In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5. (NASV) In the beginning, I was a child. I was a child that imagined a huge God and a small Jesus. My most vivid memories of Jesus are during Christmas—particularly Christmas Eve. I remember staring out of a window and imagining a bright star, a bumpy donkey ride, and an infant wrapped in white blankets—the Son of God. I couldn’t wrap my tiny, inexperienced brain around the incarnation, but I unquestionably accepted the truth of it and wondered at the miracle of it. The light of Jesus eventually carried me through some extremely dark times. At times I felt lost in the darkness and tried to make sense of it through my own machinations. As I peer back through the years, I can see how futile my machinations were—nothing achieved except digging myself deeper into darkness. Yes, I’m keeping this metaphorical—certain things need to stay metaphorical. And Cindy Lou dwelled in darkness for seven years—for seven years she wrestled with God Almighty. Anyone who has studied the Old Testament or Revelation totally gets God’s sense of humor here—seven is the Old Testament number of completeness. I see the irony now…not so much then. And her children suffered. And her family suffered. It haunts me still…what I put my children and family through. My children bear the deepest scars. Eighteen years later I still struggle with forgiving myself. Only through God’s grace and mercy do I find the ability to move through this life. Only through God’s grace and mercy do I walk in light now instead of staying bogged down in the darkness. I pray daily that my children will forgive me. I’m so proud of the adults they are now. And I pray daily that my children will continue in God’s light, walking continually in his grace. Eighteen years later, I see how God kept his hand of grace over me despite my anger and rebellion:
- My children. They were my comfort and joy. My anchor.
- My parents. They acted as God for me when I no longer listened to Him. My mother learned to give my daughter her insulin injections while I went to school to finish my English degree. She watched my sons and daughter while I studied and worked. She protected them. She loved them unconditionally. My father gave me a home. He provided for me as I wallowed and rebelled. He pointed me towards teaching when I couldn’t focus on a career goal. He swept the pavement outside my house so I could rollerblade without stumbling on gravel. Talking about a metaphor for God’s protective hand!
- My family. They didn’t understand, but they loved me. They loved my children. They helped me through the darkness.
- My friends. They surrounded me. One in particular pointed me towards the contemplative Christianity that started me journaling prayers and questions.
- My husband, Steve. Fifteen years ago God heard my loneliness. He brought me Steve. He is my best friend and partner in this journey.
- My students. They loved me. I’ll never understand. I always felt inadequate to the task. They were…and are so brilliant. They pushed me to learn more.
- My children. Again and again.
I am still a tad dark and twisty. I don’t always see the silver lining…ok, I rarely see a silver lining. I know how hopeless life feels. Shoot, I taught literature for 20 years; I totally understand the hopelessness, as well as the dark and twisty. I could go on forever about literature and the human condition it illustrates. Most novelists search for truth in their works of art, whether that truth is an internal truth that comes through suffering (ahhh, the Russians) or through relationships with nature, people, or culture. Few ever point to God, except metaphorically, and often God is an abstract, distant God who rarely intervenes in humanity’s suffering. Literature sometimes concludes with an epiphany of some sort. I love that. I love the epiphany. I had that epiphany 18 years ago. It was an act of God’s grace. Yesterday our pastor began our study of Galatians. Grace vs. Law. He gave one of the best illustrations of grace I’ve ever heard. I’ll paraphrase: Imagine you’ve been dropped in the middle of the Gobi Desert (he mentioned a hot air balloon accident). You’re lost. You’re thirsty—dying of thirst. Freezing at night, melting during the day. And then you see a rider in the distance—a Mongolian (of course) who knows the desert—knows where villages are located—where water and relief can be found. He reaches you, climbs down from his horse and gives you a sip of water (he needs to keep enough for himself—duh). Then he draws a map in the sand pointing you in the direction of the closest village, after which he rides off leaving you to save yourself. Then imagine the same scenario, only this time the rider gives you a full container of endless water, scoops you up in his arms, and carries you to his home. To salvation. He saves you because you can’t save yourself. Oh my. I weep. Grace. I was lost in the desert trying to follow a map of my own making. Trying to make meaning of the darkness. I’ve dwelled in the valley of the shadow of death. Grace swooped down and carried me. Praise Jesus. He swooped down and carried me in his gracious arms. Darkness loses: Grace wins. I will serve Him forever.
Photo credits: License: <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a> photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/108716348@N08/15035388844″>FV7A9761</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>