After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.
I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.
We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.
We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.
We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.
We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)
We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)
We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.
We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.
We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.
We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.
We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.
We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”
We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.
We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.
I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.
How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?
My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.
Much love friends,
Since my last musing, I have had people reach out to me and ask some questions. The most common one was: “Ok, I get that I need to find out who I am…learn about my individual identity…but what does that actually look like practically? It’s easy to do it in theory…but how does one go about actually discovering their God-given identity?” So, I’m no expert (when has that ever stopped me from talking?) but I will happily share how this process went for me so maybe it will be easier for you.
I have been on a journey of learning who I really am for over 6 years now and I would say that the most meaningful thing I did was put aside an entire day last year for just spending time with God asking him who HE says I am instead of telling him who I say I am. No distractions. No plans. No screens. An entire day of just listening. And I’ll be honest with you…it was hard and frustrating for at least 2/3 of that day. I don’t know about you, but being completely still and quiet so that I can hear is really hard for me. I have trouble doing this for 15 minutes let alone an entire day. I had to be comfortable enough to not be distracted by my discomfort. I had to be uncomfortable enough to keep from falling asleep. There were a lot of little things I had to eliminate through the course of my day to keep distractions at bay.
I recognize myself to be both an interpersonal learner and a kinesthetic learner meaning I learn best with my hands on something or my body moving and through dialog with other people…but I was trying to have a dialog with someone who doesn’t audibly answer me back and if I’m too active, it becomes a workout as opposed to a conversation. So, what I came up with was that I would art journal with God. I didn’t know what I was creating along the way…I just knew that I would create something with him…and that my hands would be busy so that my mind could be thinking. (For those with ADD/ADHD, like myself, this is a very helpful tool that is not always true for the general population.) So, I just started gathering stuff…anything really…that I could use in the project and I started laying it out on the paper and a characteristic of mine…not necessarily my identity…but a strong characteristic none the less…began to emerge. I had managed to pull two different fabrics together that both apply to me on a daily basis: denim and lace. I love jeans! They are strong and durable and go with everything…when I want to be tough, I wear jeans. I am not a fancy gal and I don’t do formalities (it makes me feel inauthentic)…I like comfort and depth and jeans seem approachable to me. On the flip side, lace is delicate and light and gentle and beautiful…it’s not as durable as denim…it has vulnerability to it and, at times, I like that too. I loved the contrast of the two fabrics when I saw them together and it made me think of how I hate being pigeon-holed. I am a multi-faceted person and I hate being forced into a mold…and when I recognize it happening, I respond rather violently to it…I feel the need to not just break the mold but shatter it…tell me I can’t do something and I will absolutely spend every ounce of energy I have proving you wrong. (I had a male teacher tell me once that girls were not as good at math and science as boys were. When I had completed both my BS in biomedical science and MS in integrative physiology, I went back and told him how wrong he was…a full 10 years later I was still trying to ravage a mold that I didn’t want to be pressed in to!) All that to say that I had my background for my individuality…among all of my likes and dislikes, I had found a thread connecting many of them…freedom! I needed the freedom to be and do what I wanted…not what others wanted for/of me.
And that is where the progress came to a screeching halt (or so it seemed) for several hours. I slowly started arranging and attaching the fabric background to my art journal pages and talking (sometimes out loud) with God. For most of the day, I would throw out some of the characteristics that I saw in myself (fierce, independent, deep, intelligent, etc) and got angrier and angrier at him as each one would not sit quite right. “No…that isn’t your identity” I would hear in my head over and over…and it pissed me off…I even resorted to arguing with him because I was these things. “But that isn’t WHO you are” I would hear. Aaarrrgghhhh!
