Resurrection Sunday in the ICU
This is too true and too needed not to re-share…
Resurrection Sunday in the ICU
This is too true and too needed not to re-share…
I’ve been thinking a lot about this… Of all the ways for God the Father to prove His Lordship, why did He choose to lose His son to the grave?
He could have done it a million other ways, yet He chose the most painful, the most devastating, the most earth-shattering way. Why?
Since losing my dad, I’ve experienced scenarios that brought me right back to death’s door, whether it be in ICU with a family I know, at a hospice bedside, or over the phone with someone whose world has just been shattered by the loss of the one their heart loved.
As I ponder the grave and the ruinousness of death, I believe God allowed Jesus to experience death because it’s the hardest thing we wrestle with on earth. He did it so He could proclaim this: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) to our weary souls.
I realize, after experiencing and facing my grief, God in His mercy has given me opportunities to step into several friends grief. In every situation, two things take place. The first is my heart breaks all over again. The second, words always fail.
It’s a horrible and humbling place to be welcomed into someone’s pain. Because you wish with everything in you that you could take their pain away, you can’t. And you know what an arduous journey awaits them, and it hurts to see another life altered by death. But what you can do is enter into that journey with them. Whether it be sitting with them in shock, crying with them, or being their sounding board when their anger and frustration comes flying out.
This brings me back to the grave — I couldn’t see it when I lost my dad, but I am reminded of this (again) now. Maybe the reason it felt like I couldn’t hear God speak during those horribly dark days was that He was sitting with me in my pain. And looking back, I’ve seen His footprints beside me through each year since the accident.
So if you’ve lost someone, know that God may be silent because He’s weeping with us. He knows that pain better than anyone. His grief has become our safe harbor, our refuge when it seems like no one else understands the loss. He does… and He conquered it…
As Elisabeth Elliot once said: “Of one thing, I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8
On this Good Friday, I hope you take a moment to listen to this song: Grave, by Cochren & Co.
Whenever there is a topic I can’t quite seem to get out of my head, I know it needs to be addressed in writing rather than in my own head.
Several months ago, my friend suggested I listen to a podcast about Christians who “deconstruct.” I did, but to get more context, I listened to two stories of individuals who shared their deconstruction stories.
If you’re not familiar with that term, this is the definition from Merriam-Webster:
1: a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers
also: an instance of the use of this method a deconstruction of the nature-culture opposition in Rousseau’s work
2: the analytic examination of something (such as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy
It took me a week to get through the testimonies and then back to the original podcast. It was all so heavy, and I couldn’t listen to it all at once. I had to listen in small increments. But as I listened to the stories of these two individuals, a part of me found something familiar with what they were saying, and I couldn’t pinpoint it until later.
And this was this: deconstruction reminded me of grief… it reminded me of suffering.
How? Because grief and suffering deconstruct us. It tears all the superficial things away; it shatters us in a million pieces. It’s like being plunged into the sea, not able to breathe, getting all turned about, and not knowing what’s up and what’s down. It’s like a vase that is dropped on the tile floor, which shatters into a million pieces.
Definition of suffering
1: the state or experience of one that suffers
Suffering can be the loss of something… a relationship, a job, something physical you were once able to do. It’s pain, heartache, crushing anguish.
Luke 9:22-25 says, “And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’”
Hebrews 5:8 says, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
It is in our nature to avoid pain and suffering. We try and outrun our grief and hurts. We pray for grace and mercy, but what if our suffering and loss, in the long run, is actually the grace and mercy we are praying for.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I’m not saying I always like it. Lord knows I don’t. But, ultimately, we are here for the glory of God. To be conformed into the image of the Son. And how else does that happen in the absence of suffering? Because what you were before suffering and grief, you will not be the same after. Because suffering and grieving, after it’s done its work, reconstruct you.
I believe every believer in Jesus needs to go through a deconstruction stage because we, as humans, need a reminder that this place is not our home. We are not the king of our lives, and this life is not about us. And I believe suffering is the grace God used to keep us from total deconstruction.
