A woman that found me on facebook after reading my book posted last night about her husband attending church for the first time, and standing on his feet for the first time since his stroke that occurred several months back. She shared her excitement repeatedly – attaching photos and video clips with heart-filled words of excitement and joy for this milestone of a day she experienced with her husband and grandkids. You can almost feel her joy as you read through and attempt to experience this day with her. What kind of joy is this? To have your world turned upside down for months without end…. to have your husband living in a hospital instead of lying in the bed next to you each night… to wake up each day, still caught in a nightmare of turmoil searching for hope and a return to normalcy that may never come.
Hope has a voice that speaks to the inner most secret places within our beings that only can be found in seasons where hope seems absent. I’ve seen and felt and witnessed this hope with undescribable heightened senses of a story-line that exists beyond the physical realm in which I live in – with an absolute awareness that something bigger and greater than what my eyes can see is filling my conscious with emotions and desires that don’t make sense to the human mind. It’s like watching the scene of a horrific train-wreck as the remnants of disaster still smell of burning metals, as the workers on the scene throw away the shattered pieces of irreparable destruction. And underneath the ashes – sifting through twisted iron, a jewel of great value is discovered – that wouldn’t have been found, had the vessel not been crashed, broken and destroyed into thousands of pieces.
I remember one night in particular that carries with it complete opposite ends of the pendulum between joy and pain – I would both love to experience that night again and at the same time I’d do anything to not experience that night again. I was alone at the hospital in Josh’s icu room and his complications after the second brain surgery, with brain swelling, a brain bleed, a clot that could bust loose at any moment and a new infection causing his body temperature to spike sky high were all working against his unfavorable odds of surviving through the night. I remember the anxiety was so strong, I didn’t even leave my feet to sit down that night. I stood at his bedside, swaying back and forth in deep prayer, crying out with all my heart as my body was shaking, pleading with God to remove all of the attacks that were clearly winning in the battle for Josh’s life. It was a moment of searching – God do you see what’s happening? God do you care? God are you there at all? God are you going to let him die? Don’t you know what will happen to my kids if he does? God don’t you have compassion on us? My son Josh sent a video to my phone around 10pm. It was a clip of his sister, Kenna singing a song in front of the teens at the church she attended back then. That song she chose had nothing to do with the battle we were in – it didn’t talk about hurting, healing or anything that my thoughts were focused on. Yet ironically, this song she chose to sing from her heart was “the point” to how I was feeling too, (somewhere deep inside of me that was crying out from a desire that I didn’t even know existed). And as I watched that video, I cried tears of joy from a place deprived deep inside of my soul… revealing a yearning for something that was far more precious than anything I’d ever seen or touched or felt before. It’s like the deep crevices of my heart had been shown the missing puzzle piece that had the power to make it complete.
In a place of loss, the beauty of this world becomes pale and lifeless. The object of life itself becomes cloudy and senseless, without purpose or meaning. If we’re all here to climb some sort of self-appointed journey to success and happiness, why would we die at the end of that journey? I mean really, we have no idea what the next minute or month or ten years may bring our way. We don’t know if we’ll be homeless or bankrupt or disabled or sick or if we’ll hit the lottery and spend the next decade touring the world on a luxurious yacht. But we all know one thing – every human being that enters this world has an ultimate destination of death – the result of all our days will end in leaving this place, as a coffin houses the corpse we once occupied. No human being escapes death in this body. And what is death? Specific forms of nature has this beautiful way of demonstrating a process of death and rebirth. The butterfly that’s formed from a caterpillar… a creature that’s clinging to death as it digests itself out of starvation and lays in a lifeless cocoon before being re-birthed into a beautiful new being with wings to fly. The baby that’s delivered out a woman who’s laboring in the worst pain she’ll ever know.. NEW LIFE comes out of pain and sacrifice, and we know this to be true on the outside of natural occurrences but what is this joy that Paul speaks of, under circumstances that can’t possibly be defined as the human definition of joy and what is it that James speaks of when he talks about “rejoicing” in the midst of our suffering… The concept of such is impossible as “suffering” and “joy” are physical and mental places of opposition. Or are they?
