Reminding Myself: The Bug Brought Blessing

IMG_5383I’m reposting this today, five years later, because I still need to remember how faithful God has been to me. Every time the enemy of my soul tries to slam me, God comes through with goodness. Truly, greater is HE who is in me than he who is in the world.

Feeling my way from chair to chair in the darkness, I sat down next to someone in church on Wednesday night, perplexed by my phone’s cryptic voice message from the bargain travel site: “Go online immediately to view your reservation.” I was set to fly to Thailand the next Tuesday with a suitcase stuffed with donated card-making supplies to take to a missionary conference. I’d done the same thing two years earlier, intending to give a “girls’ night out” to women from all over the globe, but the response from men, women and children who flooded the dining room and cut, glued, and stamped with delight had absolutely stunned me.
Set and eager to reprise the blessing, I suddenly sensed my body’s churning “voice message” alerting me that lunch wasn’t the only thing in my stomach; an unwelcome “bug” was growing. Oh, no! Not the flu a week before my flight! Nausea growing, I left the service and called my boss on my way home, “Dean, I won’t be in first thing in the morning. I’ve come down with a bug and may need to come in late.”
Once home, I quickly brought up the email and, to my confusion, read two conflicting flight times into Seoul: one arriving 45 minutes before my connecting flight, but another arriving just 15 minutes before the flight to Bangkok.“Maybe,” I thought, “my head and intestines will be calmer by morning,” so I curled up with a hot water bottle and prayed for healing.Morning was worse, but I called the site. What I heard filled me with panic.
“The airline changed flight times, so we’ve cancelled your itinerary.”
“No!” I blurted over waves of nausea. “I made the reservation months ago, and I have to be in Bangkok for a conference.”Oblivious to my alarm, the agent said I could rebook my flight for only $3000 more. “That won’t work,” I replied in calm I didn’t feel. “Can you call the airline?” That began a four-hour fencing match, the agent thrusting they were only a broker, me parrying with, ”Please call the airline,” and I prayed ferociously between holds and offers, declaring every scripture I knew about God being my shield and sword of victory. Could I leave next month? Could I leave in two weeks? Could I go to another destination? No, no, no!
During the hold times I lay on the floor and prayed, decreed, over myself:
It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” 2 Samuel 16:12 NIV
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV
Her insensitivity churned frustration in my stomach on top of the bilious “bug,” and her tide of consternation rose higher with my relentless requests to try again. Desperate, I finally pleaded, “Let me call the airline then; just don’t cancel my reservation!”
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 NKJV
The agent, glad to get rid of me, gave me a phone number, which turned out to be the airline’s air cargo line. They transferred me to an agent, and twenty minutes later God air-dropped a miracle into my lap: the airline took responsibility for the schedule change and offered that, if I could leave on Monday night and stay one extra day, they’d put me up for the day in a hotel in Seoul so I could make my connecting flight to Bangkok!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
Hooray for God and an upset stomach! I needed those four morning hours to battle bureaucracy and for God to bless me via the most unusual means He’s ever used in my life. The “mess” made a miracle that blessed me with time in Seoul to walk, shower, eat lunch, and nap before my flight, a day to get over jet lag, and a day on the end of the conference to stay with friends I hadn’t seen in over ten years!
In one more miracle, the “body” I sat beside in church when the battle began was my friend Judy, who asked if the missionary ladies would like bracelets. “I couldn’t help you the last time you went, so I’d like to help you now,” she’d sweetly offered. Two days later I discovered a box at my doorstep containing 50 lovely costume jewelry bracelets for the missionary women and girls, and $500 for my trip costs.
“Oh, God,” I gratefully cried on the other side of the world as again women and girls – with beautiful bracelets adorning their arms – and men and boys stamped, glued, cut and created wonderful cards and bookmarks, “you did so much more than I could have ever dreamed, done or imagined!”Thank you, God, for the bug in my belly that brought blessing beyond belief!
A “…BUT…” to pray: Most Merciful God! How many times, I wonder, have you diverted a scheme of Satan in my life and I never even recognized your hand was in the blessing, even if it looked like a calamity? Remind me now of a time when things looked black, BUT YOU my God came through for me and made a wonderful way for me to prosper _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________. Thank you, thank you, Loving God, and help me to trust you in days ahead that you CAN cause all things to work together for my good. In Jesus’ Name, amen. Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________________________________________
Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoor

 

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“O For a Thousand Trucks to Sing …”

This is as close as I could come to the truck image with “OUR MOST  VALUABLE RESOURCE” on the side. “SITS HERE” wasn’t on the truck I saw, but instead an arrow pointing forward.  