“For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.” Job 5:18
Just before 5pm, I threw my car in park. This might not sound strange except that I was on the on-ramp to I95. After sitting for at least five minutes, I decided to step out of my car and see what was going on.
Cop cars were blocking the ramp… and I95 Northbound looked like a ghost town. Not a single car was headed North. A few other people began to step out of their cars to satisfy their curiosity.
Was the president in town? Who else would have I95 blocked at rush hour? I stood behind the cement wall looking for any movement. And then in the far distance, coming from the South, I saw flashing lights.
My anticipation for action quickly faded into the sober realization of what was unfolding in front of my eyes. It was the funeral procession for Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. My heart sank.
After the motorcade of an entire special forces community passed, I drove the rest of the way in silence. I didn’t want the radio on. I didn’t want to listen to my audiobook. Despite the beautiful weather, the air was heavy — as was my heart.
Suddenly, from the recesses of my brain, a text message I had gotten on the anniversary of Dad’s passing came to mind.
“Hey girl, I just wanted you to know I’m making space in my heart for you and your family today.”
Having received this from my friend who’d lost her dad unexpectedly just five months before me, meant a lot.
There was something about those two words: making space that comforted me. This friend knew that grief carves out space no one wants, yet its unwelcomed presence persists while everyone else’s lives seem normal.
Today, a lot of Broward County residence made physical space on I95 for two heroes to receive Presidential treatment. But, I want to make more than just physical space for them. I want to make space on this page for them — they deserve it.
I would have loved to meet Daniel and Laura. To hear about their work, their families and what made them want to serve our country by helping to save children from disturbed women and men.
I hurt for their family members who I’m sure got home tonight and no matter how full their house might be— it feels empty. I hurt because I know over the next few months/years they will want to tell their loved one about their day and how hard this season is… without them. To Daniel & Laura’s family, know that I am praying for you, and today…
I am making space for Daniel and Laura. I will make space by telling those still here how much they mean to me.
I hope today, in honor of Daniel and Laura, you will also Make Space.
In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. Proverbs 21:1
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel 2:21
Do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?
15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animalsenough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.
18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? Isaiah 40:9a-18
As I lay down to sleep, it’s quiet. What a whirlwind the last year has been. Around this time last year, we were receiving reports of the coronavirus popping up outside of China. Now, we live in masks and bathe in sanitizer.
As we face another day in our pandemic world topped off by a changing of leaders, rumors run like wildfire. Yet, I am reminded that our tomorrow is NOT promised. And we, as believers, are NOT given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
We were redeemed, purchased, bought with the precious life of Jesus. Although things have and will continue to change in our world, our citizenship has not (Philippians 3:20)! We come from a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28)! Our commanding officer had not changed. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Lastly, our mission has not changed (Matthew 28:19-20).
So whether the guy you voted for didn’t make it. Or whether the guy you voted for is taking office, or whether the guy you voted for is leaving. Our God is still King. He made all men in His image. He knows how many hairs are on their head and how long their days are on this earth. And, He knows that about you and me too!
Our Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Warrior, The Alpha and Omega, the King of King and Lord of Lords is still on His throne. And NOTHING is impossible for Him. It is at His name that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.
Do not grow weary in doing good, friends. Our mission is still the same to bring honor and glory to our King. To make much of Him and His office.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
“Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” — C.T Studd
As the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, the government called for “Essential Businesses” to stay open. As we all know those employed at these businesses were then called Essential Workers. They were required to show up day after day to keep life functioning.
In addition to this, the US recently had an election. Yet, what was most glaring to me wasn’t the two candidates, but the policies. Policies that shouldn’t have fallen into the government’s hands in the first place. Let me explain.
“Care for the widows and orphans.”
“Feed the hungry”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Speak the truth in love.”
Sound familiar? These are commands that Jesus gave us – His church. Essential workers should be the church. We should be the ones showing up for those who need help — not the government. We should show up NOT because we are better than anyone, but because Jesus was broken for us and we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6). How much pressure do we put on the government simply because we haven’t stepped up to care for those around us? Please know I include myself here. If we gave generously, would we need welfare? The list could go on and on.
