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, hehumbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8
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.
Fireworks explode in the neighborhood as the clock struck 12. I walked into this evening with the utmost trepidation. Like Cinderella waiting for her beautiful dress to turn rags and her carriage to collapse. I, on the other-hand, was not wanting to catch a prince, or concerned with the fraying of an outfit. I was worried about the fraying of my soul. Walking into another year is painful.
Every New Year’s Eve for the past three years I have had company— whether I wanted it or not. It’s the company of my own grief. It sits with me latching on to my heart as the minutes climb closer and closer to the new year. It sits silently but ever so deafening. It weighs on my heart like a millstone. Tugged me down to a place I would never tread if it were my own choosing.
New Years is supposed to be a joyous time. But for me, it just represented the glaring unwanted fact that my Dad is one more year farther away from me. The only thing I could think to do to escape this night was to go to bed early and try to make the best of New Years Day. But it all hurts. Every year I wish I could rewind to a moment with him. Like last his last Father’s Day. He was so thrilled with the tools we gave him. And he couldn’t get over the fact that my sister and her husband had given him the trip to Grenada to see my brother. He never made it down there and he never used his tools.
For me, New Year’s Eve just makes another gash at my already wounded heart. This day, just uncovers the gaping hole in my heart that I normally cover up with a smile or a helping hand. But New Year’s Eve reminds me I can never outrun the pain. Part of me is dead and can never be revived.
But, tonight, I faced it. I acknowledge the pain and my unwanted companion. For the first time in a long time the tears flowed … and flowed steadily revealing the fountain of loss that will, in fact, always be there. And, as I sit on this hard floor wiping snot on my nightgown, I know my Dad would be proud. Because he never ran from pain or opposition. He took it head on. So, whatever your New Year’s Eve looks like, don’t be afraid to face it head on. To be fully alive means to fully feel. Which also means to fully grieve.
I don’t even have the words to express the emptiness now in my heart. I miss you so much. But, you’ve left me a heck of legacy to follow, and for that, I’ll plod on. Happy New Year. You’d be proud of the sibs and mom. We all miss you like crazy, but we are pressing on. Grandmom celebrated a milestone birthday… and get this… the Dolphins beat the Patriots last week! And Ezra got married. It was a great way to finish the year. Love you so much, Padge. Don’t have too much fun without us— just kidding I know you already are 💕!
I was said to have no friends and said I’d have many problems in the future.
I was accused of being a helpless victim.
I was verbally flogged.
Each word hurt more than the next
“You’re undermining me”, “You’re Judas to me.” The painful words flowed as each one ripped into my deeper into my heart and soul.
I am not perfect, but I meant no Ill will. I repeated to myself.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” was my echo trying to figure out why I couldn’t keep it together anymore.
Everything was unraveling… I’ve failed… I’ve corrupted all of this… Maybe I am cursed… Maybe I will always end up in these situations… Maybe this is why I’m not married… Maybe all these problems are because of me…
I questioned myself over and over and over again… I’ve failed… How could I not have prevented this? How could I not see myself as all these things? “You are wicked” I condemned myself… as I was being condemned…
Such hopeless days… I spent more days in tears than with a smile…
When life as I knew it was falling apart… I was being held… So close was His touch, his heartbeat, his whisper…
“This is not your battle… Let me handle it…”
Be still… Stay silent…
Don’t retaliate… Don’t talk back… So, I held my tongue…
Accusations still flew… Lies spoken over me… Physical reactions became undoubtably noticeable…
Be still.. Stay silent…
I cried night after night…
Be still, stay silent…
I packed up my life… Tears pouring out of my eyes… no clear direction to be seen…
Be still, Stay silent…
Friends started calling… Be still stay silent…
Until a call… A safe place for me to share my story… Stay still… BE honest…
I cried and nearly trembled as I shared … recounting the stories… Watching the dismay on the man’s face… I couldn’t read it… Maybe he thought I was making this up… My emotions had no where else to go… I felt torn apart… so vulnerable no longer knowing how to protect myself.
I finished and waited for his response…
“You did nothing wrong… I hope you walk out of here with your head held high…”
Words can pierce so deeply and heal profoundly… the same area damaged by the reckless words of an unstable person, began mending through a stable, faithful, kind man…
Words can tear apart a soul. Words can mend a soul. It can filet a heart beyond recognition , and yet somehow make it stronger than ever before. The deeper the wound, the greater capacity for compassion…
To the one who broke me— I don’t ever wish to see or hear again… But I am grateful for all the damage… because through it… I learned to be still to be silent and hear the One whose words spoke over me are more powerful than yours. And it is His words, not yours that brought me back to life.