 

Oh how I wish I’d seen those two trucks coming in time to get out my phone and photograph them, coming one after the other on the opposite side of the freeway. I might not have noticed them a second later, but as it was, I’d literally just finished a prayer as we were driving, asking for God’s  clear guidance and reminding myself, as well as the LORD, “God,  help me to put YOU first” when I opened my eyes to see the large words “U FIRST” on the back of the transport truck passing us, followed closely by a second  transport truck painted with the large words “OUR MOST VALUABLE RESOURCE” and a red arrow pointing forward.

No, I didn’t  chalk it up to “coincidence.” My words “you first” weren’t more than a second out of my mouth when I saw the trucks. The message wasn’t lost on me: GOD Himself is my/your/our most valuable “resource,” and it’s more  than right to put Him first in my/your/our life. I look back over my life and  think about kind things people have done for me, and I look back over events that”happened” which later turned out to be obviously God’s prior “set up” hand and provision for needs I’d have even as much as ten years down the road.

True confession, more often than not I look for goodness from other people, as though they directed the path of my life. When things don’t go right, though, aren’t we ALL, and I include myself, all too prone to immediately blame God, rather  than laying responsibility at the feet of those other people? How  in the world do I fall into the flawed mindset that good things come from people, and bad things come from God? I think I know the answer. In a devotional email yesterday, the  author made the point that yes, Adam sinned,and stood accused before God, but now that Jesus has paid the price for every sin you and I ever commit,  we stand before God covered in the righteous Blood of Jesus. Satan can’t stand before God and accuse us as he accused Job, because Jesus took our sins upon himself and paid the full price, so Satan speaks accusation against us  and accusations against God into our thoughts. Oh, the crafty, subtle lies of the Father of Lies!

I have to remind myself of the Truth, and God’s Word in the Bible is Truth:

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  James 1:17-18 NIV

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8: 26-32 NIV

I’ve seen hurtful evil slung at me in the past eight years, more evil than I – naive girl who I was growing up into adulthood in the midst of God-honoring, kind, honest, caring  people  – ever knew existed in the world, on either side and  right in front of me. In complete honesty, I’ve cried out to God in confusion, asking why He allowed such painful, heart-ripping, gut-wrenching things to come  into my life, as though God was the author and purposer of harm. BUT this I know for sure: we live on a battlefield of the mind, with genuine evil warring against all of  the goodness that God intended and still intends to reign in, for, and through His children on Earth. At the times  I’m  feeling lowest,  thankfully I can remind myself of Joseph, thrown into a pit,  sold as a  slave, wrongfully accused of evil, thrown into prison, seemingly forgotten by God, UNTIL a confrontation with the brothers who did him intentional harm revealed a powerful purpose for God’s saving grace and goodness both for Joseph and  through him for many others:

 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.   Genesis 50: 15-20 NIV

Personally, intimately, God has spoken  so many  affirmations to me in a variety of ways in these same eight years:  waking me up to  His  words ”You’re worth fighting for” ; bringing me  word from a  woman I didn’t even know that “You are my chosen  child. Do not fear what man tries to do to you”; a slip of paper with words from an intercessor who was praying over the people who were praying with me, “I’m trying to bless you – you have to let  me”: license plates  like  the three in a row I saw in 2014 “JUSTICE” “CHRISTZ” “CHRONOS” ; the chrome words ‘Jeremiah 11” on the back of a black car in front of me last month, powerful words God gave Jeremiah about people who knowingly break His  covenant, when the only words in chrome I’d ever seen before or since on a  car were model names;  the license plate  “PS7686” leading me to these Scriptures

It is you alone who are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land. Ps 76: 7-9 NIV

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths,
    from the realm of the dead.

14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me—
    they have no regard for you.
15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86: 2-17

 

Truth, Truth, Truth coming against all the lies, all the “but look at these nasty things  happening to you that God could have prevented” insinuating lies that I know, I know  that I know, come from the enemy of my soul, not from the Lover of my soul Jesus. The Truth is this:

A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23: 1-6
I love you, LORD, my strength. 2The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 18They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. 19He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me….To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, 26to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. 27You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. 28You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  Psalm 18: 1-3, 16-19. 25-28 NIV