By early evening, I finally heard the first word: Created. “Are you serious God? Really? Everyone is created! That freaking rock on the ground is created. That is so boring! Even cockroaches are created! Ugh! This sucks!” As I wrestled with this word, an adverb was added: purposefully. Ok, so purposefully created…what do I do with that? I started thinking about how I like to create things (I was literally doing it right then!) and realized that I was purposefully created so that I could create with a purpose. Hmmm…ok, so that’s better than the cockroach thing. That is something to ponder for a while. What else have you got for me God? Loved. Ugh again! Everyone is loved by God, aren’t they? But…I have really experienced God’s love in some of my most broken places…deep inside where I have protected my damage from others and even from myself. And then I realized, maybe for the first time, that I love my people with a huge love…it’s not like other people I know…there is definitely something distinctive about it. Ok, more to ponder. Then, came the third and final word that day: Forgiven. That one immediately put me in tears as I relived how I have injured others during my life and I grieved deeply having hurt them. I started to think of some of the injuries I had received from others as well and realized that I am a forgiver. I am forgiven and it allows me to be a forgiver.
That was it that day. I spent about 15 hours and literally got 3 words from God: Created, Loved, and Forgiven. Those were not the words I had wanted…I wanted something with badass as a description…but apparently that isn’t WHO I am (It’s just what I am! Haha!!! Couldn’t resist.) I saw a pattern emerge: God gives from who he is…so who I really am will reflect him. This helped me see a couple of more words later as I reflected on my favorite name of God: El Roi (God who sees me.) I love that name because I often struggle with feeling invisible…and out of that struggle, I have come to a place where I see people…really see them where they are…and can love them and value them right there. That is where I got two more words: Known and Wanted.
Since then, I have become more comfortable with my true identity. I have been able to see how I had previously come to different conclusions about my identity…I discovered that a lot of my characteristics were really a response to situations that I have experienced as opposed to characteristics given to me by God. (For example, I was tough because I had been injured in the past and never wanted to feel like a victim again…so I became a 2nd degree black belt. I wanted intelligent as my identity because I felt dumb for most of my life because I learn differently than is valued by our educational system. I wanted to be defined as independent because I know I can count on myself…it’s others that have let me down in the past.) I may or may not be those things…but they aren’t my identity…they aren’t WHO I am…because if they were, I would actually be defined by the hurts that caused me to respond in those ways. No, I am not defined by my damage…I am defined by the meaningful ways that God has poured into me…and that is why I am able to pour out those characteristics…and I feel whole and amazing when I get to do them.
That is how I arrived in this new place of freedom…and if you have read this far, then you not only have a lot of endurance in this long musing, but you may also want to ask yourself some questions: Do you know who God says you are? Are you able to differentiate between who he says you are and who you tell yourself you are? What might you do in order to position yourself to hear from God instead of all the noise around you? What characteristics do you have that are a response to pain in your life? Are you letting those characteristics (and pain) define you? What is the thing you give to the world and despite continuing to pour out, you end up filled up?
My prayer today is that we would be able to still ourselves enough to hear from God. I’m praying that we would achieve our purpose in life by fully coming to terms with our true identity. I’m praying that we would become positioned so that we can continuously receive from God and consequently keep pouring out from him as well.
Much love friends,
We just got back from a fantastic family vacation and everything was wonderful…except that something was bothering me the whole time…this thing was niggling in my head and I just couldn’t shake it. The company that Stan works for just bought another company which sounds great…until you realize that the result is basically two of every department…no company needs that so…upcoming layoffs…loads of them…and it turns out that they are announcing them the week we are to be away without wifi or cell service or contact with the world back here in the US. Even IF we are somehow safe, it means that lots of really good people will lose their jobs…people we care about…people with families and lives and hurts and responsibilities…people who need their jobs.
