Today… is “Thank You” day. Well, at least, it’s supposed to be.
A few weeks ago, I had purposed in my heart that I would actually write a hand-written “thank you” to each one of the 899 people who have given us a gift on the Youcaring website. I bought ten black pens and hundreds of “thank you” cards, and strategically planned out exactly how I would thank those 899 people, and the hundreds of others who have loved us in so many ways over the last few weeks.
But honestly, I’m losing steam. I’m on #27…and my thyroid is throbbing. I have to ice my lymph nodes just to get through the day. My ear infection is back with a vengeance. And the kids are not doing well with the mold medicine today. My dream of 899 handwritten “thank you’s” is rapidly dwindling.
But I had really, really wanted to. Mostly because I just feel so, truly thankful. It’s one thing to have good reason to thank people. But I have more than just good reason…we are deeply, deeply grateful for the outpouring of love that God has lavished on our family over the last few weeks.
And I realized the other day just exactly why.
Reid’s little sister came for a visit this weekend, and she asked me an interesting question. She said to me, “Honestly, I’ve led a pretty charmed life. Why do you feel like I’ve loved you so well through this last year of suffering?”
And she really has. She has led pretty charmed life. And she has loved us incredibly well throughout this last year of life.
And as I thought through her question it hit me suddenly. It’s isn’t because she’s “been there.” She hasn’t. She doesn’t have children. She hasn’t buried a child. She hasn’t had a miscarriage. She hasn’t lost basically everything. She hasn’t had to deal with debilitating, mysterious, and daily physical pain.
And yet, she’s loved us like she has.
And then it hit me. “Jules,” I said, “You have loved us so well…becuase you act like it HAPPENED TO YOU.”
And that’s it.
And that’s everything.
There were days after Charlie died when Julie would text us just to share that she was having a really hard day because of the deep sorrow she felt over the loss of Charlie’s life. There were when days she felt really angry. There were days when she missed being his auntie so much she ached. There were days when she drove all the way up…just to help us with our kids, and our move, and our deeply broken lives.
It didn’t happen to her. But she acted like it did…and that was everything.
A few months ago my friend sent me an incredible book called “Out of the Storm.” It’s on the life of Job, and it ministered deeply to my heart as we limped on in the never ending storm of our lives.
One part in particular stood out to me…
“Let’s be honest,’ Job says. ‘Let’s have no more of this pious make-believe that it goes well for good people and badly for bad people. You look around the world and it’s simply not true. By and large people who could not care about God live happier, longer lives with less suffering than do believers. Why? What kind of God might it be who runs a world like this?’ We face hard questions like this in the book of Job.
But there are two ways to ask these questions. We may ask them as ‘armchair questions’ or we may ask them as ‘wheelchair questions’. We ask them as ‘armchair questions’ if we ourselves are remote from suffering. We grapple with God with ‘wheelchair questions’ when we do not hold this terror cheap, when we ourselves or those we love are suffering. Job asks the ‘wheelchair questions’.”
Few authors have truly put into words the battle we feel daily. But this is it. We went to bed on January 27th…healthy, and happy, and deeply close to God and grateful for our lives. And the very next morning, we woke up in a wheelchair. Broken beyond our wildest dreams. Emotionally wrecked beyond our wildest dreams. Spiritually threatened beyond our wildest dreams. We woke up in a nightmare. And it happened literally overnight. And it felt, and still feels, like we live our lives from a wheelchair of pain and suffering through each long day.
And all around me…are people in chairs far different than mine. Some live in armchairs, completely remote from our depths of suffering. They talk about suffering, and think intellectually about suffering, and comment on suffering…and though they haven’t suffered much, it’s at least on their radar. They at least try.
And then…there’s the beach chair peeps. Those people in our lives who live so totally removed from the realm of suffering that they simply cannot hang. Their lives are charmed beyond belief, in ways that are actually debilitating. And they can’t even grasp that you are in a wheelchair…let alone sit by your side.
But regardless what chair people happen to be sitting in, at this moment of their own stories, I want to make one thing very, very clear…
Love…isn’t about chairs.
Love…gets out of whatever chair you happen to find yourself in…and love acts like you also woke up one morning and found your life wrecked beyond belief.
And that’s why I feel so deeply grateful to the 899 plus people who have reached out to our hurting family over the last year, and especially over the last few weeks.
Every time you sent us a note of encouragement. Every time you gave us a gift. Every time you sent us something beautiful, and lovingly handmade. Every time you told us that you pray for us daily. Every single time it’s like you were saying, “I see you in that wheelchair…and I will not leave you alone and in that much pain.”
You act like it happened to you. And it has meant everything.
The friend of a friend whom I’ve only met once…who poured hours of love and time into an Instagram auction that raised $8,000 dollars for our family.
The twelve-year-old…who sent us his very own birthday money.
The couple in Botswana…who gave us $10 through the Youcaring website.
I know for a fact that that ten dollars would have gone a lot further in Botswana, but it meant the world to me that they would make such a sacrifice. It meant so much, because through their gift they were saying to us from oceans away, “I see you in that wheelchair, and I will not leave you alone in this much pain.”
That’s what love looks like. To do something…that means everything. To chose what is difficult, and unsafe, and inconvenient, and even scary. To leave your own chair…and move towards someone else’s pain.
On the night of the Instagram auction Reid and I went out on a date. While we were out I happened to check the auction bidding and was astonished to see that someone had placed a $500 bid on a butter knife. It was a little silver knife that said, “Spread the Love,” and it was certainly cute as far as butter knives go. But $500…that’s just crazy.
Everything was being auctioned off for far more than it was worth, and people were even bidding on things just so they could win them and send them to me. At one point in the bidding, I texted my friend. Her words will forever be imprinted in my mind as the ultimate statement about the last month of our lives…
There it is. A simple, and eternal truth. Forever recorded in a text message.
To love like we have been loved lately, well, that’s just plain Jesus. It is people being like Jesus. And it is Jesus Himself…loving us through His earthly Body.
I may or may not get to all 899 of the “Thank You” notes stacked up beside me. Honestly, it’s not looking too good at this point. But please know, from the depths of our being, how very grateful we are for the love you have shown our family. Grateful for your prayers. Grateful for your giving. And most of all, grateful that so very many of you, left chairs that may be quite different than ours…to sit a little closer to ours.
We have been deeply loved on by the Body of Christ…not necessarily by those members who have buried a baby, or who have had a miscarriage, or who have lost all of their earthly things…but by the people who have acted like it happened to them.
Such love has meant the world to our family…because Jesus did the very same.
I keep thinking of those words from the Bethel worship song that says, “What other King leaves His throne?”
It’s true. Who does that?
Jesus, who ruled and reigned for all eternity in the most majestic and glorious Chair…left that throne for you and me. He acted like sin, and death, and eternal seperation happened to Him…and loved us like it. By coming for you and me.
He touched with holy hands…dirty, bleeding bodies wracked with disease.
He sat right down in the dirt…next to hurting people in wheelchairs of every imaginable kind.
He came down…and bought $500 butter knives.
This is our Jesus. The one who left the best chair, for the worst. To love on you and me.
The last year has been a nightmare that I know we will never, ever fully recover from. Our bodies will probably never be the same after years of exposure to such a devastating toxic load. And our hearts will never be the same from the loss of such precious lives. I had to drive by the cemetery today where the body of my sweet baby is buried. I am not ok. And I never will be. We have lost beyond our wildest and worst nightmares for our lives.
But you have also given us something new to reconcile with…being loved by God beyond our wildest dreams.
Thank you for being like Christ. For sitting so close to us in our chairs. And for loving us in His name.