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... John 10: 7-11, 14 NIV

Back to those two trucks that passed me last  week. Our most valuable resource? God Himself IS my/your/our resource and provision, God alone, God HIMSELF, God  who gave us life and who keeps us/you/me in His hands, ultimately bringing us the greatest good imaginable: eternal life with Him in Heaven where no evil,  no lying voices, no crafty insinuation  can reach us or do us harm EVER.
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33 NIV
” 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6: 31-33 NIV
Do not rejoice against me, O my enemy; for if I have fallen, I shall arise; if I sit in darkness, the LORD is my light. Micah 7: 8 NIV
So WHO is my most valuable resource? U FIRST, GOD!  I don’t know how the painful battles I’m STILL in the middle of today will conclude, BUT I do know God’s love and goodness will never, never fail me, so I pray for God’s victory and glory, His way, His will, His time, for His good purposes. Jesus  loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Thus I sing  (and look for ) “O for a thousand trucks to sing my great Redeemer’s praise!”
Keep  on truckin’,  God!
A “…BUT…” to pray: God Almighty, help me to remember that, above everything else that I see, feel, or experience, YOU are ______________________________ People may “do me dirty,” BUT God, You promise to __________________________________________________ and in faith I ask You, out of Your mercy and love,  to show me a  sign of Your goodness this week, even today, and as I sing in the song,”Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus,” so help me keep my eyes open for ANY and EVERY way You choose to use to speak to me, in Jesus’name, for God’s  Glory. Holy Spirit, speak even now ____________________________

“I Know How Much It Costs”

There I was at six in the morning, our two dogs Jenga and Katie ahead of me tugging at their leashes, eager to blaze a trail down the neighborhood sidewalks. I used the otherwise mindless time for intercessory prayer for lots of people and nations on my heart list, but I wasn’t expecting God to speak over and into ME.

Two years earlier I’d said a hug-filled, tearful goodbye to my older son, daughter-in-love, and their two-year-old son, my only grandchild, as they left to follow their calling, at the end of eleven years of higher education, literally on the other side of the world. I was proud of them both,  but that didn’t make it any easier in knowing that it would be years before I’d see them again. Would my grandson even know me?

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we were  able to video call them, but that wasn’tanywhere nearly the  same as holding my grandson in my arms or giving his mom and dad big hugs and sharing time with them in parks, at  the zoo, camping  together, or  baking  them cakes for their  birthdays. I had so many questions for God over those two years, but still  that morning I stopped in my tracks when in my spirit I heard the Holy Spirit quietly, simply say, “I know how much it costs you.”

The rush of love I felt lifted me and lifted at least a big part of the burden of loss I’d carried. After hearing those seven simple words, it was so much easier for me to live with the ongoing separation. God DID know and God DID care about how much it cost me, cost them,and cost my daughter-in-law’s family,too. Just knowing God valued our community sacrifice placed a  fresh peace in my heart.

Little did I know  that would be the easiest loss I’d have to bear in the next eleven years. Two even more painful,  permanent losses were ahead of me. NOTE:  I’m not writing today to gain anyone’s “sympathy,”  but to consider a question we don’t  generally hear God asking us: “Do you know how much it cost me to send my Son Jesus to die in your place on the cross?”

I think we skillfully skirt the question by thinking, “Well, God is God, after  all, and he doesn’t feel the  things I feel. Besides, he knew Jesus would be back in Heaven with him when it  was all over. And Jesus was God as  well as man, so it  didn’t hurt him like it  would have hurt a real human being ….”

Don’t kid yourself! Where do you think we get our capacity to love, to care, and  to feel emotional pain and loss, if not from the very core and nature and essence of God, placed  by God within us? I suspect our tendency when  life pierces us with grief, pain, disappointments and loss is to put the blame on God. Really? Does God make you choose your choices? If you freely make your  choices, then so does  every other  human being on the planet, including those people who through loss or wounding in their  own lives or, yes, through the influence of evil – which DOES  exist  and has a mindful, intentional source hell-bent on perverting God’s creation.

The two painful losses  I’ve  felt since then came through wounded people who sought some kind of balm for their pain apart from the  healing and deliverance and love God himself wanted and still wants to give them. Their projected pain  destroyed two marriages, one by divorce, and one by death. Neither loss was “easy”  to bear.so the  question to me became where I would  “lay blame” and what I would do with my grief  and pain. I’ve decided, and frankly, this has been an ongoing act of my will (okay, stubbornness, because I WILL choose love) and my hope in God’s transforming goodness, that  I WILL NOT swallow Satan’s baited hook of offense and let bitterness poison my heart toward those who made destructive  choices OR toward God.