A few weeks ago, I was watching Joe Vs. The Volcano with my friend Connie. In the movie, Joe says, “only a few of us are awake.” Are we, as the church, awake? Or are we laying on our spiritual couches? Or hiding out in fear? Again, preaching to myself.
My former pastor, Leroy Hill, said, “the coronavirus got us so scared to die; we forgot how to live.”
I know we live in a fallen world, and life is a lot more complicated, but my challenge is to myself, and you are how and what are we doing to impact our community? And, if we already are, can we do more? Can we put our agenda on hold and see what God’s agenda is for us?
I recently wanted to undertake a challenge— mind you, it was for a great cause, but the initial cost to join was way more than I thought. I was so discouraged. I was like, how am I going to do that?! I felt like the Lord gently corrected me by asking me, “Christi, is this about the people you’d be raising funds for? Or is it about you?”
Until that moment, I genuinely thought it was for the cause and the people, but I realized it was more about me. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have done things for me. I don’t want to be known as remarkable person but as a servant of Jesus Christ. Because apart from Him, I can do nothing! Absolutely nothing!
Are we hunkering down in fear? Or are we showing up day after day for those around us?
Proximity to pain can infuse courage; whereas, withdrawal can infuse more fear. I pray that we remember that this is NOT our home. We are just passing through. Friends, please do not forget that we come from a kingdom that has already overcame darkness and overcame death.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church (Ephesians 1:22). You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday (Psalm 91:5-6). The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1).
Through Christ, we have all we need, NO matter how hard difficult the days are. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3)
So, my question for us is, will the essential workers please rise?
I could feel my personal space begin to close…
Why?! Why do you catch me when everything is shut off. Why do you interrupt my silence? Haven’t you done enough? Taken enough? Why do you keep coming back?
Slowly walking towards me, I try and wrestle him off me… by now you’d think I would learn how to handle it…
I reluctantly give up my fighting. It is useless anyways. I collapse onto the sand and my grief sits right beside me. Like a friend who just wants to be near.
Why can’t you just let me live my life? I ask.
But, I am… this is a part of it.
How? You’re so cold, callous and evoke so much pain.
Without embracing me, as painful as it is, you will never fully live… it’s only when we lose that we gain.
How is that even possible? How could you say that?
We lose things, our work, or the people we love and we gain perspective. We see through the lens of loss, and in that others can gain from our seemly unbearable pain.
But why does it hurt so much? Why can’t you just not exist?
Because I remind you of what’s real. I remove preconceived notions. I remove the fluff, the surface level conversations. I strip away all the realities you have a tendency to create and remind you of the importance of not just life but this very moment. Each moment is a gift. You struggle with spiritually amnesia which is why I keep coming back.
Without me joy wouldn’t make much sense. Life is not a straight road but road through deep dark valleys and beautiful mountain peaks. It’s only when you embrace the sun setting, you gain an appreciation of the sun rising.
Were there no darkness you’d not appreciate the light..
You lose but you gain…
Reluctantly I, yet again, let grief be my friend. After he spoke, he didn’t speak again… his silence was deafening… but I know when these tears stop… I’ll have more room for the joy that I cannot see, but eventually will be…
Grieving in a way is an act of faith… It takes faith to let the pain flow up trusting that the joy will eventually fill you back up… knowing that one day He will wipe every tear from my eyes.
Have you ever needed to hear a great story? When I found “I am second” videos on YouTube, I devoured them. I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing.
I was in a very intense job at the time, and it was my day off. I was cleaning the house where I was living. When I heard the first story, I listened and cleaned the entire afternoon and into the evening. As soon as one ended, I’d click to listen to the next one. Mind you, these videos are, on average, 7 minutes. I just needed encouragement, and they were just what I needed.
From time to time, when I feel discouraged, I will scour the internet to find a good story. There’s nothing like a good story to lift your spirits. A good movie can do the same.
Recently, however, I found myself looking for another good story. I started listening to one, and instead of finding encouragement, I found frustrated. I think because as the woman (in the video) was telling her story, it was the story I wished/prayed would have been mine. I turned it off and then felt like the Lord was saying, “Why are you looking for your story in someone else’s story?”
That hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, how many times have I just blindly followed a narrative without considering where God might want to take me? Do I care what story He wants to write with my life? Or am I trying to write my own story and then try and fit God into it later?
Do you know how incredibly creative God is? I don’t, but the bits and pieces I see blow my mind! He doesn’t have a one size fits all formula when it comes to our lives. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Ps 139:3). Your story might look different. Everyone might not understand it, but God knows the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).
I was reminded of this a few months ago as I was thinking about a book idea. I paused for a moment and thought how incredible it is to have the privilege of writing a book and have it published by a traditional publishing house. I mean, how many people would kill for that opportunity. The crazy thing is I can take zero credit for it. I thought back to when I graduated from college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I never thought I’d graduate from college. I always assumed I’d get married and start a family.
But that day, as I thought about my book coming out, I realized if I had gotten married, I probably never would have pursued writing. I wouldn’t have the time to write. Plus, only the Lord knew that I had always wanted to write a book. I remember thinking as young as 12 that I wanted to write a devotional someday. I might have forgotten that for a few years, but He didn’t.
To wrap this up, I want to pull from the story of Ruth. She’s someone who didn’t quite do things the way she was expected to. After she was widowed, she was supposed to remain in Moab (modern-day Jordan) with her people, with her family. Instead, she left with her mother-in-law (Naomi) to go to a foreign country with no real prospect or direction. She knew that Naomi’s God was real and worth following, even if it meant a different narrative than what people expected her to have. Am I willing to do the same? To set aside what I think should be. To stop looking for my story in someone else’s story. To embrace the story God wants to write in my life. I can guarantee it won’t always be easy or comfortable, and people won’t always understand, but you won’t be alone, and it will be worth it.
So if you’re like me and scouring the internet to find a good story, let it encourage you, but we must try not to look for our story in another person’s story. Because ultimately, our stories should not be about us but reflect the creative, kind, good, intimate, gracious, just, and true author of the story.
July showers may not be something you think much about. Who would? It’s just a few minutes of crazy weather that eventually passes. It might delay your plans or mess up your hair, wet your shoes, but that’s it.
This week, of July showers, just seems angry. Crazy wind. Lightning out of nowhere. Huge raindrops. Dark skies. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t messing with me.
I ended June in the best way. I flew again. I took a road trip. I saw one of my best friends. I met a bunch of really amazing individuals. And I got to be a part of an unbelievable organization. One that I think is going to turn the world right-side-up in its own way. All weekend we discussed what it meant to carry each other.
But, this crazy weather has been a really crummy reality check. It’s like the dark clouds, and nasty rainstorms were a reminder. A reminder that said, “Welcome, again, to the most painful month of the year!”
This month marks three years since my Dad left this world… For those who don’t know, it was partly because of the “crazy weather” he was driving through.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven through the rain with knots in my stomach while fighting the grief that wants to suck me into a dark hole. Or, how many times I’ve tried to wrap my head around the fact that my Dad, who was the best driver I knew, was taken in the way he was. My head would spin around and around, but each time around, it never got any clearer. And, with the coming of July, sleep has become difficult.
While running an errand for work today, lightning struck very close to me, and the sky opened up. Facing the elements of July is exhausting. Driving a single mile sometimes feels like 100. But as I drove, a song came on, and it was just what I needed…
“White lights and desperation
Hard times and conversations
No one (No one) should ever love me like You do….
Last night, confidence was shaken
My wounds and my past was saying
No one should ever love me like You do
Oh, while I’m on this road, You take my hand
Somehow You really love who I really am
I push You away, still You won’t let go
You grow Your roses on my barren soul…
The way I push You through it what You had to see
I’m a train wreck, I’m a mess, You see the best and the worst in me
Still I can’t imagine that I’ve learned Your trust
I don’t understand where Your love comes from…
Who am I, who am I, who am I, to be loved by You?”
