This is my twelfth blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. Would you like to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree? See below for how you can go into the draw to win this wonderful prize.
Isaiah 53: 3 – 10
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
God continued to build up my trust in Him over the coming months, with sermons, my daily One Year Bible Study readings and my attendance of our church’s Community Bible Experience playing an important role in grounding me in His Truth. Little did I realize that God was preparing me for much greater heart transformation.
Around this time, I returned home to my country of origin with my family, for my youngest brother’s wedding. It was an incredibly restful and blessed time, in which I truly savored the moments given to me. However, it was also a time in which the grief I felt, sharpened. At the wedding my heart ached for us as a family, but most especially for my little brother and my Dad. Later, as we returned to my parents’ home, I’d open the kitchen cupboards and just stand there in tears as I held dishes my Mom had so often served from. And I’d look at the sunroom and think back to only months before when it had served as a medicine room for the hospice nurses. Memories came flooding back of the horror of it all, but determined to not spoil our holiday I pushed them aside, choosing to dwell on the joy before me.
When we returned to my country of residence, I joined the Community Bible Experience. The Community Bible Experience brought the life of Jesus, his sacrifice and resurrection, which I’d come to know as a child, to life for me, as I read the pages of the Gospels, without the interruption of commentary, chapter or verse numbers. I vividly remember sitting there as the tears ran down my cheeks as I read through the crucifixion, understanding for perhaps the first time something of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Around the same time, I started reading Margaret Feinberg’s Fight Back With Joy. Margaret Feinberg’s words encouraged me to see the parallels between Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection and our own journey of faith. Her words of experience and those of Bonnie Gray’s I had read earlier, showed me how we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, into a life of grief and pain, but that it is in turning our grief and pain to God, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gesthemene, that our Lord is able to birth the most incredible joy from the depths of our brokenness, if we are prepared to open our hearts to it (p.72):
Sometimes we need to give space for grief in order to make room for joy. No one is immune to sorrow; and only those who learn to grieve well can capture the healing it brings. Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief. And just as night precedes morning, so joy comes in the mourning.
After reading her book, I started following her blog and it was in one of her blog posts that I came across a tool that God would use to unearth and express what I had repressed in fear: the Biblical-based practice of writing a Lament.
Not long after reading this post, my family all succumbed to a nasty flu and I found myself caring for others and unable to make them better. Without realizing it at the time, I was put into a situation which mirrored my experience of caring for my terminally ill mother months before. Even though I realized they only had the flu, subconsciously I was once again placed into a situation, where I felt I had no control, that I was powerless to help. And the same feelings that had consumed me as my mother lay dying started pressing down upon me. It was in turning to the writing of my own Lament that I was able to give voice to that which was suffocating me, as I began by writing freely what poured out of me, not stopping to judge my thoughts.
In writing my Lament, crippling images of the last few days of my mother’s life took shape, accompanied by a deep rooted anger at my helplessness and powerlessness to protect my mother, as the cancer shackled and broke her body before me. This deep, deep anger was accompanied by feelings of aching loneliness, overwhelming despair, of helplessness, exhaustion, of motherlessness and of homesickness. Then, following Margaret Feinberg’s instructions, I turned my head and heart to God. In doing so, God’s promise never to leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31: 6) and His revelation that he has felt and carried my pain (Isaiah 53), led me to write the following words in response:
God is showing me that it is only in recognizing the brokenness of myself and this world that I can fully yearn for a heavenly reward – a reward where no more tears will be shed and we will be reunited with Him, the One who holds us together, shaping us into who we were meant to become… I trust my Lord and Saviour in this heartache, that He is breaking me to make me new in Him.
It was both an excruciating and hope-giving exercise. And it is this hope I tried to hold onto with my birthday looming, a day on which I most dreaded the absence of my mother. Trying to be thankful for the gift God had given to me in her, I wrote a piece describing what God had gifted to me through her presence in my life. However, the overwhelming grief only sharpened in doing so. I did not yet understand that deep trauma lay beneath it all, a trauma God was working to fully expose, with all the fear it entailed, to reveal the power of His redemptive hope and healing love.
Psalm 107: 19 – 21 (NIV)
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
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