Well, as it turns out…Stan was not spared. After 15 years with the company, he is being let go. And this is still really fresh, new information…so it hurts…a lot. I am not and will not be saying anything disparaging about the company…they are about business and will do what they need to do to continue on. Anyway, I am writing because I need to process. My family needs me to be able to function in whatever way necessary…whether that be as an encourager, or finding a paying job for myself (which is difficult for me…I tend to want to do things for free), or just being anchored to the Holy Spirit and providing stability in what is sure to be a tumultuous time…and to do any of that, I’ve got to do something with all of these pesky feelings! Oy! The feelings! Over the last two days, I have found that I play a different role with each one:
Tigger: encouraging Stan that this is the best thing because it is an opportunity to find out what he wants to be when he grows up (Ha! As if either of us will ever grow up!) “This is actually the best thing ever!!!! We are starting a grand new adventure!!!!”
Beast (Beauty and the Beast): hurt (with a strong tendency toward protective) on his behalf that anyone could possibly not clearly see the priceless jewel that he is. “Hurt the ones I love and I. Will. End. You!” *Followed by an impressive growl as a show of fierceness right before licking my wounds.*
The Hulk: angry that the company would make a decision that would injure so many of their really good employees. “Hulk SMASH!!!!”
Marlin (Finding Nemo): anxiety that comes from a life-long anxiety disorder but also from not knowing what the future holds (and knowing amazing friends who have been through this and have had to move away in order to gain employment.) “What is the quickest and safest solution to the impending discomfort???”
As I experience any of the “negative emotions” I find that I am chiding myself…seeing it as a lack of faith. (I grew up as a preacher’s kid. And not just any preacher…conservative southern baptist…that means that my knee-jerk response is that emotions are not trusted. Logic…good. Feelings…bad.) I mean, my head knows that God has us and cares for us and is for us…so what is there to fear? But my heart is still broken and I want to yell out that “There is a crap-ton to fear because this is effin’ scary and all the rainbows and Amy Grant songs in the world still won’t buy milk!” And then I respond to myself with “Really? Milk? You are a landlord and own (at least partially own) 4 houses! Quit your bitchin’!” (Have I mentioned that I am a lunatic that not only talks to myself but also has entire arguments with myself! I just hope I can keep it above the belt so that I none of the assorted sides of me gets fed up and goes rogue.)
And, of course, shame has to rear its ugly head: I have to confess that part of me momentarily regretted donating a large sum of money to a charity about 10 days ago. A charity that helps rescue trafficked individuals! What the hell is wrong with me that I would think for even a moment that I need that money more than they do?! *shakes head in disgust*
And then, this morning, it hit me. The feelings aren’t the problem. It is that I am trying to make them obey me that is the problem…that I am trying to suppress them…that I am trying to lie and say that the feelings don’t exist. Having feelings is actually part of what makes me an image-bearer of the almighty:
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Luke 22:41-44 NKJV
Jesus was in so much emotional agony that he was literally sweating blood! I would say that qualifies as pretty strong feelings. And then there was the righteous anger accompanying overturning tables in the temple…and the grief when he wept over Lazarus’ death (not because he would miss him…he knew he would resurrect him…it was because sin and death were not things that we, his image-bearers were meant to know and it grieved him for us to encounter it)…and anger again when he saw that the religious leaders were only concerned with catching him break their rules by healing on the Sabbath. And all of these pesky feelings that Jesus felt…were all based in, and evidence of, his deep deep love for people…his investment.
So that has me thinking…when I try to lie about my feelings, suppress them, or “fake it ’till you make it”…I’m disconnecting my feelings from my mental processes. This is ultimately untruth…lies…and that isn’t what my God is about…it’s insincere and artificial…pretending to live instead of actually living. That said, I’m going to try my hand at embracing all of the feelings…good, bad, or ugly…because if I do not, I will be less able to be a truthful reflection of God.
So, if you’ve made it this far through my rambling, I would like to ask you how you are doing with this? Are you stunting your ability to fully live your life by suppressing your emotions? Do you feel that there are timelines that must be met when you are feeling something? (Like hurrying grief, for example?) When people are feeling something powerful, does it make you uncomfortable? Do you avoid uncomfortable emotions? If you do, what do you think the repercussions are on your relationships?
