-Quote from Touch the Sky by Hillsong United
There has been so much harsh news in our community lately. Down my street. Around my block. In my schools. And in my paranoid, somewhat selfish mind, I imagine it inching ever closer to my front steps.
I know. I know. There is harsh news everywhere. No one is immune. "In this world there will be trouble - even in your tidy, HOA-controlled suburb", my Savior said. - (NIV: somewhat edited)
So, I show up here where I tap out words to make sense of sorrows as they build up like bricks closing in around me. I feel burdened. I feel scared. I feel confused. And a number of my friends and neighbors are all of those things plus some: they are angry and bitter and lashing out in despair because there HAS GOT to be someone or something to blame for this pain. There just HAS GOT to be some explanation for this hurt. And if we can't find something specific to blame, we find ourselves resigned to calling this world ugly and tragic and worst of all? Utterly hopeless.
And my being physically recoils from a world filled with no hope. When tale after tragic tale seems to be closing in, my first instinct is to turn completely inward; to make my world smaller. Focus only inside. Curl up. Shut out. Because I start to think that only in staying within my walls, in my thoughts, with my safe-for-now people, will I be able to protect my family from a world of evil and random tragedy. From a world where I notice friends that have lost faith in the idea of a good and loving God.
So I sit at my desk, all tensed with my faithless mind. It sees the cancer that has infiltrated our neighborhood children. It pictures it sauntering down my street, deciphering my garage code and slinking into my house, up my stairs to my child's bedroom,
It sees the alcoholism and emotional problems that plague so many teenagers and in fact, sit deep in the roots of my own family tree. It imagines those addictions lying in wait for my boys, ready to strike as soon as they have a flicker of a thought to succumb to peer pressure.
It sees the tragic, random accident that stole a devoted father and husband from our community on the same day that I celebrated my husband's 47th birthday. It conjures the next accident showing up at the intersection as my husband's car pulls up. It reminds me that my husband's father died suddenly only a few weeks after his 47th birthday. My mind allows fear to pelt rocks at my window shouting, "Oh ye of so much faith? Hey, Pollyanna, sit in your warm, safe home, sweetheart, and just you see how much control you have over your tomorrows."
And there I sit. Unable to write comforting words, unable to find joy in this morning because my mind tells me, "You and your hope and your faith? YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."
But in a few moments if I sit still, my heart and my soul will wait patiently. They nudge me in a quiet, but insistent whisper, "Yep, it's true. You do not know much. But, there is one thing and only one thing, that you know for sure. You know Christ. That's it. You don't know His plan. You don't know His ways. You don't know His purpose. But you do know Him. And you know He won't let you sit down here in the pit for long."
As inadequate to make sense of life as I am, as full of anxiety for the future as I am, as truly low down to the ground as I am? It is only by being this curled in deep, that I'm able to see clearly the full, sufficient hope of what's above. It's only in feeling someone else's pain and replacing this broken world's faces with the faces of my own people, that my heart and my soul can begin the work He needs me to do. Two things have come to my mind as I have stayed huddled up this morning. One verse and one song.
The first line from Psalms 121 says, "I look to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth."
And THIS SONG says, "I've found heaven is love swept low. My heart beating. My soul breathing. I found my life when I laid it down. Upward falling. Spirit soaring. I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground."
We can't look up until we are swept low. We can't see the maker of the mountains until we are on our knees with arms not huddled and wrapped tight inward, but open and raised up. We can't find the full realization of His purpose for us if we stay folded in fear.
And this. This is what God asks us to do every morning. He asks us to choose. It's fine to have some time to huddle in for a bit. It's fine to sit in quiet and feel pain and despair. Jesus, Himself, went in to the garden to pray - alone and frightened. But He did not remain inward. He didn't coil around his 12 disciples. He turned out. Surrendered up. Opened His arms wide.
Look, as believers in a world full of unbelief, we must be careful. We are not the Christ. We are not the healer. We are not the miracle maker. We do not have all the answers. When reaching out to the suffering, we must choose words carefully or perhaps choose no words at all. But we must choose .
We can defy the ease it is to be angry and hopeless. We can know that yes, we will someday be the ones weeping and mourning. It will happen. But sunken in, we are not protected. We are simply alone and fearful. Turned out, opened up, we will look to the maker of the mountains. Arms open wide, welcoming the suffering of our friends and neighbors, offering our presence to them? It is only then that we can strive to be as much like Him as we can possibly be when our friends can't seem to find Him.
Until He comes to heal and save, until He brings heaven, we do the best we can to pull out of our fear and meet our friends in the valley of their grief and suffering. We make the decision to trust Him or not. And if we decide we do, we go out. We show the world the hope of heaven by becoming love swept low. When it comes down to it, we who have been given another day to live in a world full of brutality and beauty? Well, in reality, I think we have no other choice, do we?
(For some really wonderful words on practical ways to become love swept low for the grieving, please see my friend, Anna's, blog post HERE.)