The Words in Red
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)
Yesterday my world changed.
Though I’m not sure how exactly, I know for right now – my world is different.
I’ve been through tests for multiple sclerosis before, but before it was just one part of my body. So when my eye began to twitch constantly I thought, ”Wow. I really AM that stressed out.” When my nose and mouth and chin joined in, I realized maybe this wasn’t simply from the fact that I am the woman of no sleep, too much caffeine, and not enough patience.
When the doctor told me it was back to the MRI drill, and the spinal tap talk started again, I have to tell you I cried all the way home. I looked in the mirror at my twitchy face, now a sure-fire match for Tabitha on Bewitched. Then I had a little mental breakdown on my husband’s shoulder.
Then I did what I hate to do, what I try so hard to never do – I got angry. I saw red … with the one person it seems so sacrilegious to put on your grudge list – God.
I think from time to time when the big things in our lives sneak up in the midst of the trivial stuff; we all get so comfortable in the everyday that we simply cannot fathom the thought of the extraordinary circumstance.
”Why me? Why now? I’m a good person.” These are words of a Christian who just realized the world isn’t fair.
While it takes something pretty hefty to make me see red with Him, when I do see red, I’m completely self-absorbed. I can’t fathom why bad things happen to me; why they happen to the people I love. What on earth could the cause of suffering be when you live in expectancy for a God who never fails?
If I told you I understood it, I’d be a liar.
But what I do understand is this: I’ve already been blessed beyond compare – a husband who has loved me since I was just a kid, kids who love me even when I don’t deserve it, and a Savior whose blood washed my sins white with red … even though He knew sometimes I would see red with Him even though He didn’t deserve it.
I think God is a God we can be honest with. The truth shall set you free He says. But in the truth of our circumstances we must also look for the Truth of the words of our Father. “Do not fear for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10) He says: “If I be for you who can be against you.” (Romans 8:31) “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) “Call to me and I will answer thee. I will show you great and mighty things that you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
The words in red – they mean the most.
When life doesn’t make sense, when the world is crashing down on your rooftop and the wolf is at your door, take heart. Baby, He’s got you … no fear.
Take your sickness and your sadness, take your worry and your regret, take your blame and guilt and totally-broke-down/falling-in-a-rabbit-hole life, and let the red you are seeing … be transformed by the words in red.
Meant for More
Meant for More
by Kelly Givens, crosswalk.com
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
The other day I watched a video on YouTube that totally pulled at my heart. It showed two dozen ducks being introduced to a pond for the first time; the ducks had been “pets” of a hoarder who had kept them in pens all their lives. After being rescued and brought to a pond, the frightened ducks kept their distance from the water, unwilling to go in. The rescue workers herded them into the pond, but the ducks immediately got out. Finally, the workers gently tossed them in one at a time. That seemed to do the trick- they began tentatively swimming, then diving under and splashing themselves in the cool water. Eventually, they were all vigorously grooming themselves- probably feeling more refreshed, clean, more like ducks than they had ever felt before.
I wonder what thoughts the ducks might have had while they were in those pens. Did they ever wonder – “Why do I have these wings- what are they for? And why are my feet so awkward?” The joy they must have felt when their webbed feet first glided through water and their wings spread out with room and air to soar, when those unnamed desires- to swim, to fly– were first named and fulfilled. And then I think of how much they resisted getting in the water in the first place.
We are so similar to these ducks. We too have unnamed longings, unanswered questions about our lives here on earth. The world doesn’t satisfy us, it lets us down, but we don’t know where to look for more. We see this in the football champion who wakes up after the biggest game of his life and all he feels an empty, “What’s next?” Or in the young executive who climbs the corporate ladder, believing the next job title will finally make him significant. We see it in the teen who does harder and harder drugs on a never ending quest to reach a high that will erase all the lows of her life. We all have an emptiness inside we want to fill, a purpose in life we want to find, questions we want someone to answer.
The Christian narrative gives us these answers. Christ fills us up, he gives us purpose- but we have to be willing to “get in the water”- believe in him- to experience these things. We yearn for more because we were created for more- for eternal life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Through faith in Jesus, we’re given purpose for today and in the days to come, and satisfying joy when we live for God’s glory and not our own. Sadly, we resist believing this good news because we think the world can give us what we yearn for. To think this way is pointless, a “chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 1:14)
C.S. Lewis wrote about our longings for more so exquisitely. My favorite of his writings comes from the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Last Battle, when those who have faithfully fought for Aslan and Narnia are finally entering the “New Narnia,“ Lewis’ version of the new heavens and new earth. The Unicorn summed it up beautifully: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”
“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you,” I chanted in my head as I stepped out of the kitchen and into the garage to call my husband Rob with the news.
“It’s in both lungs,” I uttered when he answered his office phone.
“Okay,” he said, “I figured it was.” Rob guarded his heart by preparing for the worst outcome when it came to our son Zach’s bone cancer. “Are you doing okay?” he asked.
I tended to hope for the best – the chemo was working and scans would be clear, so it took me a little longer to steady myself when the bad news came — and came often during Zach’s battle. But I was getting better at it with each blow; I was learning to trust God instead of fearing the uncertain future that lay ahead.
“I’m good,” I replied. “God’s grace will get us through. It has so far.” There was a peace that came with the words.
Over the years of Zach’s battle with cancer I had learned that detachment, the spiritual exercise of letting go of the created in favor of the Creator — the finite in favor of the infinite, was essential in learning to trust God.
As physical beings, we easily become attached to things that bring us comfort like our homes, possessions, financial stability, relationships, time, and our reputation. While these are all good things, they become an obstacle to trusting God with our lives when they become the focus and the end goal in life. Our attachment to them blocks God’s grace from entering our hearts and transforming them.
I wanted to have a big family filled with healthy children. I liked having two boys and two girls who each brought their own secret sauce to our family and I looked forward to the day when each would grow into adults, make their mark on this world and have children of their own.
My greatest fear was to have a child die because I knew I didn’t have the strength to survive that kind of a loss and would end up broken.
Then Zach was diagnosed with a deadly bone cancer and I was forced to make a decision: I could choose to tighten my grip on how I thought my life should look and fall into despair when it was taken away, or I could choose to let go of my life and allow God’s grace to transform it into something completely different.
I chose to let go and every day since I wrestle with making that same decision over big and small things. What am I going to hold onto and get angry over when things don’t go my way? When I find myself getting tense, is it because I think I’m in control? What is it I’m afraid to lose? My reputation, how I look, financial stability, my time?
This poem, written by St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun who lived in the 1500s, has become my mantra and was especially comforting in the last years of Zach’s life.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Turning our attachments over to God is almost always disturbing, frightening and heartbreaking. And it’s hard work that never ends. It means being content when a barking dog disrupts a quiet morning on the patio. It means letting go of an argument in favor of backing off and praying for humility and understanding. And it means trusting God to give the right words of comfort to share with your child when he tells you he’s afraid to die.
When we let go of our plans and make space for God’s grace to work, we can be certain that we will lack nothing.
St. Paul writes about this mystery in his letter to the Philippians.
…for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:11b–13
Zach died just days after his eighteenth birthday. That wasn’t my plan for him or for myself. But God, through His grace, strengthened me and transformed Zach’s suffering into something beautiful that touched millions of lives across the globe.
I still hold on too tightly to things and plans that get in the way of God’s grace, but I’m still chanting those beautiful words, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you.” And every time God shows up and reveals to me that He alone suffices.