The following Caring Bridge entry is submitted in the hopes that it may encourage someone going through very hard times. For me, that has been cancer treatment and the loss of a child:
Further recent reflection leads to this attempt to document what seems to me to be significant learning about my life journey and my evolving relationship with our Heavenly Father.
I find that I’ve been attempting to reconcile His Love (which I do experience) with the journey our family has been on. I have never before felt the need to do this. I believe that the events of the last two years eventually forced me to face really hard questions.
One thing for sure: this is personal. This is no longer the kind of experience that can be neatly compartmentalized in some far away place. I can see the good in that because it forces a more personal, vital faith to match.
I am aware of some critical stages in the development of my faith:
I recall feeling at loose ends as a young adult. Jesus came to save the “lost.” That, in more ways than one, was me.
After finding anchorage in Him I could continue to grow as a person.
Probably the next big step was years ago when it ceased to be enough to call on God when help was needed. It became clear that everything needed to be turned over to Him daily and that there would no longer be a singular I or me- only a we; and he is the senior partner. (real Lordship I believe).
More recently, as I have journaled here before, the many challenges of the last two years (starting right around Nov., 2015) have led to a much closer relationship with Him. The time spent in meditation and prayer combined with the intense felt sense of need led to intimacy that has been special. I have experienced a greater trust and rest. Even though I’m weaker physically, I am stronger emotionally and spiritually. As my health has improved, I have endeavored to sustain the sweet closeness that was so hard-earned.
Losing David (6 month anniversary of his passing just recently) gave immediate relief from the day in and day out burden of caring for and worrying about him. As we adjusted to our new normal, some of the anger and disillusionment of the whole of his life condition and his end started to sink in.
As I struggled to understand why these circumstances had to be, I researched what Christian thinkers have come up with. Given the choices mankind has made to turn away from God, I can see how God would want to provide freedom of choice for every person and new generation. The fact that many say “no” to Him leads to problems to be sure, but I can understand that God wants our hearts to be for Him and thus, we must truly have a choice. This is a long and controversial discussion (see Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith). It has been vital to me to see that God entered into our mess through His only son (I had only one son) and that His son was also tortured by the circumstances of being here. Jesus truly suffered as he gave everything He had to us and for us while those who had chosen to say “no” to God were free to choose to persecute Him.
I have long believed and taught my children that Jesus came as a suffering servant to change our hearts, not our circumstances. But our circumstances can be a lot more troublesome than I ever knew possible. “How long, oh Lord (will we have to wait for the ruling reigning king)?”
Again, this is no longer just theology- it is real and personal. I must accept this. As I do, I see that God has elected to be present here primarily through people. He rarely sends floods or fire and brimstone down on planet earth. Instead he sends people- like those who have been there for us through thick and thin (we love you and appreciate you!).
Faith is not just about believing or living obedient lives, although those things are important. He relates to us through our and others’ changed hearts. This appears to be His way. I now understand the importance of aligning our hearts with His. 1 Corinthians 13:13…Faith, Hope and Love remain but the greatest of these is Love (paraphrase).
My heart, too, must change.
I will ask Him to help me be more intentionally present to Him: more of the time, in more ways and more deeply.
What a beautiful world it would be (think Louis Armstrong) if we all actively sought His heart to transform our hearts. “Oh Yeah.”
So, the gift coming from our journey seems to be the felt sense of His love- up close and personal because it is born of up close and personal battles.
Now that I reflect on it, all of the significant growth I just mentioned has come from up close and personal challenges.
I remind myself that, once we enter His presence, all of these “momentary afflictions” won’t matter.
In the meantime, they generate hard-won intimacy with God, amazing encounters with people and real peace inside.
Who wouldn’t want that?