I so love weddings! But they can be a mixed bag of emotions when you’ve walked the road of betrayal and divorce. The dress, the rings, the music…sometimes they bring up sad memories long forgiven but not quite forgotten.
Last weekend, my husband and I attended a beautiful wedding. As the lovely young couple exchanged their vows, instinctively, I reached for my husband’s hand. His grasp was warm and reassuring.
I’m still here. I always will be. This time it’s forever.
As the celebration went on into the evening, I continued recounting my painful past. Jarred back into the moment by applause, I noted the grandparents now entering the dance floor. The DJ highlighted their fifty plus years of marriage and the music began to play.
So precious. What a legacy this new young couple inherits!
I smiled through tears.
These grandparents will leave an inheritance of faithfulness…and I will leave an inheritance of brokenness.
On the long car ride back home I sat with the heartache. No anger, no defensiveness, no sugar distractions, no lashing out at unsuspecting people who happen to be in the vicinity. My husband and I talked a little…and he held my hand again. But for the most part, I just quietly reached out to my Father. Dear God, I can’t believe after all these years, the past can still affect me so much. Help me to see You and Your plan in the midst of the loss. Increase my faith…
Next morning I awoke to the same history. Funny thing about the past—it can’t be changed. However, as picked up my Bible, a new truth began to unfold in my heart and new healing soon followed.
I realized it’s time to redefine of my idea of inheritance.
Lamentations 3:19-24 says…
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
1 Peter 1:3-5 says…
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth
…instead of ongoing grief and pain
into a living hope
…this means hope for today, like right now
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade
…unlike imperfect relationships here on earth
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
…now that’s some safekeeping!
who through faith are shielded
…I am protected
by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”
Beautiful as life-long marriage may be, it can’t compared to glory of my eternal inheritance. Perhaps its time to move some emotional stock to the investment being kept in heaven for me. My spiritual inheritance will never be lost. My brokenness has been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus.
So bring on the music, I think that’s a pretty good reason to dance!
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy” Psalm 30:11
Black or white. Right or wrong. Cut and dried. I used to be a big fan of these phrases. They simplify the complexities of life making things just a little more manageable…or do they? C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon recalls a time in his childhood when this kind of thinking didn’t work out so well.
Charles grew up in the mid-1800s, a time when authoritarian parenting was expected and respected. His father cared deeply for his family and took the raising of responsible children very seriously. Any form of foolishness would not be tolerated. Charles’ younger brother, James, had a habit of stumbling and bumbling–the kind of behavior that often results in broken dishes, torn clothing, or chores left undone. After several attempts to correct the boy’s behavior, his father presented an ultimatum: after any such event, James could expect to receive a lashing.
The plan worked.
Or did it?
Years later, the father was recounting his successful correction of the younger son’s clumsiness. He recalled, proudly, that after having laid down the ultimatum, James never fell again. His older brother, Charles, now an adult, felt the freedom to correct his father’s misconception. “Father,” he said, “Actually, James never stopped falling down, but I always managed to wash his knees, and to brush his clothes, so as to remove all traces of his falls” *[Spurgeon, The Early Years, 24]. Later, it was discovered that James was not so irresponsible after all. He had a real medical condition that caused his ankles to function improperly.
You and I may think we have solved a problem when we manage to make the symptoms go away. However, sometimes it’s more advantageous to actually sit with the mess for a while. Perhaps the issue is not so cut and dried. Leveraging ultimatums often drives the problem into hiding where shame spreads like a field of thistles in the deeper places of the soul.
Loving relationships value the content of the heart more than keeping up appearances. “What will people think?” is replaced with “What do you think?” “Now look what you’ve done!” is replaced with “Please tell me how you are doing”. Loving relationships create places of safety and acceptance where failure creates opportunities to give and receive grace.
We love more fully when we love others in their places of greatness and not-so-greatness.
This is the way Jesus loves. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).
What a relief! God loves me according to His grace not according to the measure of my performance.
How does this translate on the relational level? I am discovering that I can give to others only what I have first received from the God the Father, through His Son, Jesus. “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
He washes my knees, brushes off my clothes, and removes the traces of my falls. I love the best as I learn from the Best.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
*C.H. Spurgeon Autobiography: The Early Years: 1834-1859
Plenty a married woman might dread an extended stay with her in-laws, but I don’t. My husband’s parents are two of the most gracious people I know. They are chock-full of surprising kindnesses simply because it’s the way they roll.
While we were all enjoying a dinner out a couple nights ago, Mom and Dad Angles decided to order a little dessert. Mom Angles got the pie and Dad Angles the ice cream. When their dishes arrived, my father-in-law immediately scooped up a heap of ice cream from his bowl and offered it to his bride.
