The other day we were driving home from school and Emma said to me, “Mom, you remember your job of telling people about Jesus…how come you never do that any more?” Six-year-olds. You’ve got to love their brutal honesty.
On one hand, she was right. After a horrific year of grieving the loss of three babies and dealing with constant sickness and chronic pain…my life definitely looks different than when I first set out with visions of grandeur to reach the world for Christ.
I don’t tell a lot of people about Jesus, because I don’t see a lot of people in my average day. With three little ones to care for, a broken heart, and a very broken body, it’s literally a fight just to survive.
And on the other hand…I am. It’s broken, and complicated, and messy, but my life is still about telling people about Jesus…I just don’t think I care all that much anymore if I convince them of anything. Because if this last year has convinced me of anything…it’s that God does the convincing. He convinces us through His relentless and irrisistible grace. He convinces us through the sovereign stories He is weaving through each one of our lives. He convinces us through His writing, and right now I’m mostly just trying to survive the story being written by Him through each long day.
But for today, between dropping Emma off at school, visiting the DMV (Oh man, pray for me…), and getting my blood drawn for the millionth time…I’m going to tell some people about Jesus. And you’re those people today.
This has been…the absolute darkest year of my life. After loss upon loss upon loss of almost every single thing that was once precious to me, our life has come to feel very, very Job-like. We have lost three of our children, and with each one of them…lost our dreams for their lives. We have lost my health, and with that, our dreams for our life. And we have lost our innocence, and so very much of the joy that once defined our lives. I look back on pictures from the years before Charlie died, and I was just so happy. I didn’t even really know how happy, but it was happy. Back then sorrow was the occasional island. Now, sorrow’s the sea.
And on the worst of days, I have often wondered if I was going to lose my faith. A few months after Charlie died, we got three bills in one week all denying coverage of first Charlie’s birth, and then Sophie’s. It was like finding out that you suddenly owed $20,000 in medical bills all in one day. They sent us an apology letter three weeks later…but it was a long three weeks.
And though the stressful money crisis was an insult to deep injury, what I felt the most hurt by was that it seemed like we were being protected from nothing. Like there were absolutely no limits to the ways in which we would have to suffer.
I distinctly remember weeping in Reid’s arms, and then suddenly turning to him and asking, “What will you DO if I no longer believe in Jesus at the end of all this suffering?” And without a moment’s hesitation he said to me, “Then I will love you. And I will walk with you. And I will pray for you, and treasure you as my wife.”
Christians don’t like to talk about it, but just as gold is actually a weaker metal…faith is a fragile thing. And there have been so many times over the last year when I’ve felt very tempted to walk away.
But there is one thing about the Christian life that is really, really hard to escape…
What are you going to DO…when He alone has the words that give life? What are you going to DO when the One you have decided to follow, has suffered beyond your suffering? What are you going to DO when the One you follow has endured horrific suffering…simply because of His tenderness towards your plight, as broken, suffering humanity. Someone who willingly suffered because of you and for you…is Someone who is hard to walk away from on even your worst of days.
I would wake up so many mornings and think, “God, I don’t think I’m going to walk with you today.” And then…I’d go through the whole day walking with Him anyways. Or better put…watching Him walk with me. And that would be the day. Eat. Sleep. Wake. Repeat. Barely hanging on to faith, day after weary day.
I’m using past tense language here, but I had one of these days just the other day.
I have no idea what this week will hold. We could find out this Thursday at our doctor’s appointment that every single one of us have horrifically high mold toxicity. We could find out on Thursday that my condition is so serious that I’ll eventually have to live in a separate place from my family. We could find out on some distant Thursday down the road that I have cancer or vital organ damage. These are all very real and terrifying possibilities and each one actually happened to some of the the people who wrote me this week.
There are so many scary Thursdays left in all our lives. But I know that that famous little Footprints poem about the guy, and the sand, and the beach…isn’t just an attempt to be cute or quaint.
Jesus walks with you and me…through every single Thursday.
The week after Charlie died we dragged ourselves to a Grief Recovery Group. I remember almost nothing about the meeting, I was so totally and completely still reeling in pain. But I do remember that someone mentioned the Footprints poem to me. And I remember thinking that night as I sat there numb with pain, is the best thing about the poem is that the guy gets kind of angry. That he feels forgotten and forsaken by God. That he cries out with tears of pain, “Where were you?!” That he struggles with his story. I liked that about the poem…because it made it believable.
Because that’s what it feels like to go through catastrophic suffering. You don’t feel carried. You don’t feel like you’re on a beautiful walk on a breathtaking beach. You feel like you’re drowning. You look down at the sand, see one set of footprints, and feel completely convinced that God, wherever He is, is a million miles away. That’s the natural progression of extended pain.
I know this…because Jesus felt the exact same way. He actually cried out on the sand of His suffering, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He knows what it feels like to be in the middle of the poem. Only He actually was forsaken that day. It wasn’t just a feeling.
There is so much we just don’t know right now. We are waiting on blood tests. We are waiting on doctor’s visits. We are waiting for scary things like Sophie’s hacking cough and Freddo’s sudden nose bleeds, and Emma’s rapid weight loss…to have names. Names like “random childhood illnesses,” or names infinitely more scary. There’s lots of waiting going on around here right now, but I’m going to have a rare missionary moment and tell you something about Jesus…
He waits with me.
Every time I go in for another painful blood draw…He holds my other hand. Every time I look at my sleeping children and wonder if we’ll even get to keep the little ones still in our lives…Jesus is there at bedtime. He kisses the cheeks, and tucks in the covers, and stands there weeping with me. I believe deeply in His sovereignty over every moment of our story. But that doesn’t mean that I do not think He weeps right over the fresh ink.
The Jesus who wept at Lazarus’ grave…is also friends with me.
Sometimes, I feel His nearness and His presence. Sometimes I feel deeply abandoned and unprotected from pretty much everything. But regardless of my feelings….there are things promised to me.
He is the God who picked the paths we’d take. “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
He is the God who walked this very sand. “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
And regardless of what we can see and feel on any give day…He is the God who carries. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
I know this, because if He wasn’t…I would not have made it to this day. I have been literally picked up and carried through a whole year full of days where I have simply felt too weak and broken to even keep on walking.
And through another scary week…I am banking on His promise that He is the God who carries. That He is “faithful when we remain faithless.” That He is faithful to the stories He is writing.
And that He looks down on us fragile humanity, who have put our trust in His Son’s suffering, and says just like Reid once said… “No matter what, I will love you. And I will walk with you, and I will pray for you. And I will treasure you as my wife.”