I don’t have anything new to write about. No really, I don’t. I have fought and fought in my mind about this blog, about writing, about whatever happened to that women five years ago who painted furniture while two healthy little girls napped, and blogged pictures to amuse invisible friends in cyber space. I have always thought the day I got my first glimpse of my squirrel sized premature third daughter, was the day the door to my former life snapped shut and sealed itself impenetrably. There was no going back to the “shall we have taco’s for dinner or go out” life of luxury style problems. Her birth pealed a layer away to a deeper view of life that once seen, can never be unseen. As if a door to another world had opened and swallows us, we found ourselves lost in a maze of terrifying scenery. There we found the unexpected treasure of our lives, a little blue eyed boy who’s grit and determination to live challenged us, demanded of us, to see the smallness of our faith, and the greatness of our God. And then one day we went shopping for a little collared shirt, tucked his blanket around him, and buried him. The echos of that same door that I heard before slamming itself closed yet again are still ringing in my ears. I can still reach back and touch it, cold, solid, and unyielding.
Somewhere hidden back in those days, between changing ventilator tubing at home and long quiet drives to the children’s hospital, the private war that raged invisibly got hot and dark. I wrote about it later, tucked it away, and never shared it. I am sharing it now because I believe that God does what He does so that someone who needs Him can find Him. I believe in hope, I have had it dig it’s nails into the flesh of my heart and drag me out deep waters. Once it brands itself into your life, you never loose the mark. Hope changes everything…
Walk among the broken, talk to them long enough, and you will find me. I am there, and you have met me before. You sat beside me in Sunday School. You shook my hand in the morning church service. You took care of my children in the nursery. We chatted about the price of meat in the grocery store. You admired my clothes, you complimented my hair, you privately thought that I was nice but maybe a little vain, too full of myself, just a touch flighty. You made assumptions, and I let you make them. “How are the mighty fallen”, you might think to yourself when you hear where I’ve landed. How wrong you are. The fallen was right in front of you. I bled to death at your feet. I screamed for help, and it could not be heard.
I sat in church, I sat through the lessons, I grasped for the truth as fiercely as a drowning person gasps for air. I heard that I was the problem. I should be better. I was too proud. I was too busy. I should work harder. I loved my children too much. I wasn’t affectionate enough. I wasn’t good looking enough. If I just loved Jesus more. I believed it, all of it, and even more than ever was said. I knew more problems with myself than anyone else did. I knew I needed to be better. If I could just be better. But better never came close enough to grasp. I tried, and better kept moving. I got closer, worked harder, and prayed more. I was not better. Better slid just beyond my reach. What despair in the truth. I was not good enough now, I would never be good enough. I would not be better. I could not be better.
And so the enemy of my soul told me, if I could not be better, it would be better not to be. I believed him. To my shame and to my horror, I believed him. I thought very hard about this, I thought of ways that I could rid the world of this failure of a human who could never be right enough to make another human right. This was all wrong, but there was one thing that I did right, I asked the Giver of Life to take my life. And He said no. I asked again, I begged, I sobbed, and I pleaded. And He said no. He loved me too much to let the enemy of my soul ravish me in that way, He would not let me stay in that pathetic state. In the darkness that could be touched, in the isolation that squeezed, in the quiet that shrieked terribly, He came. I don’t know how or where or when it was that He came, He just did. He would not let me be in that awful place alone. I think that the first thing that He did was to make me simply understand, to feel deep within me, to know solidly that He was there. What a peace that brought to me, just to have a presence with me in that darkness. He did not shout at me, He did not fault me, He did not tell me to be better. He simply was there. In His “thereness” I began to feel again what it was to be loved.
He breathed truth back into my soul that had long since gone out. I do not know how, or when, or where, but one day I noticed a flicker of warmth in my cold scorned heart. Just a thread of smoke, then a very small fragile flicker. How it cheered me. It drew me. It spoke love to me. It seemed as if He cared for me in those days as tenderly as a mother would her sick baby. He fed truth, just drops at a time back into my system to nourish me. He never chided. He never lectured. He never told me to be better.
