My Rights

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I was about eight years old the first time it happened. I was playing outside with my friends when the dog across the street broke loose. He charged, I ran, he attacked. I kicked and screamed as he bit and tore. Finally, my friend Victoria got my parents and my dad was able to get the dog off. I really have every right to fear dogs, but I don’t.

Around nine, my friend Victoria dared me to swim across her pond. Not one to turn down a dare, and feeling pretty confident in my swimming skills, I gladly accepted the challenge. Kicking my shoes off, I stared across the dark water and a memory of nearly drowning in a different pond a few years earlier, flashed through my mind, but, it was a dare, so I jumped in. I made it almost all the way across before I started to cramp up. My logic was to drop deep, kick off the bottom and finish the swim. As my feet sunk into the thick mud at the bottom, panic set in. I was stuck, fully submerged, and fear made logic seem ridiculous. I’m still not certain how I got free, but as I crawled out of the water on the other side, I vowed not to swim in that pond ever again. I really have every right to be scared of the water, but I’m not.

It was September 2001, we had just gotten back from a family vacation, when I woke up unable to feel my legs. Being only 12 weeks pregnant, I knew something was wrong. I woke Jim up and feared the worst. Knowing that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal, we rushed to the ER where they quickly prepped me for surgery.  The baby was gone and my life was hanging in the balance. I really had every right to be angry at God, but I wasn’t.

In January, I sat in a hospital waiting room, surrounded by family and friends, struggling to understand how and why I was chosen to live the life that was laid out before me. I have every right to be bitter, to be selfish, jealous or full of rage, but I’m choosing not to be.

I was thinking about my rights today, as I was evaluating how far I have come in 9 months and how far I still have to go. I wondered about the stages of grief and the fact that, although all those feelings are perfectly normal (believe me, I have gone through all the stages, multiple times), they are not campgrounds for me to pop a tent at and vacation.

As a believer, I have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in me. He has called me to live a life filled with things like love, joy, peace and patience, not hatred, jealousy, envy and strife. Of course, there is room to let feelings come and go, God understands that about us, but I don’t have the right to live in that. If I choose to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh, then I need to deal with any emotion that doesn’t line up with the Word of God as a potential threat. When I begin to believe that God has somehow made concessions for me because of what I’ve been through, I am essentially saying that my flesh has the right to lead my Spirit, His Spirit.

Allow yourself to feel what you feel, especially when your grieving, but don’t set up camp. I heard someone say once that we can’t judge ourselves on what we feel but by how we act, and I agree, but the Bible says that out of the heart the mouth speaks, so how I feel can quickly become how I act if I’m not careful.

Maybe I do have the right to feel and act a certain way right now, but I believe I laid down my rights when I picked up my cross.

 

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My Rights

Grief

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Grief…

It’s a lot like being robbed.

I only say that because I know grieving and I know being robbed.

It happened about 12 years ago. Evelyn and I came home after dropping Grace off at school. I unlocked my door, went inside and began my morning routine. After an hour or so of cooking and cleaning, I went to sit down at our computer only to find it missing. I didn’t even think about a break-in, after all, I came home to a locked house, nothing was out of place, no drawers were ransacked, no tables overturned, nothing like the movies. I called Jim to see if he or his brothers had the computer. I can vividly remember what he said,

“Sara, go check your jewelry box.”

As I lifted the lid, my heart sank. All of a sudden, my house, my home, my sanctuary, became foreign to me. The safety I had always felt was immediately stolen from me, along with so many earthly possessions we held dear. Not knowing if the thief was still in the house, I grabbed Ev, went outside, called the police and then called my dad.

About nine months ago, we were robbed again. Only this time, when I called Jim, his words to me were,

“Sara, she’s gone.”

As I dropped to my knees, again my heart sank, only this time much deeper. I felt my security stripped away once again. I began to feel like I was living a violated life. I never asked for this. I didn’t deserve this attack. But nonetheless, grief had robbed me.  

Twelve years ago, a thief took my jewelry, our computer, our video camera and bag, along with most of our home movies. Nine months ago the thief stole so much more.

What does grief steal?

