Monday, October 17, 2011

Loving Hard

I don't follow many blogs, but I do have a few special ones that I keep up with. I check them all once a month or so, to see what's new, and I did this today. One is the blog of the beautiful Susan Bailey Law, who lost a battle with cancer early this year. I never knew Susan, but I did go to her memorial service, because it was here at the church. I left the church that day, wishing that I had known Susan. I have blogged on her before, back in January of this year. Her husband, Jerel, wrote on her blog for a while, but has since started his own. He's kept her blog up, however, so folks can go back and treasure Susan's words even beyond her earthly life. I love that. He wrote the last of his entries on Susan's blog late last month, and a portion of struck me. It was directed to his kids...

"Bailey, Christopher, and Luke – Your mother led the kind of life that allowed blessing to rain down on our family. Even if you don’t see the things she did now, please know that. A generation of Laws have been impacted because of the way she loved Jesus, you, and me. And remember that what you do, right now, with your lives, matters long after you are gone."

Love. Matters.

The next is the blog of Joanna and Toben. I ran across this blog when Joanna, a Christian writer, suffered a stroke several months ago. A bad one. I began to keep up with the blog, checking in on how Joanna, in her late thirties, was doing. I became intrigued at how Toben, her husband, took over life and kids and caring for Joanna. It was really precious, to see this man rise to his circumstances and honor God in the vows he took to his wife...when it was anything but easy. Toben wrote in his last blog...

"When you get to live in service to the one you love the most, the benefits seem to outweigh the costs."


Wow. Love...


Not sappy "I can't live without you" love. Not "what can you do for me" love. Not "love me and I will love you back" love. Not "I'll love you as long as it feels good" love.


LOVE...agape love...love that goes beyond circumstance and condition. Hard love.


Jesus love.

Sarah Barnes and I were talking the other day and landed on the subject of my personality in the months after we lost Chad. We joke about it a lot...Sarah caught the brunt of my "angry phase" of grief. We'll often laugh over that bottle of Clorox I threw down the stairs at her, or the crack in my bathroom door...that my foot might have left there...after screaming at her over something of such insignificance that I couldn't recall it now to save my own life or anyone elses. I'm so thankful that we can laugh about it now, that God saw in his mercy to salvage that precious friendship despite my ugliness. That, somehow, Sarah found the strength and clarity to view my moods and temper and general disposition of selfishness with eyes of faith and discernment, and not anger and hurt and bitterness. I didn't deserve that kind of love, but she extended it time and again, and even finds the grace to laugh with me about it now.

Then last night, as I talked with my good friend Katie, who met me just as Chad was in his last weeks, it came up again. The Marti she met at that time was not the Marti she knows now. I was quiet and reserved, and not at all open or welcoming. I'm sure I had moments of kindness, but they were often faked. Those I loved the most, saw the worst. I remember viewing events that I had to be around a lot of people, like church, as something I just had to get through. I didn't want to small talk, I didn't want to visit, and I didn't care what you had to say. I just wanted the world to be quiet and still, and let me grieve. I wanted it all to stop. Stop for our loss. Stop to mourn. Stop to justify the pain. Just stop.

STOP. Because I was tapped out. I was running on fumes and I had nothing to give. Just stop.

Friendships were lost. Feelings were hurt. And in it all, most of the time I just couldn't will myself to care. To me, if you couldn't allow me the ability to mourn the way that I needed to mourn, our friendship was not worth salvaging.

How is that for harsh? How is that for selfish? It's all the truth.

My friend Molly called me out on it one day. I remember she said to me...I'm paraphrasing..."I read your emails and they have such hope, and then when you will actually talk to me on the phone all I hear is sadness." Those words still sting. She was right...she was. But, I meant every one of those words in those emails...but I meant the sadness, too...

I pushed Molly away, too. And all she did was get really honest with her good friend. A good friend she was worried about. She didn't deserve that...

