Our Suffering; His Anguish©

I watch from afar as they go through the hardest days of their lives.   In mid-December my dear friends lost their 10-year-old daughter suddenly.  She’d been sick with the flu, home with family all week while they were out-of-town having medical tests run.  When they returned home she was rushed to the ER.  Within hours she was gone.  Blood poisoning.  Another dear friend lost her 24 year old daughter before Thanksgiving, a week later another friend lost hers too.

What do you say in a time like this?  “God will work all things for good, you’ll see!” “God’s got a greater glory, a greater lesson to be found in all this.”  It’s the normal cliché that we so often hear in times where we don’t understand.  We want to make sense of it, say something that will make us feel better.  I mean after all how could a good God allow this to happen?  There’s got to be something spiritual and deep to make it have meaning.

It’s true you know.  God does have a plan in all things and He does work it all for good.  But what does He really think about what has just wrecked their world?  Did He do this?

I heard it often taught that everything that happens to us filters through the hands of God.  It can’t touch us without His permission. The reference given was when Satan asked to have his way with Job and God gave permission.

As bad things came into my life I convinced myself that I too was being tested to see what I would do.  It put a picture in my mind of a God who just waited while I suffered to prove something that needed to be proven or grow something that needed to be grown to receive some kind of glory.

How did I really believe all that I now wonder?  How can a God who inflicts pain in order that He might receive glory be a God who loves?  The two don’t mix you know.  I can’t believe it all anymore as I watch things happening around me.

It leaves me contemplating my own thoughts with my own children.

I would never put my children through difficult things to make me look good or to make them grow more as a man or woman.  The truth is I want to shelter them from hard things before it reaches their door step.

My daughter was 12 weeks pregnant when she went to see the first ultrasound of her growing child.  They went in expecting to see a tiny, squirming baby but instead found an empty sac.  My heart broke as I watched her ache in this world where things happen and babies die.  I would never have wished that on her.  I would never choose that for her.

I am a mere reflection of a God who says “my child”.  After all I was created in His image.

He aches too.  For none of this is what He wanted.  This is not the way He set life to be lived on this earth that He created for those He loves.  Sorrow and suffering were never part of the “in the beginning God created”.  When that first bite was taken, of the fruit that was forbidden, paradise became badly broken.

I consider God as I watch my friends grieve from the inside out.  What must it be like to look down on that which you created with a plan for life and watch it slowly die?  What must it be like to watch those you cherish so dear ache so bad? Surely He must weep for me, for you and for them.

There is no way I can believe what I was once taught.  For I am convinced that He anguishes as He watches His beloved live in a broken world that He never had in mind.

God came to heal the broken-hearted, to bind up their wounds.  Jesus said He would release prisoners from their captivity and turn ashes into beauty.

He never mentions lessons to be learned.

He comes with arms that hold tight and a heart that grieves, and somehow, someway weaves the threads of pain into something deeply beautiful.

Where is He in the midst of life that bears the unbearable?

He is where I am when my child suffers.   As Jesus wept for Mary and Martha overcome in their sorrow, He weeps for you, for me and for my dear friends who are so very lost in the depths of their sorrow.  He gathers up their tears and places them in a bottle beside Him.  He bears them up and holds them tight as He whispers constantly…

“Lo, I am with you always.”

©copyrighted:  2013; Julie L. Todd

The Beauty of Belonging…©

The call came through at 5:00AM.  I didn’t hesitate to answer.  “Momma, I just got sick.”  “My chest hurts, and I am having trouble breathing.”  “I think it’s something I ate.” “I’ve been really sick.”

It was my newly married son.

It had been days since I had heard from him.  It was the middle of the night when I was fast asleep..  He’s not one to call up and talk on the phone, just to chat.  He calls me when he needs me, whether to help him find an insurance policy or just to ask for my help.  He doesn’t consider whether he’s met the relationship criteria.  He calls because he knows he is mine and I am his.

I don’t keep track of how many times he’s spoken to me.  I don’t care!  I am not disappointed when days have gone by.  He’s my son.  The moment I hear his voice I am there.

When that phone rang it didn’t make one difference whatsoever that I had not heard from him for those days that had passed.  What mattered was that my son was in need.  I would have dropped everything to be with him.

He kept apologizing for bothering me.  I reassured him that he was my boy and would never bother me.  No matter what time of day he needed me I was there as I loved him in the depths of my being.  He knew it was true.  He thanked me.

I went back to sleep but each time I woke I wondered, “was my boy OK?”  By morning I got the reassurance that he was on the mend.  In those hours I waited, he never left my mind.  It had absolutely nothing to do with how much he pursued me.  It had everything to do with the very fact that he is woven into the very fiber of my being.  He has a part of me in him.

Why is it that I have had such difficulty connecting these dots with God?  Surely if this is my heart towards my son, it is the heart of the Father that beats towards me.

