Just What We Needed

I know I’ve not shared much here over the last several months. But I’m pretty sure you’ll forgive me for that, right?

Writing is an emotional thing for me I’m learning. And I think I’ve been slightly emotionally depleted these past several months. Writing asked more of me than I could give, so that’s why I’ve been quiet. I’m trying to work through it. I’m pushing through. I’m not giving up on this thing I love.

Every now and then I guess we just need a breather.

A rest. A break. An opportunity to renew and refocus. A sweet breath of fresh air.

Like that salty breeze that hits you hard and only comes from the place where your toes sink into the edge of the ocean. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, hair whipping wildly, and you standing there welcoming in that long awaited relief.

Ahhh… It’s great living by the ocean.

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These last days of December 2013, that’s just what I’ve needed.

The last few years have come to a close, ending with such a heaviness. I’m starting to think that this just might be the new norm. Life is hard. But is it always SO hard?

I have watched dear friends lose dearly loved ones. Three friends lost their sweet baby girls. Another lost her husband. Another her brother. And just a few short weeks ago another friend said goodbye to her 19 month old baby boy. He was Judah’s friend and it is just so close.  There have been so many other heart wrenching stories I have heard of as well. From friends of friends and members of our church. There has been so much loss. Just so much.

We know that heaven is sweet and there is absolutely no other place we wish for those we love the most to be. But this earthly grief and separation stabs deep. And it leaves us without breath as we watch from the outside completely helpless.

Nothing else has ever taken me to this dark place of questioning. I have never been afraid of God, not like this. I have never spent so much time on the floor, completely powerless to stand. I have never, never felt this helpless or out of control. And I have never seen faith in God acted out like I have in these few short weeks.

I’ll never forget when I was 13, my brother was 10 and he was high in a tree, held by a rope swing and the rope snapped. The pressure was too great, the rope too thin, the tree bark too sharp and it just snapped. He fell and landed hard. I watched, helpless as his eyes bulged and he gasped for breath, but the air would not enter his lungs. There was panic in his eyes as he willed his lungs to work those long minutes that felt like hours. There was panic in my screams as I watched him suffer from the impact of the blow. The air was hit hard out of him and there was nothing. anyone. could. do.

I have been that 13 year old girl. Panicked and helpless. Screaming, willing for air to enter.

There is a story that I listen to often. A story I have referred to many times before. A story for children God has used for this weary heart. A story of A Horse and His Boy. The boy was seeing Aslan for the first time and it was all coming together for him. HE had been the lion who had pushed him through the waters to the violent man who raised him. HE had been the lion who had chased them through the desert. HE had been the lion who had slashed his friend wounding and causing her deep pain… How then could he be GOOD?

I have been Chasta, the boy. Asking God, how could you have allowed these things? This deep pain that takes away the ability to breath, which causes such heart ache you almost wish it would stop beating. The ache and the empty and the grief that crashes like waves, threatening to drown. Why, God? How, God? Why like this?

Like the lion Aslan has been described, God too, is good, but He is not safe.

I want to think that He IS safe. That nothing ever bad will happen to his children. That we can walk in ignorant bliss through this life and never be touched by grief. This is what I want.

But like we can ask of most things we want, is it really what we need?

What we need is Jesus. And only Jesus.

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Through this deep grief and loss I have been deeply convicted of where I place my hope and trust. While processing through this I have shared with several friends, that I have not wanted to place all my eggs in one basket so to speak. So I have placed hope-eggs everywhere. In my husband, children, relationships, finances, my house, my church, things… oh yeah, and Jesus too.

Jesus is important, but He has not been my first and only hope. Other things have taken his place, or rather, I have given His place to other things.

This was the prayer of an 8 year old boy about to say goodbye to his baby brother, “Jesus, you are our only hope… please help us to trust your will.”  When I heard this, I was brought hard to my knees. Jesus told us to look to the faith of little children. To follow their example and lead of a blind and simple faith. They accept it. They believe it. They embrace it.

As we grow up, we lose that kind of faith and trust. We push ourselves through this weary life relying on our own strength and trick ourselves into believing we have control. And then get angry with God when he tries to bring us back to a simpler, child-like acceptance of His sovereign hand over our lives. It is not safe, but it is always for our ultimate good.

I have asked over and over, “What is the good?”