My prayer today is that we would live more completely. That we would take these lives that we have been given and live so fully that we would wear them completely out…leaving nothing behind unlived or unloved! I am praying that we would be true image-bearers and not edited versions of what we think we should be. And, I am praying that we would love…love so deeply that we are willing to feel. Much love friends,
In the last week, people were killed just because they existed…their lives were such an affront to some terrorists that they felt they deserved to die. This week, I went to a religious women’s conference (that I will not name) and ended up in tears because I was so frustrated by the mis-information that I was being handed there…and I knew that people were totally buying in to it (including the speakers.) In the past week, I’ve learned of several friends having loved ones diagnosed with horrible diseases that will brutally ravage their bodies until their souls are forced to find alternative homes. For the past several weeks, I have endured horrible cluster headaches that have consumed so much of me when they are occurring, that I am unable to think or function.I am not telling you all this to bum you out…but this is the reality of the past week(s) for me and it feels heavy. I’m grieving.
I’m grieving the senseless loss of lives…those who were victims of the attacks as well as those terribly confused and lost people who perpetrated them. God wanted better for them.
I’m grieving over the lost opportunities for the women who were fed false information at that conference…and they probably don’t even know it…which makes me grieve even more. God wants better for them than this.
I’m grieving the upcoming loss of loved ones that my friends will be facing…grieving their loss of health, their fading sharpness of minds, and eventually just their ability to be physically present with loved ones. God wants better for them than this.
I’m grieving my own loss of health and energy in recent weeks…it makes me fearful that I could relapse into the poor health that I’ve endured over the last decade. God wants better for me than this.
I’m frustrated and I’m grieving because I know the character of my God…and because I know him, I also know that he wants better for us all. I know he values life because, as the Creator, he spoke it into existence. I know he values health because he is the Great Healer. I know he values truth, because he took on truth as part of WHO he is. (“I am the way, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.”) For that matter, I know he loves the lost and confused ones because he wants to be the WAY for them. (His statement would hold no value if we weren’t in need of it…we are lost, buying into lies, and dying…which is why his offer of the way, the truth, and the life is such a beautiful gift.)
But here’s the kicker: We were never designed to experience this stuff…it wasn’t part of God’s plan. He did not intend for us to ever experience death and illness. We weren’t supposed to ever feel lost or lonely. Relationships were not expected to ever be broken and humans were certainly not designed to endure suffering. So, it is no wonder that I am grieving (and I assume that you are as well…if you are allowing yourself the space to experience it.) God did not intend for us to experience this brokenness and pain and that is why we grieve…that is why we feel robbed of shalom…that is why we are offended all the way down deep in our very essence when we are confronted with the stark contrast between what we were meant to experience and what is our reality. And it is important that we do the messy work of experiencing this and feeling all of the nasty feels that go along with it…because if we don’t feel it…if it doesn’t make us grieve…then the contrast becomes a little less obvious each time these types of ruptures happen…and with less contrast, truth becomes less clear…becomes a little bit fuzzier…blurred…and then we will not only forget who our God is, we will forget who we are…because that God that we might forget…is the same one who gives us our identity.
If you are like me, you don’t like to feel the messy stuff…it doesn’t feel good to grieve…but it is necessary because if I skip this part, I will miss the opportunity to learn more about my Creator…and instead of growing from this experience, I will be forced to experience it again and again due to stuffing all the feels down deep inside. See, it is like having a glass of water: You can keep putting a bit more water in…and that water will go deep down inside…but when the glass gets full and overflows, you can’t expect it to overflow with wine because that isn’t what was put into the glass. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve and properly process things, then understanding and holiness can not flow out of you…and this broken world could really use more people with understanding and holiness couldn’t it?
So, how are you doing with this? Are you allowing yourself the space and the freedom to grieve the things that break your heart? Or are you stuffing? Are you feeling all the feels (even the uncomfortable ones?) Are you allowing those that you love to grieve when their hearts get broken or are you trying to force them out of the grieving process so that you can feel better about things? Are you attempting to make everything in life fit into a nice, neat package with bow on it or are you allowing the messy things to be messy?