Hearing the lyrics made me cry. Because the day, I heard my sister say, “I don’t know if Dad’s going to make it.” My world, as I knew it, shattered in a thousand pieces. My heart became unrecognizable. I didn’t know how to react. It was too much to process. So much hurt. So much confusion. I was angry. And for the first time in my life, swear words seemed to be the only way to express the pain now deeply etched in my soul. For months I couldn’t cry. I told God to stay away from me. I told Him He had nothing to say to me. I told Him He’d done enough. I questioned if following Him was worth it. I didn’t see a purpose for it. Why give me a good Dad and take him so unexpectedly and make my Mom suffer… again. Taking one husband wasn’t enough for Him?!
Hearing that song reminded me that over the months and years, He waited… patiently for me… He waited to pursue. He found a way to get through to me despite the agony I was in. He loved me even though I tried to throw my pain back in His face. Still, His love slowly broke through. And somehow, He’s used it all. Don’t misunderstand me; if I had the choice, I would choose my Dad back every time.
But, because He never left me, He somehow grew His roses on my barren soul. He gave me a voice that I could have never known was there. He’s helped me understand that when He sent Jesus, He sent Him to suffer with us so that I could learn how to suffer with others, which is a part of carrying each other. He brought me, people, to help carry my pain, so now I can help carry other’s pain.
He taught me that I am not a product of my own. No one is. I would not be who I am today if it had not been for those friends who showed up at the hospital. Or, for the friends who showed up at the service. Or, for the friends who reach out every Father’s Day to let me know they’re thinking about my family and me. Or, for those who say, “One thing I always appreciated about your dad is…” or for those who didn’t get to meet him who say, “I wish I could have meet him” or that “if he were anything like your family I know he was amazing.” And he was… it’s because of my family who taught me to be brave, and the friends who allowed me to talk through tears that I am still standing today.
I have been waiting for inspiration to come for a blog for weeks. For whatever reason, it came today. And, although I really didn’t want to share this, I hope it helps at least one person.
Because no matter what condition your soul, heart, or mind is in… God is still there. Not prying. Not condemning. Not angry. But hurting with you. And even if you feel like a “train wreck” or “a mess” He sees the best and the worst. He can handle our anger and frustration. He stays. He never runs away from us. He runs towards the ones who suffer. He’s not scared of our brokenness. He’s not scared of our emotions, and He’s not scared of pain. In fact, He carries us when we can seem to get out of bed. He sings over us when we can’t sleep. He cradles us and holds our broken pieces together. Because we are His creation, and it is who He is and what He does… He loves us for who we are… the good, the bad, and the ugly. He carries us, so we know how to carry others…
Listen to “Who I am” by Need to Breathe
I’m so thrilled to introduce you to my beautiful friend, Sarah! Sarah and I met through our mural friend Connie. We both were invited to go to The Rabbit Room’s annual conference called Hutchmoot. We quickly became friends. Sarah is a total gem. She is incredibly kind, thoughtful and honestly so beautiful inside and out. I am better for having her in my life. I didn’t know she had her own blog until just a few weeks ago and I asked her to be a guest on my blog and she graciously accepted!
So without further ado , please welcome, Sarah Rooker :)! To learn more about Sarah, I will post her website at the bottom of this blog.
Yeah, I get that. But, what if?”
My clammy palms were clenched in my lap as I precariously perched on the edge of my counselor’s sofa.
But I wasn’t there for my sweaty hands or my pounding heart. I was there because of my lungs. Well, actually, my throat.
Some mix of college woes had brought me to this deceptively comfy couch for the past few months. Roommates. Stress. The future.
But, on that day, there was a greater darkness that threatened to suffocate my thoughts- fear. Fear of death.
It had been five years since I had stopped breathing. Five years since my lungs had begged for mercy as my throat swelled shut.
Back in the room of a Peruvian clinic, my body had succumbed to an anaphylactic reaction of unknown origin. Spanish and English words flew around the room as I struggled to maintain consciousness. The darkness eventually won, and my mind faded to black. But kind and quick hands provided lifesaving measures, and I lived.
