Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Looking back and looking across

A year ago tonight, on the third Thursday of February of 2016, my daughter told her story, a story of fear and pain, suffering and illness, to a group of new friends at a local church. She was so brave, as she always is. She told the truth. She told it plain. It was a story about the crazy love of God in a crazy time in her life eight years before. A time when she couldn't think clearly or sleep or sit still, nor could she (or any of us) understand why she couldn't think clearly or sleep or sit still.

The verse that we chose as the theme verse that night last year was this:
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. 
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

As she told her story a year ago tonight, we listened attentively.
We laughed. We groaned.
We cried - well, I sure did.

When she was done with telling her story, some of the people in the room asked questions. Some complimented her for her courage. Others just sat in quiet respect for my dearly beloved child.

Then I prayed. This is what I prayed that night -

Dear loving, cradling, singing God,

We thank you tonight that you are indeed mighty to save, that you take great delight in us, that you quiet us with your love and rejoice over us with singing. What an image that brings into our minds - a gentle, loving, patient mother/father/parent God, singing your troubled children to sleep, calming our anxious hearts, showing us that you are right here with us, at all times, even when things fall apart. 

Lord, we acknowledge now that we are all facing challenges, we are all dealing with things that are falling apart, things that have fallen apart, and every single one of us worries about things that we think will fall apart in the not-too-distant future. Please forgive our persistent fear and worry. Forgive us for thinking that we can insulate ourselves from failure, pain, illness, and loss. Forgive us for being more concerned about ourselves and our families and friends and children than we are about other people and those they love. Forgive us for not caring enough about other people - whose worlds are falling apart - enough to get involved and make a difference, even when it doesn’t affect us directly or personally. 

Thank you, Suffering Lord, Weeping Christ, for meeting us in the graveyards of our lives, for meeting us in the hospital rooms, for meeting us at the lawyers’ offices, for meeting us in our lonely, fearful, broken, sorrow-filled, most fallen apart places - and just being there with us. Thank you for the many times when you heal those broken places. Thank you, that even when you don’t fix it all, you stay with us through it all. Thank you for walking with us every step of this journey we call life. 

As we leave this place tonight and return to our worlds, patched and stitched, stapled and taped together as they are, please increase our awareness of your presence. Please open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to perceive your hand at work in us and through us. Please continue to intercede for us beside the throne of grace, and please hear us now, as together we lift up the prayer you taught your disciples to pray, saying - (and here we recited The Lord's Prayer together) Amen

The very next morning, a new chapter of her story began to be written. 
She entered into the most difficult three month period of her life.
Sorrow upon sorrow. Buckets of tears. 
Dozens of appointments with too many doctors.
Endless days and sleepless nights. Deep sadness. 

During more than one hospital visit, I spoke the words of our theme verse to her -
"The Lord your God is with you, my sweet girl.
Mighty to save. God can and will quiet you with love
and rejoice over you with singing.
I will believe this for you until you can believe it for yourself."
I don't know how much she heard or understood, 
but I kept saying it and I kept praying it.
I kept pleading and interceding on her behalf.
And so did countless others. 

During an especially meaningful conversation with one of the pastors of my church about half way through that difficult season, I showed him the prayer I had written for that fateful church gathering and he suggested that I return to it and keep praying it. Why hadn't I thought of that before? So I read and reread that prayer for weeks - tears flowing, heart breaking. 

I thanked God for giving me the prayer, but I screamed at God for giving me the prayer. I thanked God for the love and care of doctors and nurses, but I wished I had never had any reason to meet any of them. I thanked God for the hope that my family and friends kept encouraging me to hold on to, but I was extremely angry that hope was all I had to hold on to. 

Looking back, my heart still breaks with the weight of all that we carried together for those three months.
Looking across the family room where I am sitting right now, my heart breaks with the joy of seeing how well my daughter is doing now. I know I write about her a lot. I know I've written chapters of her story before. But looking across the room now, I see a cum laude college graduate with a degree in sociology. 
Looking back, I remember the fear I lived in, the fear that one of my favorite mantras - "All shall be well" - might not be true after all. 
Looking across, my hope is restored. My joy is abundant. My daughter is back and she is happy and she is stronger than ever. She has absolutely no idea just how amazing she is. Just how strong. Just how remarkable. 

Looking back and looking across, I recognize and acknowledge that there are no guarantees of ease or protection or perfection or safety or good health in her future. Or mine. Or anyone's. 
But looking back and looking across, I am reminded of God's comforting presence. I am reminded of the verse that we chose for a year ago tonight: 

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord our God is with all of us,
with each of us, mighty to save.
God takes great delight in us,
quiets us with his love,
rejoices over us with singing.

Looking back and looking across, I am grateful, so very grateful.
For life itself. Being alive is a gift.
Being alive and being loved - priceless. Truly priceless.
For joy and laughter.
For healing and wholeness.
For companionship on the journey - especially during the tough times.
For hope, hope that does not disappoint.
For hope and a future.

Looking back and looking across, I think I'm gonna get up and
go hug her and then I'm gonna go get both of us a piece of the
dark chocolate bark we made for Valentine's Day.
We have a lot of love and healing and courage and hope to celebrate.

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