My prayer today is that we will grieve the things that grieve the Lord. I’m praying that we will allow our hearts to break and be softened so that we can be strong and whole in the end. I’m praying for health, protection, understanding, and wisdom for us all as together we learn to link arms and do the messy business of living. Much love friends,
**Please excuse any errors in typing or thinking…I took two benadryl before working on this.**
Just now catching up on the news in South Carolina and am just…full of grief. I don’t have wisdom or words or encouragement and…even if I did, they would be insufficient…so…I will do what the victims were doing when they were betrayed…I will seek God. Christians, please go to your knees.
I feel so heavy learning about this senseless evil and as much as I am mourning, I know that it grieves you even more. Lord, I ask that you please comfort the families and friends of those who were killed and I ask that you continue to hold them and care for them as they attempt to make sense of the senseless violence. Holy Spirit, I ask that you please convict the hearts of those who harbor hatred for any of YOUR children and I ask that you shut the mouths of those who would stir up more anger and hatred. Jesus, please help us to learn to love better…there has to be better than this! Help us to learn to reflect you and stop marring your precious name…help us to become people who mend relationships instead of breaking them…people who build up instead of tear down…people who see commonality with others instead of differences…people who love instead of spread hate and wickedness…people who would seek wisdom and humility instead of selfish ignorance. Lord, please help us to love. Help us Lord.
Finally Jesus, I ask that you celebrate your faithful ones who, at the moment of their deaths, were seeking you:
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Ethel Lee Lance
Daniel L. Simmons
Depayne Middleton Doctor
I ask that you embrace them as you comfort their families and community and Lord, I ask that you please, please teach us how to embrace each other. I love you Lord, Jesus. Amen
It’s 1:30 am and I can’t sleep…I keep thinking about my skin color, my experiences, my faith, my family, my successes and my failures. I am heart-broken about the tension (for lack of a better word) between different races. My glass-is-half-full side wants to believe in our justice system…but I know it’s a facade from my own experience with a legal battle where anything but justice was served. I’m thinking about the frustration and fear and crime and I feel overwhelmed. My head knows that God is not overwhelmed, surprised, or un-prepared to handle the mess that we keep making of his beautiful creation. So, to settle my brain, I thought I would go back to what helped me through my spiritual crisis after the poisoning: finding truths to stand on.
1. Our God is Good. Good. Not evil. He created different races, genders, personalities, skill sets, passions, etc. not so that we would be divided…but so that we could wrap our human brains around the many different facets of our Creator. We were not created to be in competition with each other…but to complement each other and reflect a more complete picture of our Good God. It does not mean that everything we do is good…not by a long stretch…but since mankind was created in the image of God (A good God)…maybe we should not assume that anyone else is purely evil (especially if we are making the assumption based on the other person being different from ourselves.)
2. We can trust our Good God. We are only here because he saw fit to create us and breathe life into us. So, whether you are a mother who is concerned about the well-being of your babies, a man who will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life, or a young adult who still thinks that you’ve got “control” over your life, God thinks you are valuable and he takes joy in the creation that is you. He is the author of life, he is the giver of every good gift, and he loves you and your loved-ones even more than you do.
3. We live in a fallen world. I’m not saying that to be trite…but this is not the Eden we were intended for. We are going to experience hurts, grief, fear, frustration, and rejection because our world and our souls are broken. That is why our breath catches in our chests and tears spring to our eyes when we hear about tragedies: 9-11, Sandy Hook, Boston marathon, and now the death of Michael Brown and the fallout that has occurred. This is not Eden and we weren’t supposed to experience this. It is not a reflection of our life-giving God and when we learn about it, something in us ruptures…shatters…because we were not supposed to know death…and when we are confronted by it, it leaves a nasty, bitter taste in us…it changes us.