Every one of the emails I wrote came from a pure heart. A hurting heart. A heart that couldn't hardly believe the pain, and needed a mighty God to seek. I wanted so much to see my situation with eyes of faith, with a heart of wisdom, with the mind of Christ. I wanted to do anything and everything I could do to save my brother. I meant every word I said. The emails document a walk of faith, an awakening, that I treasure. It was a journey, and I learned with every step...I'm learning still.

However...just because I meant every word that I said in those emails, doesn't mean that my heart didn't ache, and that I didn't have to constantly remind myself to view our situation not though the lens of the world, but through the lens of His Word. You see, as I write, I heal. As I wrote those words, I worked it all out in my head...and my heart. Those words then served a reminder when I needed it. Those words weren't just written in emails, they were written on my heart. And as I wrote them on my heart, the suffering became more bearable, more fruitful, more...well, even joyful at times. Abundant. As I write these words even now, I am working it all out. My journey hasn't ended, I'm beginning to think it's just begun. It's no easier, no less frightening, no less raw, but, oh my, it is rich and it is indeed good...

Ephraim.

Truthfully, I'm not sure I would be any different if it all happened again today. I did what I needed to do, day in and day out, to breathe in and out and put one foot in front of the other after the loss. Yes, I did hurt some people that I do genuinely care about. You know who you are. I know who you are. No one was right, no one was wrong. It was just a tough situation that had to be weathered...

And I'm so thankful for those that chose to love me through the hard. I'm so thankful for those who loved me when I was hard to love. I'm so thankful for those who chose to love me...hard.

You loved me like Jesus does. Thank you. Your love mattered in my life...

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October 4, 2011

Five years ago today, at 11am in the morning, my older brother was laid to rest at the tender age of 32 years old. It still makes me cry to type those words. Five years, and the pain still comes in waves as fresh as that day, in moments that I least expect it.

I have been listening to a lot of Lou Giglio lately. My new friend Jeanne Slocumb turned me on to him in the last few weeks, and he has tons of videos on You Tube, so I've just been playing them through the day the last week or so on my computer in my office. He said one thing this week that has resonated with me. Basically, we live in a time where we deal with 2 different realities, and they can be hard to reconcile. First, we live in a reality of a broken and fallen world. People hurt us, they hurt themsleves, they get sick, we betray and abandon each other...sin has ravaged our world, and the curse of it is inescapable. But at the same time, we live in the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord and victor over death, and our God is in complete control. Why then, if He is in complete control, does He allow these bad things to continue to happen? Why answer some prayers, and not answer others? Why spare one, and take another? I don't know. My finite brain is not big enough to wrap around an infinite God and His ways. But, Lou said, we know that He will not continue to allow the suffering of this world. And once He comes...He will end it all. But, once He comes, life as we know it now ceases to ever exist again.

It pierced me. And I'm not even sure why.

There are days like today when I can't wrap it all up in a neat little Jesus bow. In fact, I don't even want to wrap it up in a bow. The deal is that we have a God, bigger and greater than we could ever even begin to comprehend. He has a plan, and that plan does not revolve around me, or Chad, or our family. He has a plan to save a world and bring glory to Himself. Why? Because in Him and through Him ALL things were created. Through Him, all things came to be. Without Him, we are less than nothing. Our only hope is to bring glory to God. That's it. It has never, nor will it ever, be about me. It's all about Him. And 5 years ago, His plan to save this world and bring glory to Himself involved needing to take my brother home to be with Him. And so He did. And I trust Him. And, truly, I'm honored He used Chad. It doesn't lessen my pain, but it does make my pain matter. It matters. Chad matters. His suffering was a part of the plan.

Ephraim.

So, to my big brother, looking down on us today...I miss you. I long for the day I jump in your arms and see that million dollar smile. I long for the day our family is whole again. I long for the day this ache in my heart and lump in my throat will be gone for good...

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” -Revelation 21:1-5


And I KNOW that day is coming. And in THAT, I rejoice. I find my joy. Until then...

Ephraim.