It steals your identity. Who you were, your joys, your pleasures, your singularity. You lose yourself. Sometimes the person in the mirror becomes unrecognizable. You hate that face that stares back at you with hollow eyes.

You hate the random emotions that surge out of control, just under your skin. Ranging from a deep desire to protect everyone, to wanting to run away and be alone. Anger can burn steady and compassion rain down, all while jealousy laughs at you and love holds your hand.

You spend a good portion of your time looking back. Thoughts like “if only it was last year at this time,” “if only I had driven that day,” “if only life were different.” And with all the turning around, the future becomes very uncertain. Where you once planned vacations, you now hope for a day with no tears. Where you once hoped for sunshine, you only plan to get out of bed.

Grief can ransack your home, stealing all you hold dear, but still leaving everything looking exactly the same. I can walk into a room filled with familiar faces, wearing the smile that everyone is accustomed to seeing, chatting and engaging in conversation, and feel completely alone. I have lost so much. I feel so robbed. I know nothing will ever be the same.

When my house was robbed all those years ago, I needed to call the police, of course, but my second call…I needed my daddy. I needed him to wrap his big arms around my trembling fear and assure me that he would keep me safe. And he did.

When my life was robbed in January, I needed to make some calls, I needed to tell people what happened, but my first call…I needed my Abba, my Father. I needed Him to remind me that He was, in fact, holding my life, holding my ache, my pain, my hurt. And I needed Him to remind me that He was now holding my Grace. I needed to hear His voice, His Word, reminding me who I was in Christ and reminding me of my future hope.

We never did catch the first thief, nor did we ever see our items returned. But grief…I have caught this thief, and I plan, by God’s goodness and mercy, to see everything it has stolen from me, fully restored. If not here, if not now, then when I hear His voice saying,

“Sara, it’s time to come home.”

 

Grief

Hold on…Let go

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A month or so after the accident, an opportunity to volunteer on the playground, at the school, presented itself. I quickly jumped at the chance for two reasons. First, I love spending time with kids. They rarely ask questions, they don’t notice if your eyes are red and puffy, and they just live to enjoy life. I needed to be surrounded by some old-fashion joy. Second, being home, especially alone, is a torture that few can understand. Alone, with my thoughts, fears and sadness, walking through rooms that, not that long ago, were filled with laughter, silliness and hope, is a place I try not to put myself in too often.

I still work on the playground, once a week, for only an hour, but in that hour, I have the chance to play. I watch routines on the bars, play catch with whatever they are throwing and, everyone’s favorite, push the six kids that made it to the swings the fastest, while everyone else waits in line for their turn.  

Some want an underdog, some want a slow push and some just want to swing themselves while talking to me about the woes of elementary school life. I love it.

I find myself saying two statements though, over and over again.

Hold on and Let Go

I tell them to hold on when I’m about to push. Hold on with both hands. Hold on tight.

And when they slow down enough to jump off…I tell them to let go. Let go with both hands. Let go or you’ll get hurt.

I’ve seen the ones that don’t hold on tight when I push. They end up swinging lopsided, on an angle, almost colliding with their neighbors.

And I’ve seen the ones that don’t fully let go when it’s time, trying to jump while still holding the chain with one hand. They usually end up flat on their backs, laying in the woodchips, wondering where they went wrong.

Today, I realized how often I make both of these mistakes in life.

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold on unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Holding on to the promises of God allows me to swing straight when I get pushed or challenged. Loosening my grip, even just a little, leaves me feeling on edge, uneven, angry and bitter. It can cause me to collide with those on the same path as me, sometimes with my words, sometimes with my actions, but always affecting more than just myself.

At the same time, though, not letting go, when God says to let go…

Philippians 3:13 “But one thing you need to do is forget (let go) of what is behind you and reach forward to what is ahead. Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Letting go of the past, the pain, the hurt, the confusion and letting go with both hands, allows me to land firmly on my feet, when God calls me deeper. If I try to hold on, even with just one hand, I will find myself on the ground, struggling to understand where I went wrong. Burdens still strapped to my back and sore from the fall.

So remember today, on this rainy October 1st….

Hold on to His promises and Let Go of the pain.

Hold on…Let go