Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making All Things New - an invitation

Twenty-seven years ago, a girl barely 19 years old took the hand of the 20 year old boy standing in front of her and with all the innocence and hope of those 19 years shining in her eyes said, "I do."  Twenty-six years later, she sat on a bench beside him watching the wind pound the waves of Lake Michigan into the sand, trying to find the courage to tell him that she'd spoken to their daughter's psychologist about starting marriage counseling.  When she finally found the courage, he admitted he'd been thinking the same thing.  

Over the course of the last year of counseling, we've had times where it felt like two steps forward, one step back.  Other times, it's felt like one step forward, two steps back.  While there's been progress, it's been slow.  At times it seems there've been more tears than laughter; more hurt than hope. 

A few weeks ago, at a point where our hearts were more broken than ever before, we took a night away to talk through some things.  The drive to the hotel that night was one of the longest, quietest drives we've ever had.  Neither of us knew what to expect that evening.  We began with prayer.  We ended with prayer.  There was prayer through the entire evening.  And... there was God.  In the midst of our tears, God met us there in a totally unexpected way.  Jehovah Rapha – the God who Heals – showed up in all His glory.  He restored what was broken, redeemed that which had been lost.  I can't begin to explain what happened that evening... except to say that the course of our marriage was changed forever with a night neither one of us will ever forget -- a night that had Jesus' fingerprints all over it.

At one point that evening, I looked into my husband's eyes and with all the hope and love given by my Savior shining from my eyes... I whispered, "I am my beloved's and he is mine."  Spoken from my heart, the words paraphrased from the Song of Songs were a vow; a promise; a reaffirmation of the covenant we had made twenty-seven years ago.  I meant it with everything that was within me.  At that moment in time, at this moment in time, those words mean so much more than the "I do" I'd promised twenty-seven years ago.  I understand so much more now all that those words mean.  

On that evening, with the words from Song of Solomon, I renewed my wedding vows to my husband.  This Sunday, after the morning services at our church, we will renew those vows before God, family and friends.  We understand more fully now what those vows really mean... and they mean more to us now than ever before.  We will also exchange new rings – not to replace our wedding rings, but to represent our renewed commitment.  The Song of Solomon rings bear the Hebrew inscription from the Song of Solomon – the words I spoke as a vow that evening.  We've also had them engraved with the words, "Making All Things New."  God is doing a new thing in our lives.  We want to acknowledge and remember what it was He did that night – moving beyond our wildest imaginations, hopes or dreams.

We know that there is still healing and learning to come.  We are continuing with counseling.  But now when hurt comes, we seek solace and comfort in each other's arms, covering each other in prayer and drawing close to our Savior.  We are choosing to seek the joy that God has promised and choosing to fight – together – the evil that would seek to destroy it.  Now, more than ever, we appreciate the vows that we have made; the vows we will be renewing. 

Perhaps it seems a little strange, but I think we are just as excited about renewing our vows as we were to say them the first time.  Originally, I had thought we would keep the renewal of our vows simple and private.  As we thought more about it, though, and the incredible gift that God has given us, we realized we couldn't keep that to ourselves.  We want to be a testimony to what God can do – what He wants to do.  We want to share the incredible joy He has brought us.  We still want it to keep it simple, and we don't want anyone to feel obligated.  But... if you want to share in our joy... and witness what God is doing... we'd love to have you there.  


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Silent Screams

Over the last few years, I've become convinced that the screams we don't hear are the ones filled with the most gut-wrenching pain: the heart broken in two by this world, but with a smile painted firmly in place. No one knows the turmoil. No one guesses at the brokenness inside. No one hears the scream. No one... shares the burden.

When I was around 6 years old, I was sexually abused. I didn't tell anyone because I believed that I was at least partially at fault. What would people think? Even as a young child, shame rendered me mute. No one knew the turmoil and confusion inside. No one could offer answers to questions I didn't dare to ask.

Someone else faces a personal struggle. There is fear of being found out; fear of judgment; fear of rejection. The risk seems larger than the potential benefit of sharing it, so the struggle is faced alone. No understanding. No encouragement. And when there is victory? There is no one to share that with, either. No shouts of joy. No celebration. The victory that could give hope and direction to someone else is hidden away because the struggle itself was hidden.

Shame keeps us isolated. Shame intensifies our pain. Shame keeps us from helping each other.


Sometimes, though, our reasons for not sharing seem more honorable than just protecting ourselves from shame.

A few years ago my daughter was diagnosed with cyclothymia (a form of bipolar). My screams were once again shoved down where no one could hear them, but for an entirely different reason. I wrote: 

I am... the mother of a bipolar teen. Her diagnosis is mine in that as her mother, I’m in for the ride too. For the most part, I ride alone. I don’t want her to feel I’m sharing her private information... I want her to trust me. So I don’t share. Instead, I ride the roller coaster… knowing that very few people have any idea what we deal with on a daily basis.... Strangely enough, I feel more alone now than I did before the diagnosis. I now know the reason for her turmoil, but I can’t share it without betraying her trust. Because of that, there is a large part of my life that is shut off from others....

Silent.... and alone.

Someone else goes through a tough time with her husband. She doesn't want to paint a poor picture of him to others, so she cries in silent with no one to hear; no one to reach out. She sits through the Sunday morning church service with a smile painted on her face... but heart breaking inside. It's hard. Too hard. She finds more and more reasons to be somewhere else on Sunday morning... somewhere... anywhere... where it's not quite so hard to pretend... where she doesn't feel quite so alone.

The silent scream... pain intensified by isolation. Those unheard cries... faced alone. That's not how we were meant to do life. We shouldn't sit alone in the midst of our friends, our church family. The only thing God said was "not good" in the creation story was that man was alone. So how do we bring those silent screams to where they can be heard? 

The reasons for the silence are varied; some of them even seem good and honorable. The result, though – going through the hard times without being able to talk about it – only intensifies our pain and our feelings of being alone. So how do we tear down the walls? How do we find the strength to share the broken heart... the raging cry within? How do we learn to share one another's burdens and do life together? How do we learn to recognize that silent scream and create an environment to give it voice? It seems I have a lot more questions than answers.... I'd love to hear your thoughts....


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Where the Bridge Is

A couple of weeks ago I had some time to kill between appointments.  It had been an emotional week, so I parked along the river to enjoy some quiet time.  I sat on a bench under the shade of a willow tree and let the quiet wash over me as I shared my broken heart with God. I turned my face into the breeze and felt His caress in it. I breathed deeply and listened for His voice of comfort.  I am so thankful for a God who reaches across the distance to gather us in His arms.

As I sat resting in the quiet, I noticed a man walking along the shore on the opposite side.
The river was wide enough I couldn't see his features, but the man stopped directly across from me and gazed my direction.  I don't know what held his attention -- maybe it was the college campus behind me.  There seemed something lonely and thoughtful about the way he stood there looking over to my side, though.  As I gazed back towards him, I considered the fact that we were so close, and yet so completely separated by the body of water. I thought about that as a picture of us and God. I thought about the illustrations which show Jesus as the bridge between God and man. And as I sat there watching the man gaze across the river, it suddenly dawned on me that there was a footbridge just a few yards to my left. The bridge was there: close, and easily accessible. It was an imposing presence in the sky if you just looked slightly downstream. Yet the man just stared across the river as if he wanted to cross but had no idea how.

That's when it hit me.... how many times is God providing a bridge for us... and we refuse to move even just a little to use it? How many times do we stubbornly insist that this is where we want to cross; where we think we need to be? How many times do we beg for Him to make a way... when the bridge is already there...? How many times do we just need to move... just a little... to where the bridge already is....???