Oh yes,  I’ve asked God WHY countless times, and he’s heard my cries of anguish. I go back again to those seven words I heard twelve years  ago, “I know how much it costs you.”I know this, too:  part of my pain from the first loss comes from my own human weakness in not being able to totally surrender the process and outcome to God much,much earlier in the journey.  And on God’s behalf, he has continually  told me what he told me on December 6, 2012,”You’re worth fighting for,” three months later”You are my chosen child,” and after that, “Do not fear what man tries to do to you,” and “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me,”  and God showed me through the many  “coincidences” I’ve written about on this blog, that he is  still with me, he still  loves me, and he has, somehow, redemptive transforming plans and redemptive purposes for goodness greater than I can see now. Satan does plan to kill,steal anddestroy, but Jesus more powerfully cameandcomes with abundant life. I remind myself that Satan has absolutely no reason to harrass and hassle people who already belong to/got hooked and deceived by him. He has plenty of reason to try to dislodge God’s  people who live out their God-given purposes  from believing that God truly  does love them and has plans to turn what Satan ploanned for evil for their good. (Romans 8:28) I personalize that – in all things God IS WORKING for my good as his child who loves him, is deeply loved by him and is  called by his purposes.

It often boils down to “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That and the knowledge that yes, it  cost God more than any of us can begin  to fathom or grasp to send Jesus  here, God in the flesh, to live out the healing, deliverance,  and life-infusing purpose and love  ABBA God wants to give to each person on Earth.

That, and the knowledge that it grieves God, wounds God, pains God when we  reject  his gift of transforming love and eternal life  and  forever  relationship with him through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice  in our place. Grace is free, but don’t ever think that it came cheap. It cost Almighty God more  than we can begin to fathom. And don’t think that you can  receive that gift  without a cost to you: recognizing, through genuine fact-facing surrender of your self-righteousness that yes, you are  sinful by nature,  then through repentance, that you could never be pure or righteous enough or do enough “good deeds” to EARN  relationship with an unimaginably holy, pure, righteous, powerful, just God,andthen receivingthe  gift of  salvation Jesus paid for FOR you. Oh,how that grates on  our American  “I can pull myself up by my bootstraps” self-sufficiency and self-determination. God is love, but/and/while he is all of that, he is likewise perfect, fiery holiness, purity, righteousness, authority, and justice as well. He satisfied all of his nature without compromise when Jesus  took the punishment andpaid the penalty  for our sins, and that means MINE as well as YOURS.

The justice I seek is against my real enemy, Satan, the abuser and wounder and liar of  all liars and  perverter of all that is  good and holy and kind and loving and true. For  that reason I have given up “seeking justice”  on my own. If you’ve seen the recent movie”The Shack,” you  heard this, and I echo the truth that I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYBODY’S JUDGE! I save that for God alone, and I pray for  the true revelation of the price of God’s love and for true repentance that will lead the people who’ve  hurt  me straight into the Cross and arms and transforming love of Jesus.

Yes, it cost me. It  costs the price of living  with injustice even as I try to live out of and live out the love that God has lavishly given me. Expanded hearts  can feel more pain, but they can also receive,contain, and pour out more love.  Jesus did it first,  for YOU and me!

I heard Jason Gray sing this song live seven years ago just two miles from my house, in, yes, FREE concert tickets God gave me. Do you think HE knew I’d need to remember and cling onto this truth? I know I need to fearlessly run into the loving arms of the ONE who knows how much it costs me, and run to him fearlessly because I know how much it costs HIM to love me.

And yeah, absolutely, if you’d like to pray for me today, go for it! I admittedly,honestly need to be able to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly and trust God more fervently than I  do, and joyfully love while I’m waiting on HIS outcomes, knowing his desire for me is  to live in joy and hope in him! He paid for this, and I want to receive it fully!

It Will Never Be “Okay”

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I sat in a room filled with deeply shattered people, and though their stories were different, their grief was the same: one loud cry of “Injustice!” Our facilitator brought up the topic of helpful and toxic people when you’re dealing with traumatic, tragic loss. Sadly, it’s the people in closest relationship  with you who can be the most toxic. They mean well, but what they have to say that sounds  encouraging and sympathetic to them rings very differently in the cavity of a needlessly emptied heart.

People look with sympathetic eyes and tell you, “It will be okay. Just move on.God has something better for you.” What those of us who’ve tragically lost someone we love  want to say – but generally are too “nice” to reply, is  the loud anguished cry I heard at the meeting last week through all the pain in the room. “NO! It  will NEVER be ‘okay’!”