4. Because we are all broken, we are going to hurt each other. We are going to damage others and they are going to damage us. So, we have a choice to make: we can retreat into isolation and lick our wounds while they fester and turn into bone-deep sickness that robs us of life and joy…or we can offer up our hurts to our Jesus as an offering and find light and truth and peace. Make no mistake about it, whether we like it or not, we are either fully pursuing Jesus’ peace or we are pursuing hate by nursing our biases and prejudices (and if we allow that in ourselves, we are making the gospel weak and small…something not worth offering to others.)
5. People are going to respond badly. There are going to be people…”Good Christians” who will spout hatred in the name of God. There are going to be intelligent people who buy whole-heartedly into ignorant ideas. And there are going to be broken people who enjoy bringing misery to others. But none of that changes who Jesus is. His identity is not dependent on the behavior of Christians (Whew! That is good news because if I’m honest, I suck!) There is rest to be had in understanding that God is still God regardless of our circumstances.
6. When we get it right…when we are able to pour out what is being generously and lavishly poured into us…we get a glimpse of Eden…we get a glimpse of what we were designed for…and it brings glory to the one who deserves it.
**I know this one was preachy…but it wasn’t meant for you, it was meant for myself. Re-visiting truth is what brought me out of the pit that I lived in for a long time. It was a despairing, bitter, and painful place that I wouldn’t wish on anyone…so on the off-chance that this could help someone else re-direct their eyes back to Jesus, I’m sharing it with you all.**
My prayer is that we would pursue healing, rest, and peace that God can give us in any circumstances. Much love friends,
I went to sleep last night with tears drying on my face as I wrestled with God again. A beautiful and amazing woman went home to be with Jesus last night…no, we weren’t very close…I didn’t know her that well…but I know people who deeply loved her and who were “her people.” I am desperately hurting for them and have no avenue by which to help them other than pray (I know…I know…prayer is huge but it sometimes feels like it’s not enough…bordering on blasphemy again I suppose…but it’s true.) I was struggling with God over this because we’ve all heard the trite statements before of “she’s in a better place” and “she’s feeling no pain now.” While those statements are true, and while I know the speaker means for them to be encouragement…well, they sometimes fall a little flat. So, I thought that along with the wrestling I’m doing, I would try dissect this topic a little bit this morning.
Death sucks. I don’t believe that God ever intended for us to know death. We are eternal beings but we are currently saddled with breakable, fragile bodies. We were never intended to know broken-ness, pain, death, separation from God, and separation from each other…but that is our reality right now. If you are like me, you feel torn in two different directions when faced with the death of a loved-one that you know is going to spend eternity with Jesus. You are happy for them because they are going to be with Jesus. They are going to feel no more pain. They are going to cry no more tears. They are going to spend every moment from here out with their Creator and Savior. But, you don’t have a way to interact with them anymore. You can’t call them, hug them, or hear their voice again. You can’t sit down with them and have conversations. So, now, an eternal being doesn’t feel eternal anymore. There is rupture in this. There is broken-ness in this. Our souls are robbed of a piece of eternity because we don’t get to be with them anymore on this side of heaven and reconciling this is difficult.
So, here is what I’m thinking: We are eternal beings but we currently exist in temporal vessels. The only way we have to interact with each other and the world is through these breakable bodies that we are in. So, when we lose a loved-one, our sadness is not a lack of faith in their eternity…it is mourning over not being able to interact with them in the same way anymore. We are at a loss because we don’t know how to still connect with them and that is painful and confusing.
I also think that we don’t allow ourselves to mourn properly. I’m not saying that there is a right way…just the opposite, in fact. Me? Well, I have chided myself in the past for not getting on with things, for feeling sad or depressed over loss, for “wallowing” in it. But, God gave us an entire range of emotions so that we would FEEL. Not so that we would numb it and get over it. I’m not saying that we should live in the negative emotions…but…well, we shouldn’t feel guilt over feeling them. It’s ok to experience them. It’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be angry. It’s also ok to remember the good times and laugh too. God created all of these emotions for us and he can handle whatever we are throwing at him…so go ahead, take it to him…take all of it to him and know that whatever you are feeling is ok.
