bank is broken, my fortune is gone, I am a pauper.

How am I to comprehend this?  How am I to have it?  Why am I robbed, and who is benefited?mark

He and his wife never returned to the home where she died.

there is no at least in child loss

 

Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories” where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

It’s easy to be impatient with a heart barely holding onto hope and try to goad someone into “looking on the bright side” or hammer them with Scripture because “we know how this ends”.

But when you are walking barefoot over a path of sharp stones, you really can’t focus too much on the fact that it might not be as long as you think.

All you know is it hurts like hell right now.

When I read the Gospels it is tempting to mock those who refused to see that Jesus was bringing in a kingdom that would be so much better than the earthly one they expected from Messiah.

But they were living a day-to-day reality of hopelessness under Roman rule that made them ache for relief.

When life this side of heaven is more than you can bear, there is great tension in your soul to beg God for relief in this earthly life and to be a bit impatient with the idea of “all things working for good” in some distant future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t believe it, but it does mean that you carry a weight of sorrow.

So be patient with broken hearts and with those walking a broken path.

You might think declaring “Victory in Jesus” is helpful.

But it’s not. 

Instead, hold a hand, call courage, choose to walk alongside.  

In the end it’s endurance that’s the real victory and that is only possible when a heart can hold on.

endurance is patience concentrated

 

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

just.

don’t.

say.

it.

THINK ACRONYM

I wish grown-ups would follow the same advice. 

Especially when it comes to offering up “helpful hints” to broken hearts.

In that instance it is rarely a case of another person aiming to be ugly or to hurt someone, but words are not neutral and they do hurt when tossed out carelessly by people who really just don’t understand another person’s pain.

So, for those who are tempted to fill empty spaces with empty words, may I help you apply the T.H.I.N.K acronym to the kinds of situations more likely to face us as adults?

T-Is it true?  You may think that giving out a Bible verse would automatically mean you were safe on this count.  Yes.  God’s Word is truth.  But how we use it and whether or not we understand the context can make a particular application of God’s Word UNTRUE.  And even if we get the context right, hammering a heart with a Bible verse may not be helpful.  You are not the Holy Spirit.  Let Him breathe truth gently into a wounded heart.

H-Is it helpful? This is tricky because sometimes what is helpful for one person is unhelpful for another.  I try to use this as my litmus test:  When have I ever been distraught and helped by someone pointing out the obvious? Or laying out a plan of action (when they don’t have access to the full picture)? Or reminding me that “all things work together for good” when right now all things really stink?  If there is any doubt about whether or not what I say will be helpful, I swallow my words.

I-Is it inspirational?  The word, “inspire” has roots in the the idea of breathing into someone or something.  Will my comment put wind in a person’s sails?  Will it breathe courage into his or her heart?  Will it lift them up and help them hold onto hope?  Is it the equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or am I instead sucking what little breath they have left out of their body?

N-Is it necessary?  This single criteria helps me hold my tongue so many times.  I might think of lots of things but is is necessary for me to speak them?  Am I warning someone of impending danger or am I just trying to make myself sound wise or insisting on making a point?  To be honest, very few things I have to say are necessary. Most of the time a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a smile, a friendly nod are the only thing someone really needs.

K-Is it kind?  The word kind comes from the same root as “kin”-which means family.  Is what I’m going to say something I’d want someone to say to me or my close family?  Am I treating (with my words) this person they way I want to be treated?  The Golden Rule, rules.

I can’t claim to always follow my own good advice.

But when I do, I find that I am building people up, not tearing them down.

There’s enough tearing down in the world.

I want to speak light and life.

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

Holy Week Reflections: Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

Read the rest here:  Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

Blind and Broken

How do you know when you are blind?”…”You don’t…you only know afterward when you can see. The blindness of the disciples does not keep their Christ from coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. he comes to those who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness.

[Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine]

Oh, how I am tempted to build a wall between myself and Jesus!  

I keep thinking that I must be a certain way or do a certain thing to be worthy of His grace and mercy.

The checklists I create are really just a way to make myself feel better about my own helplessness.

And I am so very helpless.

There is no prerequisite to receiving grace.

He comes.  

He gives. 

He saves. 

I am the good shepherd. I am the one who really cares for the sheep. The good shepherd is willing to die to save his sheep.  ~Jesus

John 10:11 WE

sheperd

 

 

 

 

Where Are All the Pieces?

If you’ve ever dropped a treasured china cup, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

broken china

Finding the bigger chunks is easy.  But as you begin to put them in place thinking, “Oh, I can glue this back good as new”, you realize that tiny slivers necessary to make it whole are missing.

And you can look as hard as you want to, but you’ll never, ever find them.

Hearts are like that.

shattered_glass_heart_by_piggilovex3-d4qmv2p

When a heart breaks, the pieces are scattered everywhere.

It’s pretty simple to locate the larger bits-although putting them back in place is much harder than gluing together a fractured cup.

But those tiny bits elude me.

At almost four years I’ve had lots and lots of time to sort through what happened-at least in an intellectual way.

But what surprises me every time, no matter how often I pick through the debris like an archaeologist, is that I cannot find all the pieces.  

I have hunted hardest for the pieces to the faith I knew before my world was torn asunder.

I can’t find even a vague semblance of that old feeling that used to be my bosom buddy-that the blessing and favor of the Lord was resting on my family’s shoulders.  I can’t reclaim the confidence that I had at least a rough idea of how God works in the world.

I don’t feel as if God has abandoned me-but I do feel as if He’s pushed me in a corner.

And what I have to do now (have had to do all along) is decide: 

Do I trust even when I cannot see how it all fits together or do I abandon my faith?

I have decided to hold on. 

I have decided that it was foolish for me to think I could comprehend God in the first place.  My experience hasn’t changed HIM, it’s changed ME.

lord to whom shall we go

It revealed a flaw in my logic.  It gave me a glimpse into the vast chasm between what I thought I knew and what I actually knew.

There are so many things that cannot be known.  I have no idea why I once thought that number small.

Is this frightening?  Yes. 

But it is also helpful. 

As long as I’m looking for answers to every question, I will remain unsatisfied and unsettled until I find them. Understanding that I CANNOT “know it all” frees me to lean into my faith.

When Jesus was about to leave His disciples, He gave them this assurance: 

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

John 16:33 MSG

Unshakable and assured. 

Wounded yet walking. 

Fearful but faith-filled.  

hard pressed but not destroyed

 

 

NO Heart is as Whole as a Broken Heart

It is possible to go through life without having to question your faith.

But I’m not sure that is a good thing.

Although I would never, ever have chosen this path, child loss has forced me to entertain questions I might have ignored and to dig deeper than I might otherwise have done if life had been easier and less challenging.

My faith is not blind faith. 

My faith is not unchallenged faith. 

my-faith-is-a-wounded-faith

I am facing the fact that terrible things happen even to those who love and trust God.  I will not parrot empty phrases that promise smooth sailing to new converts if they will “only turn their lives over to Jesus”.  

I don’t even know where we get that idea.  Every single disciple was martyred except John and he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

faith-deliberate-trust

There are faithful believers starving TODAY, dying TODAY and suffering TODAY. 

Why should I be exempt?

‘No heart is as whole as a broken heart.’ And I paraphrase it differently: No faith is as pure as a wounded faith because it is faith with an open eye. I know all the elements of the situation; I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t have faith. I have better arguments against faith than for faith. Sure, it’s a choice. And I choose faith.

~Elie Wiesel