Really? Have those of you offering your helpful advice ever had the dearest, most beloved,  cherished person or relationship ripped out of your life by the callous indifference, thoughtless carelessness, complete selfishness, or brutal anger or malice of another person? Would it be okay if a sniper’s bullet just took out the spouse, child, friend sitting next you in your secure home? How about your cherished dog or cat? If the blood of your child spilled across your floor, would it still be “okay” and would you simply wipe up the floor and “move on”?

No, what we  want to say in that moment –  and now I know it’s much the same whether  the loss comes from an unwanted and cruel divorce brutally ending  your marriage or through the homicide or manslaughter death of a loved one – is this: “STOP! STOP THE WORLD! Everyone,pay attention;something horrible just happened! This treasure has been taken,this life  cut short, this family shattered! Bow your head,cry out, weep with me, because this is INJUSTICE!” Frankly, the survivors feel like  the earth should stop turning, everyone in the world should drop their  “to do” lists filled with mundane, routine urgencies, and weep for at least a few minutes over the loss of somebody or someone precious and wonderful, someone whose life held potential and goodness and joy for  themselves and for others,whose absence now means  tragedy, loss, pain,and emptiness for those left behind. Stop,weep,and say, “YES,  it matters! YES, it hurts you terribly!” and allow for the very present and very real continuing sorrow. THAT is what is okay: to grieve,  to feel the hurt, to acknowledge the loss,to allow yourself to care and love  and feel the loss of love.

Trust me, survivors feel guilt and re-run  the tapes of  what could have happened to prevent the loss. Someone should have seen this coming, told me or  told someone who could intervene what he/she was saying, someone should have paid attention, stepped in,  done something, said something, intervened somehow to prevent or circumvent this tragedy.

Sadly everyone seems think it’s someone else’s job, it would be too hurtful to tell you the truth, somehow that person will turn around or get the help they need. After the fact, after it was years too late to change anything or help anything, people told me what “he” had told them or had done ten years earlier. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings  – I didn’t want to get involved – I didn’t want to upset you” was the common reasoning I heard for  the silence of my neighbors and my family and friends. Last  week we  all listened to each others’   unreported red flags  in  one horrible tragedy after another:  teachers who overlooked a student’s  sudden plummeting grades and changed behavior  but never looked into the reason, bartenders and bar patrons who watched someone drinking excessively and never asked who would be driving them home, bosses and people who looked the other  way when they should have spoken into an addicted life, no one taking seriously the mental illness or emotional dysfunction they saw in a person.

I vividly remember sitting decades ago in  a room with my elderly aunt, who had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s that her neighbors  thought was some form of mental illness. Due to “privacy”rules, she had to be the one to commit herself for observation. Really? The mental health system expects a mentally ill person to have the  sanity and presence of mind to see they need psychiatry?   Isn’t  that  like expecting a bank robber to suddenly realize,”Oops,  I shouldn’t be stealing other people’s money”? My father and I had to, gently and lovingly as we  could, tell her firmly that something was wrong with her. That confrontation was one of the most horrible experiences of my life, but after the fact, we realized she might have seriously hurt herself  or someone else if we hadn’t intervened,and more than that, she wouldn’t have received the diagnosis and care she genuinely needed. We did the right thing.

I  attempted the same intervention many years later  with another loved one, but sadly, that person needed to see the dysfunction, but because of  dysfunction, refused to see or admit it. That story had a tragic ending, a deeply hurtful injustice. God  himself spoke that to me,and though I’m glad God knows it, still that doesn’t diminish the pain. So weep with me,  hold me, rage with me at the injustice, tell me you’ll be here for me tomorrow, but be courageous enough to be here for me three months or  three years from now if that’s how long my  grief lasts.Walk with me. Take me on a picnic, BE  with me in real life if you truly want to help my healing, but  don’t ever judge me for feeling, for crying, or tell me  to cover my scars in your presence so I don’t upset  anyone. Don’t tell me I need to be the nice and thoughtful person mindful of the feelings of others  when someone has dealt me a malignantly ugly harmful, unkind blow. Rather, look into the ugliness of  genuine, tragic loss and marvel that I’m brave enough to  still be alive.

