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I hate short pithy Christian sayings! Tragedy seems to attract these likesugar attracts ants or meat attracts flies. "This to shall pass..." "Theremust me a silver lining in there somewhere..."
I picked up friends today at the Memphis airport. They had a couple of hoursbefore their flight back to Colorado. After loading into the car, we metRachel for lunch. Neither Rachel nor I had time, but having lost so much, wefound ourselves clinging to the safe haven of old trusted, tried and truefriends. We have been through much together, know everything there is toknow about each other and still love.
As we were driving I found myself desperately wanting them to speak into mylife. One way to steer a rudderless ship is to come along side and nudge inthe right direction. I desperately felt my need to be nudged in a truedirection. They did not fail me. They listened as I spoke of the emotionaltoll of the past couple of weeks. They then began to speak of heaven and howphysical loss is true loss precisely because we were made for permanence.There is a sense in which heaven is heaven, not only because it is good, butbecause it is eternal good. Good without the possibility of, say, the goodburning up and away.
After my brother's death I would find myself getting anxious, having troublebreathing, panicking when I was alone. I thought I was loosing my marbles.My friend and counselor explained to me that I was experiencing posttraumatic stress syndrome. After receiving a call that my brother had takenhis own life, my body was anticipating another like call. My body wasresponding as if I would hear something equally painful.
Have you ever seen people hold newspaper over their heads in a rain storm?The paper doesn't survive it very well, nor does the hairdo! Paper wasn'tdesigned to withstand rain. We weren't made to withstand loss. Studies showthat stress, which is always related to loss or the fear of, ages us. Ithink I turned 80 this week. In one year, I have experienced the loss of achurch family I deeply love, the loss of a place that I'm certain is morethan a taste of heaven, much of my strength due to disk injury and surgery,my house, belongings, dog, etc., etc.
What my friends were nudging me toward is good. They were saying, "In lightof all that has happened, you should be hurting and undone." Christians thathave experienced loss need to hear that. Jesus wept because of the loss ofsomething good, a friend. He was affirming the legitimacy of our hurt andpain and I am so grateful for His tears! They justify mine! There really isa time to cry, but only this side of heaven.
My friends also, and ultimately reminded me of heaven. There is a home thatwill not be taken away. There is a community that I will not have to leave.There is a body that will not be injured, age and grow weak. There is aneconomy and a market that is stable and certain. And there is a brother whois the essence of life. And for this I was made! For this I was redeemed!
I picked up a copy of Newsweek in the hotel lobby yesterday. The leadarticle is entitled, "The End of Christian America." I used to fearstatistics like this article cited. "...the percentage of self-identifiedChristians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76percent...people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith hasdoubled in recent years, to 16 percent."
"Oh no," I used to think, "Christianity is failing!" I now know that it isnot Christianity that is failing, but a religion whose deepest insights havebeen short, pithy and anything but Christian. I certainly need more, andJesus gives me so much more. Maybe as I begin to need and believe in theface of my need, others may as well. Maybe as I hold onto a real hope, ahope that holds much more onto me, the hopeless will hope.
That was neither short, nor pithy, but it was utterly Christian. Thank youfriends for the nudge!
~ It is death to have to think constantly about your own needs, to ask forhelp, to receive help... But we are moving into an empty house on Saturdayand must have stuff. Rachel and I set out to buy two mattresses today.Mattresses cost more than my 97 Ford Explorer! Thus, we concluded thedecision was too important to be rushed. We remembered that a family hadoffered a king size mattress and another family a full size mattress. Aphone call later, s friend volunteered to pick them up and bring them to ourrental.
~ The house we are moving into was inhabited by a family whose 4 or 5 yearold son, Shawn, has a brain tumor and has been receiving treatment at St.Jude. This family has five children! I met the family and they offered someof their furniture. They will probably be back in August for another roundof chemo. If our home is finished they will move back in taking the last fewmonths of our 6 month lease. God has put this family in our lives at thevery least to spread the word to pray for Shawn. Please do so!
~ Pray for patience, joy, and love as we progress forward. We need theseand more!
Thank you for praying and for all your encouragement. It encourages me toknow that my ramblings have meant so much to so many. It is therapeutic forme to get the thoughts in my head and heart out!
Much love and grace,