If you’ve ever dropped a treasured china cup, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.
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.
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.
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.”
I remember as a young mother of four working hard to keep my kids safe.
Next to fed and dry (two still in diapers!) that was each day’s goal: No one got hurt.
It never occurred to me THEN to add: No one got killed.
Because the most outlandish thing I could imagine was one of them falling or touching a hot stove and us having to rush to the emergency room.
Then I became a mother of teens and one by one they acquired a driver’s license and motored away from our home.
That’s when I began to beg God to spare their lives.
One particularly frightening test was when all four went to Louisiana-my eldest driving and the rest in the van with her. I made them call me every hour and tell me they were OK. It was the first time I realized that I could lose every one of them in a single instant should they crash-all my eggs in one basket.
I was glad when that day was over. Although the irony is they were no “safer” at the end of those 24 hours than they were at the beginning.
Because what I know now, but didn’t know then is this: There is no such thing as“safe”.
Not the way we like to think of it-not the way we add labels to devices, seat belts to cars, helmets to everything from bicycles to skateboards. Of course we should absolutely take precautions!Many lives are saved by them every single day.
Life is more random than we want to admit.And there is no defense against random.
There is no way to screen for every underlying physical abnormality, no way to drive so well you can stop the drunk or inattentive driver from plowing through a stop sign, no way to anticipate every foolish choice a young person might make that ends in disaster instead of a funny story.
My first response when Dominic died driving his motorcycle was that I wanted my surviving sons to sell theirs. They did so out of respect for me. Neither of them wanted their mama to have to endure a second knock on the door and the same message delivered twice.
I receive it as a sacrifice offered in love from them.
Because it was.
Since Dominic left us almost four years ago, I have had to deal with my desperate need to keep my living children safe.
And it is a real struggle.
Each child is involved in a career that includes inherent risk. None of them are foolhardy, but they are exposed-perhaps more than many-to potential bad actors and dangerous circumstances.
How I long for those days when I could tuck everyone in, turn out the lights and sleep soundly because all my chicks were safe inside my own little coop! How I wish the only danger I thought about or knew about was a bump on the head from hitting a coffee table!
How my heart aches for one more moment of blissful ignorance!
But I can’t live in some imagined water color past. I have to live in the world as it is.
So I remind my heart that safe is an illusion-no matter where we are. Life is not living if it’s only about preserving breath and not about making a difference.
The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. They were frightened that they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death. So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. I Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG
This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one. At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.
And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.
But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”
And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”
I’ve been working on Christmas posts for weeks now and really thought I’d have something original and new for today. But life has conspired against me and I find myself worn and fragile and oh, so very tired!
Then a thread on a bereaved parents’ page reminded me of Simeon. And my heart knew that even though this post was written two years ago, it was precisely what I needed for THIS year, THIS Christmas.
I am clinging with both hands to the promises I can only see by faith: That this pain will be redeemed, that every tear is captured and treasured by God Almighty and that every single stolen thing will be restored and renewed.
I will proclaim with Simeon that God is faithful and He cannot lie.
So I open my eyes on Christmas morning to a world where joy and sorrow live together for now but look forward to the morning when only JOY will reign.
I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting, “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago. My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.