I missed the last two Wednesdays of the community Lenten services. I did not miss God who reveals Himself the most clearly during suffering.
The blood was dripping down from the open wounds in His hands. My name was scribbled clearly across the palms. An image from God to remind me that His blood was shed for me – that his suffering was my suffering. It brought such a joyful reminder at that time, about two months ago, when I was thanking Him for loving me. Last week after walking through a fire destroyed home – an event that never should have happened, I asked him to show me how much He loves them. I saw the palms of his hands with the names of my daughter and grandsons. Each name was painstakingly written across His palms, reminding me again of how He brings resurrection out of the ashes of Lent – the ashes of suffering.
David’s name was written too – I can see them all written clearly. The names of the people I love most in the world who have been called to this dark place of humanity to wander the desert of grief. C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Why didn’t I understand before how much fear also feels like grief?
The desert is full of mirages; places where you think you see a glimmer of hope; but it just dissipates as you move towards the wavering vision in a twisting, tormenting, torturing play. Yet, it is a glimmer of hope none-the-less, so you move slowly forward, always believing that the cool refreshing waters may lie just beyond the horizon.
Lots of tears.
The overwhelming emotions of love – in pain. The Gethsemane moments when a loved one cries out, “Why have you forsake me?” And I cry out, “why have you forsake them?”
This was the best Lent of my adult life. The first Lent I have celebrated in thirty-five years, and full of the richness I have missed. It’s been a year and a half of resting in God’s love and finding Him in the places I never really dared to look- inside myself. In finding the inner peace of the living Spirit, the outer Presence became my living, breathing reality.
Hidden places. Quiet places.
I have realized in the last two weeks that the only thing I value in this life anymore is God, and people – mostly the people I love.
The past is a distant memory – the Christ is my present reality.
Some of the scars still remain, some wounds remain partially opened. Healing is a process. The process takes longer when you don’t have a reprieve – a time to catch your breath before the next stretch of sand looms before you. David hasn’t even stopped to look at the sand marked “death of sister” for dealing with “love of family.”
He hasn’t had time to stop and see Jesus is writing in the sand, “I love you. I am here.”
The human side of me – the flesh, still wills for things of this world, comforts, vacations (Oh how Dave and I long for a real vacation), a more stress free life, that Dave didn’t have to work so hard, ministry finances to do His work …but it is the people who matter. It is for love of people we strive.
It is also the people – the relationships that cause the most pain. Things can be replaced, things don’t reject or get rejected, things are without depth, love, or interest. Selfless loves takes the nails in the place of someone else. It is not a thing, but a Person.
This Lent will be remembered for losses, but it will mostly be remembered for the people – the ones who Jesus would call “friend,” who stepped forward to help, email, call, text, or donate.
Not the friends, acquaintances, or community I expected, or that I was even hoping for (in my own hope of relationships I deemed should matter), but in the ones who were moved with compassion despite my church affiliation, friendship status, or the reason for this trial. Some of the people who expressed love know us by reputation, by ministry, by how we have helped others, or simply because they know one of our “great” kids.
I am thankful for the ones who prayed.
Churches who don’t even know us, but took time in their service or small groups to petition God on the behalf of our family. I am indebted to the body of Christ who rose up to be the hands and feet of God. Individuals who gave of their precious time to lift us before the Father in worship and petition.
There is always a lifting up. There is always a resurrection.
Death must always come first. Some individuals run from death, avoid it, are deceived by it, or fail to recognize it. They stay busy talking and doing. They want to pray it away, confess it away, scorn it, or fear it.
There are always hidden treasures buried in the dark places of death, but they have to be embraced to be realized.
This I have learned.
This I trust.
“I’ll lead you to buried treasures,
secret caches of valuables—
Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name…
I am God, the only God there is.
Besides me there are no real gods…
I’m the one who armed you for this work,
though you don’t even know me,
So that everyone, from east to west, will know
that I have no god-rivals.
I am God, the only God there is.”
Isaiah 45:2-6 The Message.
I can only hope that God will use my life and experiences, and the lives of my children for His glory and for His purposes. It’s what the scriptures teach us – it’s what we believe. I will choose to trust that He is continuing to arm me for His work – the work of shedding light into the darkness of suffering. I will trust He is changing me by His work and will.
I have handed the lives of my children to Him, and though He may slay me, I will also trust in His wisdom and His ways for them.
I will trust He is forming light in my own heart and banishing the God rivals of this world that distract me from loving Him and loving others.
(Note: On 3/7 one of our daughters who is six months pregnant lost everything in a house fire, escaping just in time with her two children. The greatest loss is her dreams – wrapped up in the painful and avoidable reason and cause of the fire. Some dreams that are lost can never be, and should never be replaced. In the midst of of that situation, my husband was notified of the death of his sister – Lenten losses.)