Author Ann Voskamp’s blog and book One Thousand Gifts (New York Times Bestseller) has often been a hope to me on long days and an ever-present reminder on all of the rest. She challenge readers to be grateful for every moment with “a dare to live fully right where you are.”
No matter how dark that place is.
I was reading one mother’s account of losing her daughter at 18 weeks gestation. Her thought-rendering words express such emotion, such grief, and in her blog entry, A Star Hung on My Soul Sky, she shares a comment Ann posted on her blog. Once again, Ann’s words move me exactly where I am in my life right now, exactly as I am in this moment. I pray they will move you as well – wherever you are, however you are, even if you are glancing up right at God’s back, crying to see His face. God’s in the tremors. Read…
In time, years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.
Then when we look back, we see God’s back.
Wasn’t that too His way with Moses? “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back” (Ex. 33:22).
Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent. In dark, bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams.
But maybe this is reality: It’s in the dark that God’s passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God’s abandoned, but the exact opposite: God’s passing by. God’s in the tremors.
Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.
In the blackest, God’s closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling in and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, eye beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look.
Then we look back and see His back.
He is close […] even in the blackest grief…
A gift in the grief… The Glory of God passing by in the dark.
I love you … and so pray.
[…] Love, the star that never falls…
It’s April, DONATE LIFE Month! Look where I am now after receiving a new liver. 113,742 people are waiting RIGHT NOW for a life-saving transplant. If a transplant weren’t their last option, their only hope? They would not be on that list. It’s a scary list to be on, with death so close, yet hope on the other side. Sadly, a lot of those people will not see hope. They will die waiting on an organ because there just aren’t enough to go around. Will you sign up to be an organ donor? You can register here and if you have any questions or inhibitions, please check out these page of truths regarding organ donation or send me an email at agoodwin2010 (at) gmail (dot) com
113,742… what if one of those people were in your family? One of those people was me… just 19 months ago. What if my donor hadn’t have decided to donate his organs once he was gone ? What if his family hadn’t have thought it was a good idea because they had unanswered questions or were uncomfortable with the subject? I don’t know where I’d be today.
The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital; busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed. Let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.
Give my kidneys to the one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
Explore every corner of my brain.
Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.
Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weakness and all prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil.
Give my soul to God.
If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.
To Remember Me; Robert N. Test
And I am painfully, but rightfully, reminded that this is not all we have. We have a hope that is nestled in the grace of God and promise of an eternity with Him, apart from pain, [disease], sin and disappointment. This is temporary. Oh, so temporary. Even when the scars are lifelong. So amidst our current frustration, we are forced to see this life a little more through the eyes of our Creator. A beautiful but painful thing.
Today, I’m sitting in my hospital bed thinking and wondering, dreaming and hoping. I’ve come up with an idea, a proposition… Bear with me as I get there.
I suppose it’s like the fear of flying.
See, airports aren’t scary, but for some people they facilitate fear just because of their proximity to take offs, landings, and turbulence.
I’m not scared of nighttime, but it facilitates fear because I know bedtime is soon approaching. It means that soon the people will go away and the quiet will set in. It means I’ll soon be alone to fend for myself. Plus, it’s all too clear to me that I don’t sleep well at night, and I have memories of some very traumatic nighttime attacks.
In the same manner, I can say I am not afraid of hospitals, IVs, tests, or doctors. Even surgery, really. They just facilitate my deepest fear that I know I’m in over my head with illnesses science can’t even control. Illnesses that prevent me from achieving my dreams, make each day a struggle, and put limits on my life in all sorts of ways. Illnesses that play with my mind, making me worry about where my insurance will come from once I leave my parents’ and what kind of guy would ever want to marry this kind of a disaster. Illnesses that produce hours of phone calls and sorting through bills, dealing with insurance, and filling out forms. Illnesses that easily fill a pillbox full of medications that have taken over my body. Illnesses that self-adjust differently each and every day, illnesses that threaten my ability to make plans. And ultimately, illnesses that could one day kill me, taking me from the people and the life I so greatly love. That’s the only thing I truly fear.