“I bet you would like some of this for your pie,” he said with a twinkle.
She smiled back at him. Just for just a moment I saw her as a twenty-something sweetheart being courted by her suitor. With just a bit of ice cream, my father-in-law lavished a little kindness on his wife for the sheer enjoyment of watching her reaction.
He reminds me of Someone else I know.
I was scrolling through iPhone pictures today and noticed seven different sunrise/sunset snapshots I’ve taken over the past few weeks. I remember how I smiled while taking each one. Watching a beautiful sunrise feels like being lavished with kindness from my heavenly Father…and I smile back. God doesn’t have to make the sun rise in such a lovely fashion; I’m sure the sun could perform its warming function without all the artistry. But I have a theory…I think He delights in designing a painted sky for the sheer enjoyment of watching His children take it all in.
Love does stuff like that–just because.
Here’s a few of God’s “just because” moments to me over the past few weeks…
Florissant, Colorado (Pikes Peak in the background)
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8)
Cape Coral, Florida
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)
Normandy, Tennessee (Normandy Lake)
The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth” . (2 Samuel 23:3-4)
Tampa Bay, Florida
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:9-10)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Paducah, Kentucky (Ohio River)
Observing the love between my in-laws and the beauty of God’s handiwork makes me wonder who might enjoy a “just because I love you” from me today.
When I was a little girl our family lived next door to an elderly woman whose living room was filled with curio cabinets and trinkets. When her granddaughter would visit, I was often invited over to play.
The grandmother would bring out a little toy box and a few old dolls, but oh how I longed to get into those curio cabinets! There was an antique collection of ceramic roses and another cabinet with finely-dressed 18th century figurines that were perfectly poised and poetic. I pressed my nose against the glass doors imagining the feel of those delicate pink rose petals…
And wondering what it might be like to see that lovely couple come to life!
However, my daydreams were usually interrupted with a stern warning not to touch. Those cabinets were strictly off limits lest something get broken.
Sometimes it seems like many of us are living the curio cabinet kind of life. We press our noses against computer screens, TV screens, movie screens and cell phones. We long to connect, but we’re desperately afraid of getting hurt or hurting someone else. The glass walls between us keep us from life and from knowing what real feels like.
Jesus is the perfect role model for this kind of dilemma. Unlike the off-limits curio cabinets, He makes Himself completely accessible. John says that He “became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14 NLT). He unlocked the glass doors of heaven and came to earth so that He could bring life to the curious, the selfish, the disenchanted…and even the overly pious. He came to release captives, heal the brokenhearted and bring dead hearts back to life. Jesus was willing to be broken so that we could know what it means to really live.
What if we accepted His invitation to came out from behind our own glass doors and get real? It would mean vulnerability; it would almost certainly involve some brokenness. But in exchange for this risk we would get reality. We could quit hiding, posing, and day-dreaming. But most importantly, we could finally know what real feels like.
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. ” John 11:25
If God really cares, why are people dying in wars, accidents, sicknesses, floods and so on? Questions like these can get a girl in her own mental wrestling match.
Somebody please switch the channel to cartoons. Enough already.
Still, like it or not, even with our best efforts to distract, we all tend to wander back to nagging questions like this. Where’s God in all this mess?
Lately, I’ve been reading a book by Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. Seriously…it’s one of the best books I’ve read about the hows and whys of evil in the world. Plantinga writes, “In pondering the 23rd Psalm, Joseph Sittler once observed that though we walk through the valley of the shadow death just once, we [do in fact] spend our whole lives walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (1).
Ever since that unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, death is now the prescribed lot for us all (thanks a lot, guys). We are now obliged to suffer under the weight of our own freedom. Plantinga goes on, “You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes” (78).
Hitler as a little guy…interesting thought.
But you know what I love? The story doesn’t end here. Maybe shut off CNN a sec…I think we got options :-)
Even though the valley of the shadow of death may be our current address, Psalm 91:1 provides us with this promise, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (NIV).
Yes, death and evil are pretty much a one hundred percent certainty in this life. However, God provides Himself as a companion for our journey. We can find rest from the scorching realities of life in the shadow of the Almighty. And not only this, but God has even fixed it so that death no longer has the final word.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us…And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation…So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:6, 9, 11 NLT).
I’ve seen people make it through some of the worst agonies you can imagine because of this.
Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and…guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 MSG).
This is Easter, my friends. This is what we celebrate in the midst of wars, accidents, sicknesses, floods. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”.
No need for a distraction from this reality. This is grace. This is peace.
More great helps for the journey…