I usually have some sort of challenge at the end of these musings but today, I just want to say this:
1. If you have people in your life that you love, let them know in whatever way you can. Love them well…it points them to Jesus and is one of the few eternal things in this life.
2. Give your body a break. It is what you use to interact with everyone and everything around you. It is a blessing regardless of whether it hurts, looks the way you think it should, or even betrays you at times. Without it, you would have nothing that resembles your life. So, let it rest. Feed it well. Take care of it. Even pamper it. And try to remember that you’re not the only one who suffers when your body begins to fail…the people who love you are facing losing you one day as well. And they aren’t concerned with your looks or whether you have a few extra pounds…they love you…your essence.
Praying for you to all love well today and give yourselves a much-needed break. Much love friends!
Almost 7 years ago, our family entered into a time that could only be described as my personal version of hell. Without getting bogged down into all the details, I will try to give you the cliffs notes version: Basically, we were poisoned through our water supply and all got sick. Once the city and state got involved, our water issue was addressed and the family started to get better except for me…my symptoms began to change. (Stan was at work during the day, Michaela (then 2) was getting her liquids from store bought milk and juice, and Caleb (6 weeks old) was weaned the week it happened and was on pre-mixed formula that a friend had given us…I on the other hand, drank ice tea from sun up to sun down and consumed a considerable amount of the poison.)
I went through life-altering illness for the next few years and am still dealing with repercussions today. This poisoning resulted in brain-damage, liver-damage, and pancreatic-damage along with wrecking my immune system. The immune system issues resulted in becoming allergic to everything…the majority of my diet (90%) and everything around me (weeds, trees, pollens, molds, etc.)
Believe it or not, the worst part was the food allergies. Eating is such a social thing and you do it at least three times a day. So, people didn’t know what to do with me and they pulled away. I think my friends felt awkward about eating in front of me and didn’t know how to make me comfortable, so I quit being invited to things. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an EXTREME extrovert and so this resulting isolation was torture for me. On top of the isolation, I was reminded of what had been done to us at least three times a day (every time I had to figure out what I would be able to eat) and I obsessed about what I had lost.
I was grieving the life, the health, and the naivety about the world that I had before the poisoning…and I was grieving alone. (Don’t get me wrong, Stan was amazing during this time but he was busy because he had to take on the role of Mom, Dad, Bread-winner, husband, wife, care-taker, etc…it was all I could do to just get up and breathe in after out…I was completely wrecked.) With this illness, grief, and isolation, I entered into a dangerous head-space. I began to question everything I knew about God, life, friendship, justice, and family…and there was nobody to bounce my ideas around with. I had brain-damage and only my own faulty brain to work with. Needless to say, I spiraled into a period of grief and isolated bitterness that I can’t even fully explain to this day.
When I did get glimpses of truth and investment from others, I was like an insatiable drug-addict. I would devour any time spent with others greedily (which probably didn’t help my case because I am sure that I came off as extremely needy…a turn-off to most people.) What I craved was for others to just be present with me. I didn’t need anyone to fix my problem or say any magical words…I just needed people and I had none for a very long time. Slowly, over time, I started to heal and people started getting comfortable with me again…I guess, because I didn’t need them as much as I had before. Isn’t it ironic that needing people drove them away and needing them less brought them closer?
What finally got me to a good place was recognizing God’s presence throughout the experience. Oh, it didn’t seem like it at first…I remember many times of screaming out at him in frustration “Where the hell are you God???” But a few years later, when I would finally step outside of my circumstances and objectively look at things, I would see his presence and his hands. This hell lasted for several years and I can’t help but be eternally grateful for the glimpses of heaven that I got to see when someone would spend time investing in me. Time spent investing in people is NEVER, ever wasted. There is so much power in your presence