Angry? In my own  situation, when two psychologists and a  psychiatrist didn’t  see his disorder, despite me telling the truth of what  I’d live in, angry? When a pastor saw disorder in the man and simply labeled it ”demons” and gave no direction to help or counseling resources? In a lesser injustice,was I angry when teachers passed on my neighbor’s daughter, struggling pitifully in math, because they “thought” her Hispanic last name meant she had issues understanding English, yet she only spoke English and I saw in one ten-minute session with her that she had no idea of the number line in her head?  You bet I feel angry! You bet survivors  feel angry, but friends and society expect us to be the “nice”  people who “suck it up” and act like  we’re okay when we are anything BUT okay  with the injustice we’ve suffered.

WHY MUST  WE KEEP SILENT? WHY MUST WE HAVE NO VOICE? Does hurting someone else’s feelings matter more than the wrong of taking someone’s life? The wrong of destroying a family and shattering lives?

We know we  have to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift I give myself, to set my own heart and mind  free from, and see I’m not the one to bring, the justice I want and need to right the wrong, but don’t ever think  it comes cheaply or easily. Forgiveness  costs me,  big time, but it’s the price of my freedom from bitterness.  For me as a Christian, forgiveness is the example  Jesus gave, the command – not just the suggestion – to forgive seven times seven IF the one who wronged me repents and asks for my forgiveness.

“If your brother sins,  rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

And if the one who wronged me doesn’t repent? I’ve felt the sting of no remorse. The disciples replied to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” I still have to find a way to forgive, to give the anger and hurt over to Jesus, handing him the broken glass to turn into “sea glass” in the ocean of his love, for him to redeem somehow,  to bring beauty from ashes and  meaning from senseless tragedy.  I have to pay the costly price of giving up my right to true justice. For those going through an ugly, unwanted divorce, the only true justice would be true heart-felt reconciliation. For homicide survivors, the only real justice would be their loved one back alive and whole again.

“Just move on”? YOU try it after tragedy, and only then do you have the right to tell me and others  to. Till then, look me, or look your friend or family member,  square in the eye and  tell me/them you can’t imagine how much it hurts.Tell me/them  you’ll be there. Tell me/them  you won’t walk away even when I/they spurt some ugly tears.

No, I can’t “just move on.” Neither could any of the people in the room last week, and the counselors  recognized that hard truth. For us,the survivors, it would have been less painful if we had died; there would have been a welcome end to our grief and agony. No,we don’t need to be committed to an institution: we need to  be understood, heard, wept with, our feelings of loss validated by the people who care about us. We need “the system”  to work quickly  and justly. We will always carry the scars the wounds, and no, my friends, don’t tell me to put on a happy face as “makeup”to cover my scars so YOU don’t have to look at something “ugly.”  In truth, it isn’t “ugly” – it’s the beauty mark of genuine love.

When my father died after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s, we knew he was free from a terrible disease and, because he loved Jesus as Lord and Savior, Dad was with his Creator, God, King, Lord, Savior, and truest Friend. Same thing when my other passed away 14 years later. She was free from pain of arthritis and vascular dementia, home with Dad and her parents and siblings at that big reunion potluck, and enjoying the blessings and bliss of eternal life with Christ in Heaven. Closure. But truthfully there is no closure with sudden, tragic or traumatic death. There is no real closure with divorce, no “acceptance” except the hard reality that we will have to learn to live with the injustice and the pain and loss. Christians have the certain hope of God’s eventual redemptive justice, though it may well not be the kind of justice, the wrong-righting that we wanted to see. Still, we hold our hands up to receive our ongoing healing and blessings from a good, good Father. Till then, allow us to feel, walk with us, and help us  go forward into  the life we have yet to live, the purposes we can yet find, with our beautiful scars of love.

Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31: 7-8 RSV

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,  spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:10-14 NIV

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49: 15-16 NIV

I remember singing the song “Lonesome Valley” at church camp. We changed the lyrics a bit to reflect a better truth than the song originally speaks, a truth that the verses above proclaim.

“Lonesome Valley”

You gotta walk that lonesome valley
And you gotta walk, walk it by yourself
Nobody else can walk it for you
You gotta walk, walk it by yourself.

Jesus walked this lonesome valley
And he had to walk it by Himself
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk, walk it by Himself.

Oh, you gotta walk that lonesome valley
You don’t go there by yourself
For now there is One who walks beside you
You needn’t  walk it by yourself.

You must go and stand your trials
You needn’t stand it by yourself
For now there is One to stand beside you
You needn’t stand it by yourself.

 

Amen, Lord Jesus, walk beside me,  stand with me, carry me  when I can’t go another step, be my light on  the dark path  ahead of me, be  the voice of comfort in my days of pain, be redeeming love in my life, put my broken pieces back together and bring me out into a new, beautiful hope and victory that only YOU can bring.