I try to put myself in the shoes of people who walked in times past from time to time.  It seems to help me connect more deeply with the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Were they encumbered with all the “have-to’s” I’ve been encumbered with?  Was it simpler when all they had were the eye witnesses of the death and resurrection.  The Jews had the Torah passed down from one generation to another but what about the Gentiles?  What guided them on their journey?  Did they rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal all things like I am learning to do?

The more I move away from the rules and regulations the more I realize how much they have weighed me down.  I’m tired of hearing what’s wrong with me, what I need to do better.   Who said I had to do all the things I thought I had to do anyways?  I hear the words spoken by a Bible teacher in the years of my youth, “If you want to put God first you must have a quiet time, preferably early in the morning.”  I took it hook, line and sinker.  I strived to prove that God was first.  But who said that?  Was it God?  How could it be?

As I walk in this new season of emptiness I find myself in a place where things are being seen for what they are.  I have felt naked and ashamed in my lack of “doing” all the “how-to’s”.  After all the good Christian “does”.  All the while the light is shining into the cracks of this struggle between law and grace.  Instead I find myself thinking, isn’t it enough to be His?

I consider it all as I remember the phone call in the wee hours of the morning.  I didn’t answer the phone because my son had filled the criteria to have my attention.  I answered because he is one of the great loves of my life.  He is my child, my heir.  Everything I have is his.  All of me is at his disposal regardless of what he brings to the table.

In the simplicity of life, where things are being removed and emptied from me , I am reminded once again.  I am His child, His heir.  He is there for me regardless of what I bring to the table.  For He is woven into the fiber of my being.

I am His and He is mine.  It’s all that is required.

My reality is coming to light.  It is enough to just “be”, His.

“At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”  John 14:20  (The Message)

©copyrighted: Julie L. Todd; 2012

The Cleft of the Rock©

The email came through offering an annual report of the life of this blog in 2012.  I knew there wouldn’t be much to see but what I saw revealed more than I realized.   Over 3,100 visits here and I wrote seven times in 2012….. seven times.  In years past the norm for me was writing two maybe three times a week minimum.  The thing is, this “tell all” not only reveals the summary of this blog but aptly portrays the days that have made up my year.

Silence has filled the walls of this place as it has filled the walls of my life.   It has been dark and lonely, the longest winter of my soul. Discouragement has been a frequent visitor.  God has not seemed near.  How could God be at work here?

Is this what it was like in those dark days of silence between the old and new when for 400 years God remained quiet?  What went through the minds of those who waited for Him to show up?  I look to see their story intertwined with mine.  Did they too wonder if He had dropped off the face of the earth?  Surely they wrestled through tears and gnawing of teeth to just put one foot in front of the other.  Surely they felt the disappointments of His absence.  Did they want to throw in the towel?  Were tears frequent visitors; the aches deep and profound; the unanswered questions intensely discouraging.  I want to think they did, for this has been my story on this rough terrain of my journey.

The end of the year left me contemplating the marathon runner.  It was God’s invitation to see beyond my realm of this year into His.

The testing of your faith produces endurance scripture says.  “Strong’s” translates it like this; “characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose or loyalty to faith by even the greatest trials and struggles.”  “Websters” says it’s the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially :the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

Endurance has its perfect work James tells us.   For when your endurance is tested, your faith has a chance to grow.  Is this what growing pains feel like I wonder?

It has been the darkest hour of the darkest night.  I have waited for the dawn to arrive.  The silence has been oppressive making it more difficult.  I have begged Him to let me hear Him….feel Him… and though He has not;  I could not stop believing.  I could not give up on this God I’ve given my heart to.  Did endurance have its perfect work I wondered?

Four hundred years of silence were broken with one statement.  From the depths of the earth the shout went out;”for unto you is born this day a child.”  The glory of the Lord came near as dawn arrived to the darkness of a cold, dark stable, bringing light to the earth’s longing.

Sometimes it is the way of God in our lives.  The glory of God passes in the dark silence of the cleft of the rock.

Moses begged God to allow His glory to pass before Him.  It wasn’t with fanfare and bright lights.  It was in the darkness of the fracture of the rock that God passed before Him. He was allowed only to see His back once He had passed.

Could it be that this darkness has been the hand of God covering me and protecting me with His hand as He passes by?  Could the tremors of upheaval that have swept through my world be the very place where God has shakened what must be shakened to leave only that which is lasting to remain?  After all things that once impeded me lay strewn along the path, no longer needed.

Never have I felt more abandoned.  In spite of it all, something has carried me still, something that didn’t require anything from me, for I couldn’t.  Words escaped me and disciplines could not be mustered up any longer.

As dawn breaks in this new year things are becoming more clear.  Could that be the back of God I see?  Endurance will have its perfect work as that which encumbers us falls away.

The dark clefts of the rock where all seems lost and God seems silent, is the place where glory falls.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”           The Message

©copyrighted 2013; Julie L. Todd