An experience like that changes a young woman. For years afterwards, I was lost in the throes of fear. I often quipped, “God gives me my breath. So, I’m good!” While secretly stuffing my epi-pen into my pocket, calculating the fastest route to the hospital, and keeping a finger on my pulse. I wish I was kidding.
Fear had consumed me.
Death was not the culprit of my frantic thoughts. The process of dying was. Or so I told myself.
Because I knew and believed that I would see Jesus at the end of my dying. But I wasn’t so sure about what would happen in the midst of my dying. The thought of again going without the oxygen that my body craved, terrified me.
So, there I sat, propped between throw-pillows, my fears bubbling in the back of my throat. Shortly I would be traversing with professors, professionals, and peers deep into a Guatemalan jungle to provide medical care to indigenous people.
After my anaphylactic emergency I had continued to travel. To Peru. Haiti. China. With my epi-pen close at hand. But, I had yet to go eight hours over mountains and rivers, deep into the heart of a jungle where plumbing did not yet exist, and satellite phones were spotty at best.
So, what if it happened again? What would I do if my unknown allergy came roaring back and I had to see death again? And what if, instead of just tasting it this time, death won?
My sweet counselor taught me a very useful coping mechanism. Just stop. Literally. When the swirling thoughts would come, all I had to do was imagine a stop-sign. And it worked. Temporarily.
Loaded with supplies, I timidly (and rather nauseously) rode that bus straight into a Guatemalan jungle. And then, I rode it back out. I had lived.
However, as it often does, fear continued to sneak up. Poking its poisonous head out at the most inopportune moments.
Often to fight those thoughts of fear we slap a Band-Aid of reassurance over it with a quick statement- “That’s highly improbable. No reason to fear that.”
So, what do you say to the girl who randomly had a reaction in the middle of a foreign country and tried to see Jesus? The chances of that are so improbable that I should buy a lottery ticket.
So, when I faced a fear, I could no longer use reason. Unreasonable had found me. And eventually the stop-sign method stopped working. Because stop-signs can’t really slow down a steam engine powered by fear.
Over and over, my heart and my mind were asking the same question. What happens when my worst fears come true?
Because they had. Death had found me. And regardless of how many epi-pens I carried around or how cautious I was, I knew that no amount of preparation or caution would prevent my fears from becoming reality.
I sat in that space for a while. Wondering how to calm my racing heart and quiet my screaming fears. Deep and dark. Unsure of how to live life when fear was strangling the very breath from within my lungs.
But then. Someone found me. Came to me. Rescued me. From every single fear.
His name is Jesus.
He came because of love. But, to be honest, I don’t understand why He came to me. He had given me extra years of life that fateful night, and I had squandered much of it away worrying.
So to know more of this man, who came to me despite my entanglement with anxiety, I have been reading of His life.
And lately, Jesus’s words in the book of John have taken my breath away. But this time, it’s a breathlessness that’s filled with hope.
Jesus tells His disciples that His Words would bring them peace and joy. Why? Because He had overcome the world and the day was coming when He would overcome death.
Not much later, Jesus died. The grave held Him for three days. But then, suddenly, it was empty.
That morning, a woman who had loved Jesus, Mary Magdalene, stood weeping by His empty tomb. But then the living, breathing Jesus approached her. And yet, she did not recognize Him. I imagine her distressed tears blinded her. Her worst fears had come true, after all. Her Lord was dead, and His body was missing.
But was He dead?
As her name left Jesus’s lips, she recognized who He was and fell at His feet.
Her worst fears had been redeemed. Jesus was not only alive, but He had defeated the very thing that afflicts all of humanity- death. Suddenly, He was not only her Teacher and her Lord, He was Her Savior.
There are days when the thoughts of my worst fears blind me. Tears stream. My throat tightens. But, then, a voice comes.
“Sarah.” It says. That’s all it has to say.
Lifting my eyes, I see what stands before me. Not a stop-sign.Jesus.
And suddenly I understand. Even if my worst fears come true. Even if I lose what I love. Even if my heart breaks into a billion pieces. Even if I am abandoned and alone. Even if I have no security. Even if my throat swells closed forever. There is hope.
His name is Jesus.