Knocked Down But Not Destroyed: Earthly Days, Eternal Impact

Eternity is impossible for the human mind to grasp.

We talk about it even though we can’t really understand what it means because it’s so far outside our experience and imagination.

But it’s a fact and it matters.

The life I live on earth, made up of days, years and decades is but a blip on the screen of God’s eternal timeline.

Yet what I do here and now will ripple throughout forever.

Taking hold of that fact, clinging tightly to that truth can help me make choices that will make a real difference.

To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

I Corinthians 9:25 TL

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 56 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.

Phillipians 3:12-16

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with this truth:

We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despairWe are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account ]f Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8 VOICE

God invites me to join Him in the work He is doing. 

Isn’t that mind-blowing? 

He could announce the Gospel from the mountaintops or have angels declare it from the heavens, but He doesn’t. 

He has ordained that these fragile bodies of ours, these fickle hearts, these often disobedient hands carry the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Image result for how beautiful the feet of those

The God of Heaven entrusts me with His love, empowers me with His strength and commissions me as an ambassador of reconciliation to reach a world longing for reconciliation-with Him and with one another. 

So when I look up and say, “I don’t have time”.  He says, “Get your priorities straight.” 

When I whine, “I don’t know what to do”.  He says, “I’ve got that covered.  Just look around and do what’s at hand.” 

When I groan, “It won’t make a difference anyway”.  He says, “Do you doubt the power of obedience to the Gospel to change the world?”

My life makes a difference.

Your life makes a difference.

Eternity is shaped, in part, by how we spend it.

Image result for matthew 28:20 image

This post is the second in a series I began writing for a presentation I gave last Saturday entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

This is post is the third in a series I wrote for a presentation entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

If you want to read the first post, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/07/today-is-a-gift/

The second is here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/11/life-has-limits-i-want-my-legacy-to-last/

November: Four Years of Sharing And Counting

This month marks the beginning of the fifth year since I committed to write every single day in this space.

No one could be as surprised as I am that I’m still here.

I honestly don’t know what response I anticipated when I showed up and started sharing. I just knew that I could not let this heartache go to waste.

Dominic’s death had to count for something.

I had five goals in mind when I started the blog:

  • To be as honest and transparent as possible;
  • To encourage others and help them hold onto hope;
  • To provide a voice for the child loss community in a format that was easy to share;
  • To acknowledge and admit that faith did not make child loss any less painful, only more bearable; and
  • To chronicle my own progress toward healing.

Of course, I am a biased source, but I feel like I have met those goals in one form or another.

As I continue to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I find there are always new things to say. I am bombarded daily with queries or comments from other bereaved parents that raise a new issue, offer a different perspective or beg for an advocate along this lonesome road.

I’ve discovered that there are many ways life breaks a heart, many ways sorrow enters a soul.

Life is hard.

Love often ends in heartache.

Sorrow can overwhelm a soul so fast there’s no time to grab hold of a lifeline.

But reaching out, reaching back, choosing to be a lighthouse and beacon for the ones so lost they’ve forgotten that light exists, is as much a balm for MY heart as it is for theirs.

Every story matters.

You don’t have to write a blog to share yours.

Speak up. Speak out. Share the hope and strength that has helped you hold on.

You may be the lifeline the next heart needs to choose endurance instead of ending it all.

I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

Your Story-Someone Else’s Survival Guide

Hey-I get it.

Who wants to air the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone else to see?

In today’s world where photo filters on our cellphone cameras can turn a pretty rotten picture into a magazine worthy masterpiece no one is anxious to be seen as less than polished and put together.

The pressure is on to pretend that all is well even when all is, well, going quite the other direction.

If you are trudging through a tough patch, let folks know.

You might be surprised by who reaches out saying, “That was me just a while ago. Would you like to know how I made it through?”

If you’ve already walked the long and lonely road of grief, loss, trauma, depression or other difficult circumstance-share your story!

Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t clean up the messy bits. Don’t gloss over the hard spots.

How can anyone learn to walk the hard roads, the rocky paths, the treacherous terrain of life unless someone else is willing to be a guide? And who can trust a guide that hasn’t also made that journey?

Tell it like it was.

Then tell it like it is.

Map the path from there to here.

Shine a light for a soul that thinks darkness is all there is.

Reach back and take a hand.

Help a heart hold on to hope.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Unshaken and Unshakeable

If there is one phrase that describes child loss it’s this: Utter destruction.

When that deputy showed up at my door and the words he spoke sank into my brain, my world imploded and exploded at the same time.

