The age of microblogging has definitely pulled me away from cheval glass over the past few years. It is so much easier to share a thought or two and maybe a pic. However, I have felt over the last few months a sense of being drawn back to visit and share in this place more frequently with you as the new year - 2019- is upon us.
There is a freedom and a sense of true fulfillment that will never be achieved without experiencing pain and suffering to get there. This may not seem to be a profound statement at all. However, for someone like me who was raised with the mindset of " If you make all the right decisions, you will have a pain-free life" this is a complete departure from that thinking. I am no different than anyone else. I don't like pain. I don't like sadness. I don't like suffering. I want to run away from it. I want to hide from it. I want to ignore that it is happening. I want to believe if you work hard, you can avoid pain. I always thought if I strived to always do my best, somehow all these great strategic decisions would create a pain-free life for me. Yeah...
When God created us, we were perfect. The world was perfect. No matter where you fall on the theological spectrum, we must recognize that we live in a broken world and we as humans need to take responsibility for our part in that brokenness. We can't live a part from the pain. It is all around us.
Sometimes pain finds us and we didn't do anything. We didn't cause it. We are hit with the shrapnel of other's choices and we are in pain. This has been the toughest one for me.
However, this is what I have noticed:
I look at my daughter's feet. A dancer's feet are not something to be viewed if you have a weak stomach. It's amazing to watch her perform with her talented dance family and create beautiful performances. But they don't happen without the sore muscles, injuries, blisters, the pain, the broken toe nails, etc... love you, Syd.
I watch my friend Kris. Her presence at her son's bedside the last few months as he struggles with cancer is more than any of us can imagine. I have seen the struggle on all sides with her faith in God literally growing right before my eyes and yet being challenged. The impact is unbelievable that it has had on so many people...including me. Love you, Kris.
I look at my mom. Being a widow now for 18 months and the new life she has embraced. She was the caregiver to my Dad who suffered with cancer for 3 years. She was with him every moment of every day during his cancer. Now, she's a children's book author, continues to teach piano, and share what she has with her church in a way that she has never been able to do over the past few years. Love you, Mom.
I think about my dad. I was with my Dad when he took his last breath. He died in his living room in a hospice bed. He suffered for three years with a rare form of kidney cancer. I know certain things would have never been said between me and my father if it had not been for cancer. We had time to talk and there was a lot of redemptive work that happened between us because of his cancer. Miss you Dad.
I look at the #metoo movement. No verbal male chauvinism that I have experienced in the "church-world" can compare to what so many have physically endured. It has been painful for us to see and hear but I believe that this movement is bringing conversation and and a new reality that will ultimately lead to a better world for my daughter and especially the "church-world" (who needs this transparency more than ever.)
I look at our personal finances. Todd and I have made a lot of dumb decisions. We caused a lot of our pain but some of it, just happened. I don't think we would have the trust and dependence in God to provide for our family OR the contentment and gratitude with what we have without the pain.
I look at our church. There is no greater test to your own walk with God than being a church-planter or being on a church staff team. You can quote me on that. The greatest moments of seeing life-change in our church have been through the greatest moments of suffering, pain and loss. Whether death within our church family, cancer or prolonged sickness, moving forward on what God is calling you to do even when it's not popular, one family LEAVING your church for a reason that a new family starting COMING to your church (this really happens!) and even multiple hurricanes to your Island that actually unite you as a community much more than ever before the storms.
Jesus made a promise to us when He came to earth. " I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33 MSG) As a Christ-follower, I know that my ultimate peace is found in my relationship with God through Jesus. That is where my inner peace truly lies when I see or experience pain. I cling to this truth. But I sometimes, I just want it all to stop. God knows and He listens.
So as 2019 is upon us, I ask the question to myself and to you... Will you embrace the pain this year? I want to embrace it. I don't want to try to hide from it. That desire will always be there I know, but I do truly want to embrace it. I do know what fulfillment comes from getting to the other side of it.
Thanks for making it this far in this post. I would like to share my verses for 2019 with you and I hope they encourage you to embrace IT as well.
Happy New Year...
"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. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought." James 1:2-8 (MSG)