I’m beginning to think that our ultimate good is to always see a clearer view of Jesus. It is not through the easy times that our view becomes less foggy. No, it is often through
times of pain, of loss. Of grief so sharp it leaves a heart-wound and that is what sharpens our view of Christ.  We are forced to stop. Forced to question. Forced to decide and take hold of what we believe about God. Only then does our verbal faith become an action faith. When everything seems to be falling apart. When reality turns into our worst nightmare. When nothing makes any sense and half your world is gone. And you still choose to believe that God only gives us good gifts. That He is never changing. That His love endures forever. That He still sees. That He still hears. That He will carry you through.

That is when He becomes your only Hope.

I am thinking of the story of Hagar. Her troubles had forced her to run into the desert. She was afraid for her life and she had come to her end. But God. But God met her there… at her end. When nothing or no one else could rescue. God could. And God did. That is where she saw Him; stripped, completely helpless, at the very end of herself. He is the God who hears. He is the Living God who Sees. (Gen. 16) And He wants us to see Him, clearly, and only Him.

I have been deeply shaken. But I know that I am settling. Settling in after much wrestling, many tears, and loud screams. My eyes burn and my throat aches, my heart throbs and my head hurts. But I feel certain my vision of Jesus is slightly clearer.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1Cor. 13:12

For my friends, there will be many, many days of grief ahead. I ache for them. I want to take away their suffering, but I know that I can’t. I would be robbing them of the great work of God in their lives. And as painful as that work can be, I know that not even our tears are wasted.

Even in the midst of such grief, I know that God is here among us. There is still much hope.

I wasn’t sure how to do Christmas this year. It felt almost wrong to celebrate. But singing the Christmas hymns, I realized that Christmas is the perfect time to see anew the true hope we have been given.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

As I sang quietly, the tears fell. My hands raised slightly opening in surrender. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

Our world is so weary. Yet He gives us sweet hope in the midst.

I felt this in a tangible way Christmas night. The best surprises are those you never see coming.

Sitting in the midst of the Christmas chaos, a combined 6 children squirming and squealing, opening presents from aunts and uncles, Baba’s and Dadada’s, I felt a slight shift in the atmosphere. It wasn’t loud or obvious, but I turned my head just the same.

I looked over at my mom who was holding a partially unwrapped package, her eyes staring. The contents were still concealed but I could tell they held great meaning. I looked from her to the gift bearer and back again, desperately trying to discern what it meant.

Their eyes were wet and Mom whispered, “Really? You are?”

I jumped from my seat. I’m not really sure why, I just reacted to the surge of hope within me, and I jumped.

“Really. I am.”

It was quiet, but it resounded loud within me. A baby. A life. Hope born.

The tears were immediate as I yelled, “YOUR PREGANT!?!?!?!”

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My logic couldn’t believe it, but my heart screamed that it be true. When I saw her nod, my arms flew open, engulfing my brother and his wife. Hunter, a dad. Amy, a mother. A moment I really thought I would never see. I was completely overcome by shock and joy and laughter and tears. I rode the wave of emotion, letting it wash over me. Everyone joined in at this point, each family member coming into realization. A baby. Sweet hope of life reborn.

Looking around at each person there, I knew this was what we needed. I’m not the only who has screamed for answers this year or begged God for mercy or felt the burden of grief weigh heavy. None of us are alone in the weariness of life.

It was then I felt the cool breeze of relief rush into my soul. A lightness entered that had been absent for a long time. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…  I looked around and marveled as each one took turns congratulating, wiping tears, and embracing one another.

It was a moment in time that will be forever frozen in my memory. A testimony to the Living God who Sees. Who is forever faithful. Whose love endures to the very end. He, who is our Only Hope.

With that, I will take courage and welcome a New Year.

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raised the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…” 2 Cor. 1:9-10

2 thoughts on “Just What We Needed

  1. A beautiful testament to the value of this life, in all of its fulness, which sometimes is hard and can seem harder when we lose perspective and forget that this life is really quite short and that most of eternity takes place before and after this life. But that may be tough to say to someone going through the hard times. Then, there is some comfort in knowing that Christ knows what we are going through, because He went through and endured so much more. There is nothing that we can teach Him about tragedy and loss. But we can know that He knows and understands and can turn it all to meaningful value.

    • Thank you for your insightful and encouraging words, Mr. Abernathy. I am very thankful our God is not an abstract being, distant from our suffering. He is intimate with our every experience and emotion, interceding on our behalf. I truly look forward to the moment when we see Him in full and all things are made right. When our earthly suffering will be no more and dims in the light of eternity with him.

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