Monday, February 29, 2016

The Period.

There was a memorial service on Saturday, the leading up to which took over the life of a dear friend for a week. It was for her father-in-law, an enigma of a man and one who remains two-dimensional to me for all his unfamiliarity. I'll call him Jack.

His body was completely saturated with MRSA, a recurring condition for him, and finally, obese and fatally ill, he apparently died of heart failure. I was told that his wife is now experiencing what appears to be a celebration as she finds herself free of him and her years-long obligation to caregiving and to all his health issues. I'm left to wonder about his personality. No one wanted his ashes, not his wife or one of his three children. Brother, sister, cousin, friend...? My friend's husband eventually had to pick them up at the insistence of the providing facility. Their eventual resting place is as yet undecided.

A life lived on this earth is one sentence long. I imagine some kind of punctuation at the end of that sentence. Most of us get a period, others an exclamation point. The unborn may get parentheses. Some whose influence affects history for eons may have an ellipsis. I’m not sure what kind of life would end with a question mark, and certainly no one's ends with a comma.

For Jack though, I reckon the punctuation to be an image and a sound. It is the picture of a sad, frowny emoji. Granted, the only commentary I’ve ever received on his life was one-sided from my friend. It was never with bitterness or anger, just a straightforward account of some past occurrence. I cannot recall even one positive statement about him though in the almost-20 years I have known her.

Jack and his wife were part of a church that was constructing its building at one point. Because of his love of food, he ensured it would contain a large kitchen by financing that particular portion of production and furnishing. That's something. I would venture that most of us haven't done that.

I've never heard my friend's husband talk about his relationship with his parents. The few times the subject of them came up, it was a simple declaration of facts, eg., that they were moving to Arizona or moving back here or wanted someone's address. I never got the sense in any way that they were warm-fuzzy relations. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. I was always left with a kind of vacant feeling against the backdrop of the pleasant relationship I enjoyed with my own parents. Like opening a box you think contains a donut, only to see there's nothing in it but the filmy paper used to fish one out of the bakery case. A dab of frosting on it and the after-aroma of a donut, but that's all.

A life focused on self, resulting in the disdain and thorough disregard from those in his life who most woulda coulda shoulda loved and honored him…? If sadness is a sound, then I hear utter silence, the opposite of love being apathy. The absence of laughter at the retelling of favorite stories, quotable lines, the best holidays, fatherly moments, sentimental recollections. No nods of agreement at sharing the list of values, traits, and encounters that mark a man’s character. No missing his countenance or the sound of his voice, no wishing for just five more minutes, no savoring of his last words.

There is no grand sustaining of the last note as the credits fade.  No sniffling, smiles, or wet sleeves, no anticipation of the sequel or lingering hope because of the film's essential message. The final, sad comment on Jack's life is a shrug. When the dim lights come back up, the theatre is simply empty. The soundtrack of a life lived here to the exclusion of what God embodies and embraces can only close with a soft click of the power button.

The End

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dark Night of the Soul

The time may come when you must undergo your own dark night of the soul, when you must shadowbox your own demons and pray for the sweet relief of silence. If that time must come—and for all who would know Him for your own selves as He truly is and can manifest Himself in your life in all His fullness, it must come—I pray for you the tsunami of grace and Presence that are His heart gifts to His own floundering, suffering, bleeding lamb-child.

May you feel His tender care over you, the evidence of His fantastic Love overcome you in the darkness and life-save you in the slime pit. May you experience the same fantastic degree of kindness and forgiveness that were my own silken-wrapped presents. And may the full knowledge of your unworthiness cement the fact of your capacity for unspeakable evil apart from His glorious salvation. Then He can take those wretched pieces of you and restructure the foundation of your belief system, so you can truly believe and begin to live the Abundant Life you always knew was possible for others but not for you, as you victoriously limp now as His very own Beloved, the entirely new species He created in His Son, the only One in whom He is well-pleased, and in whom we abide and have our being and so are safe and Home.

This may sound like so much cotton candy, poetic license, and twaddle while you bear the bruises and sores from tethers of your own construction, but do this:  Stay in the battle. Be still and know that He is God. This is so not about you. Jesus is the hero. He is the protagonist, the main character in what you always thought was your story. Marinate in that. Let its truth flow into your deepest, lowest cracks. As it flows, as it pools, its holy acid strips the corrosion of lies and unbelief and replaces them with a coating of His own holy armor, cast and forged for you by His own precious blood, utter holiness, and furious Love.

This dark night will not be for nothing. It will be for your everything-from-now-on. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply". Let this painful experience have its way in His faithful, tender, good hands. The most influential people in my life have been those who have encountered suffering as a constant companion, an unwelcome guest in what seemed an otherwise a decent existence. The light shines brightest in the darkness and all that. It's true. I pray you own this for your own self and the exquisite, priceless bounty that will be its legacy to you.

Godspeed, beloved...