The lyrics to the song Kenna sang that night say, “I’m wide awake. Drawing close… Stirred by Grace”… In the greek language one of the many definitions of “JOY” also means “GRACE”. And the Lord tells us that HIS GRACE is sufficient for us because HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness. Again, two words that seem so far apart in our definition of these places of emotional circumstance. Weakness is never something we associate with JOY or grace (as these two are one in the greek interpretation), yet the Lord says HIS GRACE is at work when we are in weakness…. HIS JOY (not ours) is sufficient, as it displays his strength, (but only when we are weak).
There’s a place where two worlds collide – the physical and eternal. But this diamond in the rough moment of awakening can only be discovered when our physical senses are stretched to the limit of destruction and loss… of hopelessness in the temporal things of this life, that births a new hope in something that we can’t see or even describe. And that internal discovery (a blessed hope revealed) – a veil removed from our internal eyes as the song says “I’m wade awake stirred by grace”, is an experience so beautiful and meaningful, that it can’t begin to compare to our hopes that we cling to inside of this temporary world. In those moments, we can see the destruction of all things – the fleeting mortality of our human bodies and even the temporary state of this world that’s decaying with everyday that passes. Our eyes are open to see LIFE that exists somewhere beyond the 12 to 18 hours that we spend each day touring this little place called earth.
I rejoice in this sweet lady’s day with her husband – believing that their journey through suffering and great pain is revealing this eternal and internal blessed hope. I rejoice in my own journey of destruction and pain… As I celebrate things like finding the strength to drive my husband to our other house to take a shower yesterday… The ability to shower (one of the many things we take for granted when our bodies are still working). My point of view on pretty much everything has changed so much. I don’t know if Josh will be here tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll be here or my kids will be here. This life is fleeting and it’s temporary (like a vapor that is here and gone so quickly), but I believe there’s a rebirth that comes from this place of suffering – this womb where we’re all temporarily growing and changing – awaiting our delivery. I know this cocoon that makes me feel claustrophobic on most days, like we’re imprisoned in a season of much stress and restraint, will crack open soon… and when this vessel breaks open, I believe that we will be new creatures, birthed and resurrected by the seed of Jesus Christ – our forerunner that showed us what true suffering looks like, demonstrated unselfish love and self-sacrifice and proved that when a man lays down this temporary life for others and picks up a cross to follow the Lord down that narrow path to eternity, the will of the Father is completed by the resurrection of new life….. a butterfly is re-born with new wings.. a baby is pulled from the water and takes its first breath.
I can say without a doubt that I would not choose this suffering. In fact on most days, I cry for people I don’t even know, asking “why is this necessary?” Why do children have to be born with horrible disease? Why are people torturing one another for the sake of power and greed? Why is love often spoken to end in heartbreak and betrayal? Why are we so judgemental hurting others with every movement of our tongues? Why are parents burying their children and children burying their parents?
But the thought that I consistently end up at – the one point that I humbly remind myself daily of is this… I don’t know the outcome. My understanding of things is not the Lord’s understanding of things. I know without a doubt if I were a caterpillar I would not want to starve and digest myself and die a slow death imprisoned in a cocoon – I wouldn’t choose that. But if I knew that on the other side of my pain and suffering, I’d end up breaking forth in a better life with wings like an eagle… Well, then I’d consider that it’s worth it… that all my horrible days weren’t even comparable to the glory that would be revealed to me after I was reborn as a new creature. The God that said, “All things work for the good of those who are called according to his purpose” knows something I don’t. And I believe this place of two worlds colliding – Joy found in Pain – is just a little glimpse of the process that many of us are in today. He gives and takes away… And perhaps when he takes away the things we “thought” we desired… we are one step closer to discovering what our hearts truly desire.. HIM.