He was still and was led silently a sheep to the slaughter… so that when He had defeated the grave… His words would hold the power of life and death… He speaks life… He hates death…
We celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 20th, and just 48 hours later, the World Trade Center lit up in pink to celebrate… a law that allows full term babies to be aborted.
This issue is personal for me because from 1984- 1993, the United States experienced the highest number of abortions. It was during those years, that me and my three sisters were born. It was also during those years that Hope Women’s Centers began. The place I now work. The place my Dad helped start 30+ years ago.
I cannot help but look at the number of abortions during those years and feel a deep sadness. Those babies were not just a “blob of tissue.” They were my generation.
They should have been my colleagues.
My partners in ministry.
On average, from 1984-1993, every year 1.3 million children were aborted.
Before I continue, I want to say, I know this is a very personal and tender issue for some. I am deeply sorry if you happen to be post abortive. I know that is a deep wound, and maybe you didn’t have all the facts you needed to make an informed decision. You are not alone. I am hurting with you, and If you need someone to talk with, please click this Hope Restored Program.
Francis Schaeffer once said, “Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front of it saying, “Open by the permission of the church.”
You may be wondering why I’m using this quote. It’s because 54% of women who get an abortion identify as “Christian.” One in every four women in the church have an abortion. The number is equally as high for men. Roland Warren, the CEO of CareNet, who Hope Women’s Centers is affiliated with said, “We have women at church on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday.”
This issue is not at our doorstep. It is an issue that had taken residence in our pews.
The Dalai Lama said this:
We are killing off the future.
We live in a society where life is no longer precious. We pass laws to take the life of not only a child, but also those who are disabled by assisted suicide. And Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 1.3 million individuals attempted to take their own life. 50,000 individuals succeeded in that attempt.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to STEAL, KILL and DESTROY”
Let me tell you, he is SERIOUS about all three. But, the last part of that verse says this?
“I [Jesus] have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”
That is our desire at Hope Women’s Centers (and should be of the church) We want women and men who find themselves in despair to know that LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Their life is precious and SO is the child inside.
Our God is the author of life. His name is Creator. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. That is who He is!
My challenge to every single one of us is that if you haven’t joined the fight for life that you would do that. Maybe it’s through volunteering or giving. Maybe it’s through praying for pregnancy centers and churches all across the world to fight for life. Maybe it’s to help someone who is struggling with mental illness. Or, maybe it’s to find healing from your own wounds, so that eventually you can help someone else with their wounds. There are a ton of ways to be involved.
My prayer for 2019, is that we would make God’s name remembered in Broward County by fighting for life. Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” We either serve the God who created life, or we choose the god of this age whose sole purpose is to, steal, kill and destroy. I pray we are a people who fight for the life of the unborn, the weak, and the outcast. I pray that we are a people who are known for their love. We have a hurting and broken community and world that needs the support of the church. Let it be said of us that we love, sacrifice and promote life wherever we are.
A year or so ago, I was struck by the fact that there was a woman I knew very well whose life was wrecked by abortion. I wrote this to help me see those who also might be dealing with their own heaviness for their abortion. I wrote this with all the love in my heart. I would be honored to help anyone carry their burden. It’s too heavy to carry alone ❤️.
She is your boss, your neighbor, your friend.
She wonders why and how she could put a life to an end.
She was not in a good spot financially when she decided.
Suddenly, she realized the lies she believed she’d been blind-sided.
She’s held this secret for far too long.
Silence is her cover and also her drinking song.
She cannot speak of the event that caused her excruciating pain…
The day that her baby was slain.
She walks around feeling not even half a human being.
She robbed a life from laughter, love, hearing and seeing.
The trauma of that day is seared into her soul.
Her heart once plenteous and abundant is now not even half full.
This wound is one similar to those in combat.
In theory, one solider returns unscathed and the other forever lost, but here is a fact:
That unscathed soldier is never the same. From death he may have been saved.
But it led him to consider his own encounter with the grave.
She is broken – a mother without a child.
She is depleted and the joy she experiences is so very mild.