But for now, I think maybe my illnesses are like the 6th grade. You have to go – you may not want to but have no choice. Reluctantly, you bring home new knowledge every day. You can’t help it. Fortunately, it makes you a better person as you learn about the world and gain social skills.
Likewise, I don’t have a choice whether or not to be sick, but I can be grateful knowing at least it’s making me a better person. This lifetime has given me so much love, increased my patience, and given me an empathy most people can never obtain. It’s given me opportunities and experiences that are important to my life and career studying to be a nurse. And most precious to me, it has given me a choice to put my life in the Refiner’s fire as somehow He refines and uses this damaged life for His glory.
And finally I say, if all of this has been for even one person to know Him, if all of this has been to keep one person afloat, then each and every painful part of it has been worth it. All 19 years of it.
I can’t get the thought of “Refiner’s fire” out of my mind. Malachi says,
For He will be like a refiner’s fire. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify and refine them.
John Piper states,
He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire. But it does say, he is like a REFINER’S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.
May the crazy miracle of just getting through my days be to the glory of Him who holds my future. Praise God for the hope of refinement, of our ability to choose to be bettered through the pain and turmoil of this life.
Pain. I feel so close and so familiar to pain lately. The past couple years have been so difficult, and this past year especially has been trying for me. Sometimes it feels like this battle is never-ending, now with the bone marrow/low WBC, tomorrow likely with something else. The questions out-number the answers which are so few and far between.
I been reading “Be Still, My Soul” over the past month – 25 readings on pain each by different authors. One piece has been on my heart ever since I read it. It’s by Philip Yancey, and I believe it is from his 1982 book “Open Windows.”
It has tremendously encouraged me, and I want to post some quotes from it for you.
In the passage, Yancey, talking about pain, gives the example of leprosy. Lepers cannot feel pain. They don’t know when they’ve touched something too hot, cut their finger, or sprained their ankle. Leprosy actually in a sense numbs bodies. The author gives the example of a leper cooking potatoes. When the potatoes are done, he puts his whole hand and arm into the pot to remove the cooked potatoes. He doesn’t feel his hand get scalded. It will burn, and likely get very infected, but the person feels nothing. His body may be intact, but leprosy removes all warning signs of physical danger. In this instance, Yancey says, “Thank God for pain!”
Likely, he argues, “Pain is a megaphone of God, which, sometimes murmuring, sometimes shouting, reminds us that something is wrong.”
Next, Yancey says there are two contributions to pain that are true in all circumstances, whether they result in healing or death.
First, Christ’s terrible death shows us we are not abandoned. “Because Jesus came and took a place beside us, God fully understands,” and I love this next quote by Dorothy Sayers:
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiation, defeat, despair, and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
Jesus chose – of all lives possible – a life of suffering. We could never blame our suffering on sins we have committed because Jesus, who never sinned, still felt pain. And we cannot say that suffering and death must mean God’s forsaken us and left us alone because Jesus’ suffering and death was a great victory, pulling man and God together.
Secondly, “To the person with unrequited suffering, [hope] is the most important contribution of all. Christ did not stay on the cross. After three days in a dark tomb, He was seen alive again… he came to [His disciples], letting them feel His new body. Christ brought us the possibility of an afterlife without pain and suffering. All our hurts are temporary.”
I was brought into great perspective by Yancey’s next idea… “Who would complain if God allowed one hour of suffering in an entire lifetime of comfort? Yet we bitterly complain about a lifetime that includes suffering when that lifetime is a mere hour of eternity.” He says that our time on Earth is “a dot in eternity.” We have no idea what this tiny span of life will amount to in the grand scheme of things. Let God work His plan out.
Pain “reminds us of where we are, and creates in us a thirst for where we will someday be.”
So true. Praise the Lord.