The fire grew, the sickness slowly left, and then He started talking. He did not talk of me, or my faults, or how I should be better. He talked of Himself. He brought me on walks through His word, He showed me the great paintings of His faithfulness, the sky speckled with His promises as far as the eye can see, the relics of battles won by the great heroes of old, the beautiful strands of rich praise from the hearts of His old friends. He taught me simply, in few words, and in a gentle voice, of Himself. In teaching me of Him, I could not help but clearly see the silly follies in myself. He did not poke at them. He did not shame me. He did not tell me, even then, that I should have been better.
He drew me to Himself, His love leaked into all the cracks and crevices of my shattered heart. The closer I got to Him, the more eager I was to let go of those lofty thoughts of being better. I found that the “truth” that pointed me down the road of being better, had pointed me away from Him. The “truth” was not truth at all, but an evil lie by my greatest enemy. The “better road” is not the Jesus road. To know Him is better. The great truth I learned is that I can no more be God for another, than another can be God for me. Both positions will lead to destruction. How the Devil slinks his way through Sunday school, the self help books, the counseling sessions, and the ten point lists. If he cannot destroy me with my badness, then he will try to destroy me with my goodness. What an evil lie, the lie of being better.
If you come to council me, if you come to teach me, if you come to instruct me, tell me of Jesus. But please, please don’t tell me to be better. The cross was all the “betterness” that mankind needed to be freed from their sin chains. Do not place the burden of the cross’s work on my frail shoulders. I can never be the God that set either mine or another’s soul or body free, to try to make me sit on that throne is to condemn me. Please have mercy, and if you must speak, speak to me of Jesus.
“Tell me the story of Jesus,Write on my heart every word; Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.”
In reviewing these words from the distance of where I stand today, I feel I have been given a unique and priceless gift in the opportunity of trouble. It is as if God has led me through a buffet line of experiences and given me a taste of this, and a taste of that, not too much, not enough to make me sick, not enough to be my undoing. It is the bitter bite of that, the sour taste of this, the salty taste of that, that has taught me how sweet grace tastes, how soothing God’s kindness is, how satisfying God’s presence, how filling God’s love. It is the other side of that awful door, suprising, shocking beauty. And once you’ve crossed that threshold there is just no going back. Because you really don’t want to. Why? Why would you want to? The best is here, it is up ahead, it is not yet. It is to the hungry every bitter thing is sweet. I guess I don’t have anything new to write because this blog has always been my effort to use life as a backdrop to say what I love to say most, that God has been a good God to me. I used to be surprised by His smile in a paint can when I worked to make old things better back when I started this blog. I wondered to find His grace in the shocked, frightened eyes that looked back at me in the NICU washroom mirror. His mercy relentlessly followed me through the borrowed days of a little boy’s life. And today I see His love hanging heavy and thick like a fog over the path of my future. I don’t have anything new to write, because I suppose I don’t have anything better to say.
I do believe with all my heart that the God who climbed into the fiery furnace with the three Hebrews is the same God who climbed into my life with me years ago, yesterday, today and will again tomorrow. I cannot help but smile when I read that story in the Bible. Those gents took a stroll through fire, walked out, didn’t look a bit burnt, and didn’t even smell burnt. That’s exactly God’s style after all. If we’re going to do this thing, we’re going to do it boys, and we aren’t going to stink when we’re done either! I do believe God can walk me through all the things which can break a mind, and break a will, and break a heart, and break a body, and pull me out of it on the other side without the smell of it stuck to me. Nothing and no-one can make you a victim. Nothing and no-one can make you bitter, angry, unusable, broken beyond repair, or pathetic. God’s gift to mankind to separate him from and above every other creation was the gift of choice. The gift to choose Him, and in choosing Him, I choose freedom. I choose to walk in fire and not stink. Paul said “thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”…I like to take a bit of liberty with that, and interpret that to mean “get dressed and show up”. Sing a song, make the Devil get a headache (and possibly everyone else if you sing like me) if he wants to hang around. Just don’t worship the idol of problems. The problems never stop, they never will. Sing and keep walking, let the doors slam, say the same thing, over, and over, and over again. God has been a good God to me. The truth will set you free.