There was nothing left that made sense except the hands of the two children who happened to be home that night.

I held on for all I was worth because I was certain if I let go I’d float away into nothingness like an astronaut whose spacesuit tether is cut in two.

Living this side of 2000 plus years of Christianity, it’s easy to forget that Paul probably felt much the same way when the religion he had embraced, had vigorously defended (to the point of putting “heretics” to death) and had trusted to frame his life and understanding of the world was swept away on the Damascus road.

Not only did he endure three days of blindness, he endured three years in the desert as the Lord helped him connect the dots between what the Scriptures (remember-there was no New Testament yet) said and what He was doing in the world through Jesus, His Son.

Then as he took this Gospel-the Good News- to others, he was subjected to prison, beatings and more. Often he despaired even of life ( 2 Corinthians 1:8).

Yet Paul kept on going. He clung to the promises of God that no matter how much he suffered, the comfort of Christ was enough to help his heart hold onto hope.

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. Remember that our hope for you stands firm, unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 VOICE

Paul doesn’t simply receive the comfort God offers and hoard it. He doesn’t pile it up in a corner and keep it to himself. No! He declares that the comfort he receives is meant for sharing!

A pastor friend says, “Your misery is your ministry.”

I think he’s right.

Child loss has been my greatest challenge, my deepest pain and my most profound misery.

But is has also been the very place God has met me with the greatest comfort, the deepest compassion and the most profound revelation of Who He is.

So it is with suffering; it never leaves you the same. You run into the traps of temptation that greet every sufferer and are left with a cruel harvest in your heart and relationships, or you run toward the comforts of grace, which shine most brightly in the darkness of suffering, and reap a harvest of blessing. Yes, you may continue to suffer, or its effects may remain, but you now live with a changed heart, a sturdier faith, and a joy that suffering cannot take away.

Paul David Tripp, Suffering

The comfort I have received is now mine to give to others.

In spite of everything I’ve endured, my hope remains unshaken and unshakeable.

QUESTIONS:

  • What specific comfort have you received that you could share with others?
  • Is God placing people in your path who need that comfort?
  • How might you do that? Where can you share your story?
  • If you are already sharing, do you edit yourself so that the hard places don’t seem so hard? Why or why not?
  • Are you afraid to share the darkness you felt/feel because you think it undermines God’s reputation?

PRAYER:

Father God, open the eyes of my heart so that even in the darkest place, the most desolate path, I see Your light and feel Your Presence.

You don’t ask me to deny pain or to pretend that things are “just fine” when they aren’t. You only ask that I bring all my broken bits and heartache to You. When I choose to do that, You are faithful to minister love, grace, mercy and comfort to my spirit and renew my strength.

Help me hold onto hope. Help me to lean into love. Teach me to trust Your truth even when it’s hard.

Take my life and turn it into a testimony of Your faithfulness. Make my misery a ministry to others. Give me beauty for ashes.

Amen

I Know Why My Story Scares You

At first all I could feel was pain.

Pain of abandonment, of being misunderstood, of being pushed to the outside edges of groups that used to welcome me with open arms.

But as time passed, I began to understand.

My story scares you.  You are utterly afraid that if child loss can happen to ME, it can happen to YOU.

You’re right.

It CAN happen to you.

And no one wants to be reminded that the one thing every parent fears is not nearly as impossible nor as predictable as we would hope it is.

From the minute we take that baby home from the hospital, safely tucked in the approved and properly installed car seat, we assume we can control the future.  We think that if we eat right, get regular check ups, cover outlets and sharp corners, remove choking hazards and stuff that little mouth full of organic and healthful treats, it’s all good.

Except no one can account for random.  No one can see undetected and unsuspected genetic defects.  No one can predict or protect against every way a child might leave this life before his or her parents.

But we absolutely, positively do not want to think about that.

I don’t blame you.

I didn’t either.

So I understand why you distance yourself from me.  I get why even my presence in a room is sometimes uncomfortable.  I am not upset that you don’t add my name to the invitation list when the occasion is happy and you are afraid I might cast a shadow over the celebration.

I’m a walking advertisement for your worst nightmare.

You can afford to ignore it-and me.

I don’t have that luxury.

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

 

You Can’t Hold It In, So Let It Out

We CAN hold some of it in.

For awhile.

In certain circumstances.

And barring additional stress.

But not forever.

your-story-could-be-the-key

So let it out.

Speak your truth and tell your story.

If others don’t understand or turn away or give you the evil eye, ignore them.

This isn’t their story-to tell or to live.

It’s yours.

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process