Monday, July 17, 2017

The Undoing and the Mending

"A time to tear and a time to sew..." Ecclesiastes 3:7

It had been weeks since I had sat and consumed scripture for the simple joy of consuming it, of enjoying the way it satisfies and fills me up. I had grown busy, weary, distracted. And I was still hurt.

And God was the one who had hurt me, if you asked me. He had led me to a steep cliff and asked me to jump and I had naively agreed. The fall was farther than I had expected, and He had allowed me to feel the helplessness of being out of control, and then the bone rattling thud as I hit the bottom.

Obedience that led to pain.

Speak to me, Lord. I need to hear You. I need to make sense of this.

The word "tear" stood out, begging me to play hide and seek with its meaning. I looked at the original Hebrew, followed the cross reference clues in the margin. "Rend" was the pick of King James, and that could mean to "revile, the cut out."

I flipped to Genesis 37 and was reminded of the horrific scene of Reuben racing back to the empty well where he and his brothers in their haste and hatred had left Joseph. But Joseph was not there...Reuben tore his clothes and wept.

Then Joshua and Caleb begged the Israelites to stop listening to the enemy's voice and succumbing to fear about the Promised Land. It was theirs, but they had to fight for it. Stop being so stupid! They tore their clothes and mourned the sin of their people.

David's heart raced as he listened to the filthy man confirm that Saul and Jonathan are dead, and so he tore his clothes and wept and mourned.

Job received wave after wave of horrific, unthinkable news--his world had been turned upside down and his children were all gone. He tore his clothes and wept and mourned.

I returned to the list of appointed times in Ecclesiastes and suddenly saw the phrase differently. A time to tear and a time to sew. And then the Lord's gentle whisper embraced me and He invited me to flip through the pages of my own cross references...

Remember that time you were making pants for Caleb? How you missed it, you sewed the wrong seams together?

I did. It was frustrating. I had wanted to quit, to throw the whole thing in the trash and be done.

You carefully ripped the seams, gently so you didn't ruin the material. 
Because you knew you would sew again.

I did. My heart began to race at the memory and the warmth of knowing my God was speaking to my heart, that He was sewing even me back together. I needed mending.

The seasons in Ecclesiastes--He was in them all. He made them all so. They were all under His watch, in His timing.

How would you have known how to make the pants for your little boy so well had you not done it wrong and had to retrace your steps, learn it backwards? The next pair of pants were sewn the right way the first time.

It was true. The tearing had made the stitches stronger. And nothing could make me forget how to sew them the right way after that. It was second nature, stitched in my memory forever because I had learned it the harder way.

The mourning makes the next celebration sweeter. And there will be a reason to celebrate again. Crying may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
He makes all things beautiful in their time.
And He ordains each time, each season.
Even the tearing.

The new baby after the one lost is an indescribable joy even the most skilled writer could not adequately capture with mere words.

The unbelievable reuniting of brothers, the first victorious footstep onto the Promised Land, the first seating onto the King's throne, the double blessing of children and possessions...these would have tasted less sweet without the mourning that had come before them.

And God ordained it all, though it hurt and I couldn't see the purpose. My faith will be stronger after feeling let down and betrayed by Him, I have no doubt. Because now I understand just a little more of how He works, and maybe--hopefully--next time I am torn, I will remember how He stitched my faith back together stronger than it was before it was torn. And maybe it'll hurt a little less when the next tearing comes.

Because it will. And my voice quivers slightly as I say that I welcome it so that I will be sewn back together even stronger after that--the undoing and the mending.

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, May 20, 2017

4 Years On the Other Side...It Is Well

What does it look like 4 years on the other side of your "before and after" moment in life? The moment that became the invisible line you drew to separate the time when you lived naively, blissfully--without the gut punch reality of what a seriously bad day feels like. You unknowingly and honestly unintentionally compare almost everything to that day, that whirlwind moment that changed everything you knew. And then you place it in a sort of capsule and bury it in your heart, later to unearth it and examine its contents over and over again. Sometimes you dig it up simply because it is familiar, because it is comfortable. And because it represents your innocence. The time when you didn't know just how broken the world is.

Sometimes I hear the word "tornado" escape my mouth and it sounds like an incredibly strange word that I made up, an almost fantasy word. I try not to say it too often, afraid most people are tired of hearing it. I can imagine that all of us who have endured something substantial have the same fear. I can plummet into mind-bending thinking such as: Do tornadoes really exist? What really causes them? Does God spin up the atmosphere and sit back and see what will become of it? (And of course I know He doesn't.) And then I find myself breaking down each syllable of the word and then I end up in a puddle of linguistic over-analysis. (I do like words and their origin!)

The truth is, living in the after of your life altering moment looks incredibly different for all of us, and even that reality can change on a constant basis. The memories--the indescribable smell of mixed mud, lumber, insulation, and sheetrock; the incessant beeping of machinery, the distant punctuated buzzing of chainsaws; the eerie sight of abandoned stores, missing street signs and entire strings of power lines...those things never quite leave you. But there are days where their presence is less easy to silence. The capsule demands to be unearthed and examined again, whether you wrote it into your planner or not. It simply refuses to be left in the ground.

Every May 20 is that day for me. I try not to dwell on that first May 20, but each passing one brings with it a need to remember. To remember how thankful I am for the way God rescued us, even in tiny ways that I would have never been able to recognize then as His grace and provision. To remember and grieve again with the families who have a different kind of story than we do. To remind myself that if God carried us through those dark and terrifying moments 4 years ago, He can and surely will carry us through all the dark and terrifying moments that still await us.

As for the all the days in between every May 20--those days are just like your in between days...full and busy and wonderful and terrible and delightful and sad. I open cabinet doors in the kitchen looking for a lasagna dish that I don't have anymore, even now. It sneaks up on me. I catch a faint whiff of that strange cocktail smell that invaded my senses after the storm, and it instantly knocks me backward a bit. I stumble for a moment and eventually catch myself, remembering where I am and that I don't need to spiral down into fear.

Also in all those in between days, I hear of other people's seriously bad days, and my heart aches a little more for them. I know how to pray for them, I know how to stand beside them and not say anything stupid, but just be. These are of course only afforded me because of the fire we walked through 4 years ago, where God taught us so many lessons in people.

People are fragile, but they are strong.
People are broken, but they mend well.
People are prideful, but they can be brought to their knees in a second.
People are different, but they're really all the same.

Today I will open the door and let the visuals, the sounds, the emotions flood my room for just a bit.

But I won't stay there. 

Yes, I will no doubt dig up my time capsule, open it, and examine how far I've come from that day. And then I'll carefully place it back into its keeping place, pat the dirt back over its form and bid it goodbye until another day when I will need to measure my steps of healing again. Probably next May 20.

And all those days in between, I'll live the life God spared, I'll hug the kids God rescued that day, I'll even embrace another one He has added to us, I'll walk the woods and field I never planned to own, I'll soak in moments with friends and other family...and every breath that escapes me will be a "Thank You" to the One who kept us all. And hopefully by the time I need to dig my hands into the dirt next year, I will have grown even more and become just a little more grounded in my faith, in my ability to say "It is well..." It is well, Jesus. And whatever our next before and after moment may be in the future, it will be well also.

Peace of Christ to you,