Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Road To Ephraim...Explained

As you probably have read in recent posts, I started writing an article for a bi-monthly magazine publication in middle Georgia.  It's been such an honor, really.  Usually, I post the article on the blog once it has been pubished, but did not do that this month, and last night received a sweet email from a sister in Christ in Macon, Terri Hamm, that asked me to do that.  So, Terri, here you go!!!  Ask and ye shall receive!  ;)

The article should have been up long ago, as it it a bit of an explanation on "my" Road to Ephraim.  I hope you enjoy it.  I will get another post or two written before Christmas...promise!

Merry Christmas, ya'll...


The Road to Ephraim

I grew up in one of those homes that you used to see on television…like the Cleavers, for instance.  There was a mom and a dad who loved and encouraged one another, and clearly respected and supported each other.  There was plenty of love to go around and a fair amount of discipline.  There were sibling rivalries and jealousies and the occasional drama of not-so-epic proportions, but at the end of the day we were a whole family that not only loved one another…we just plain liked each other.

I call them now the Wonder Years…those years of Sunday School on Sunday mornings  and Mission Friends on Wednesday nights.  The years of playing outside til dark, dinner every night around a family table, and Daddy coming home in time for dinner.  There were bedtime stories and homework, Daddy’s pipe and Mom’s diet cokes, and Alex in his footie pajamas and Chad coming in from a run.  My family…my beautiful family…in its Wonder Years.  The only problem was, we didn’t know it until they were gone.

I have sometimes lamented that everything I seem to write has the same theme.  It all revolves somehow around the day the door to the Wonders Years was slammed shut, and life as I now know it began to form.  It seems that every experience I may have or thought that I may process, somehow and some way, can all be traced back to that day.  They say that we all have a life-marker, some moment in our lives that we measure everything before and after.  For me, that day was February 26, 2004.  And on October 1, 2006…2 years, 7 months, and 1 week from the day we found out that he had melanoma...my older brother, Jonathan Chadwick Sullivan, “Chad,” went Home to be with Jesus. My life since then has had one theme.

Ephraim.

What is Ephraim?  This is likely your thought.  Take some time and set it aside to read the story of Joseph in the Bible.  You will find it in the book Genesis, which is the very first book of the Bible, chapters 37-50.  I’m telling you, you won’t be bored…the story of this man named Joseph is mini-series material.  It’s one of the most incredible and compelling stories in all the pages of the Bible, and the faith, strength, character, and wisdom that Joseph displayed throughout his life is a daily inspiration to me.

“Ephraim” was the second son of Joseph, and his name has a very important meaning…

The second son he (Joseph) named Ephraim, for God has made me 
fruitful in the land of my affliction.” –Genesis 41:52

In moments of affliction and suffering, in my moment, when my Wonder Years came to a sudden close and life was all the sudden a scary and dark place where it never ever had been before, there was a choice to make.  Am I going to focus on the situation, and find myself bitter and angry and resentful and scared all the time, or am I going to focus on and seek Christ in my turmoil, and trust the road He placed me on?

Which road will we choose?  One is easy, but leads to destruction.  The other road?  The other is far more difficult…but the journey and scenery and destination are without comparison, and rich beyond description.

In the last week, I have met with several women.  One is about to lose her husband because she can’t seem to stop herself from stepping outside her marriage to seek companionship, and the faith and trust her husband had in her is obliterated.  One of these women just found out her husband has had not just one, but several affairs, and she is making the decision herself to end the marriage and move forward without him.  The third woman is nearly fifty years old, and still hurting so profoundly from an abortion she had over 30 years ago.   These are real people, just like you and me, who are hurting.  Some are hurting for their own sin.  Some are hurting because they have been victimized over the sins of others that they placed their trust in, and others are hurting for decisions they made years and years before they became the women they are today.  What on earth do I say to these women?  What on earth do I say to speak to that hurt, and the desperate need for restoration and hope?

Ephraim.

I heard a Bible teacher say years ago that, if you listen, you will find the theme God has laid on your life.  It will be the subject He brings to your attention over and over, the common thread that you find in your day to day life, in your conversations, and in your heart.  You just can’t escape it.  It will be your perception of every situation that graces your days. 

Mine, without one single doubt, is Ephraim.  Allow God to take your pain, your sin, your disappointments and failures…everything ugly and shameful or sad and tragic that you wish you could erase…and ask Him to make it a thing of beauty.  Ask Him to bring the best parts of your life right out of it.  Ask Him…to redeem it.  Ask Him to make your land of affliction a fruitful one. 

My point here is not to sell you on my theme…my point is to inspire you to find your own, even, no, especially in your times of darkness.  I have found that anytime a woman comes to me seeking help or advice, it’s generally the message that Ephraim brings that she is needing to hear.  It’s the message He has given me.   We all, at some point, need to hear that our life isn’t blown.  We need to hear that there is a God that is powerful enough and loving enough and good enough and merciful enough to not just clean up our messes and tragedies, but gives us blessing upon blessing right out of them if we only look to Him.  Every now and again we all need to hear…our pain matters.  If it didn’t, He would never have allowed it, beloved.  

Believe that.

So what is your theme?  What message do you have? What road did you take, and what is the story of your journey?  What can you tell the world, what do you now know, what has He taught you, that you need to be sharing?  So often, it’s those treasures we brought out of those times in the darkness that others need to hear.  If you’re in the darkness, seek the Lord and find the treasures!  If you’re out of the darkness, share the bounty of the treasures you found!  If you have never let go of your darkness…maybe even after years and years of anger and bitterness over that darkness…and no treasure was found, then seek the Lord and ask Him to help you find the treasures.   It isn’t too late.

That’s worth repeating:  it isn’t too late.

Which road will you choose?

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, from The Road Not Taken

Ephraim.