8: To my friends in The School of Hard Knocks
I hear you.
I see you.
Friends, your heartfelt confessions from the trenches, they speak to my heart. You are in this school, The School of Hard Knocks, and many of you are in the ADVANCED courses.
You aren’t enrolled in the same courses, but some of you share a class or two. These classes aren’t easily described, and they can’t be wrapped up with neat bows. The course catalog, it includes millions like these:
Child Fighting for Life in ICU (again) – CHF 299; Chronic Illness in family – CIF 401; 6th Deployment – DEP 601; Marriage with Stress Fractures – MSF 201; Living in FIGHT OR FLIGHT – FOF 301; Divorce -DVC 201; Single Mom – SM 601; Cleaning Childs Diapers (for decades) – CCW 999; Financial Crisis – FIC 701; ISOLATION – ISL 801; GRIEF: Loosing a child – GLC 101; UNCERTAINTY – UNC 338; Behavioral Issues NO ONE understands – BHI 201; Mystery Illness (Fear on doorstep) – ILM 401; Unmet needs of Special Needs siblings SNS 501;
No one is enrolled in just one. Every courses flood into EVERY corner of your life, and they almost always come with isolation and fractured friendships. And no matter how much you learn in this school…
having things slip through your fingers? – it’s guaranteed.
One of my friends, Molly, she knows this. She’s in school here too.
You, precious friend, you ward off fear and hold tight to grace with a pen. I read your words, beautiful words, that you are carving into a book, and I hear it. I hear your “ebenezer” loud and clear. You lived through loss after loss and THEN having your kids on one continent, yourself on another, and your husband on another…FOR A YEAR. She knows it, and I know it:
Some days the truth feels like it’s a million miles away.
You feel like you are standing in LA, hand reaching far, straining sinews, trying to reach something…
Everything is desolate. Everything is broken. We wonder if we are broken beyond repair.
How do you make the truth come near? Is there room for it in the hospital? in bankruptcy? in death? in frustration? in anxiety? at the end of your rope?
How did Corrie ten Boom smile in a prison camp, surrounded by death and horrors unspeakable? How did Jesus GIVE THANKS the night before he died? knowing the torture that awaited him? and WORSE…knowing the separation, the utter isolation from God? (Don’t get me wrong – Christ did sweat drops like blood that same night as he spoke to His Father …and Corrie dealt with her fair share of anger.)
Maybe David blazed this trail…
far from home,
hate at his heels every waking minute,
a promise locked out of view.
Maybe Abraham felt this…
waiting not days,
not a couple of years,
but more like TWENTY FIVE YEARS…
for an outlandish promise.
believing in a dream amid a WILD storm of a life with his wave rising to favor and crashing back down…and then up again, but always FAR from home.
Friends, beloved of the most high God, may you feel in your bones the depth of THE story that all of scripture tells … that when life just plain STINKS, when motivational music is nowhere to be found, when all the world is on furlough, your connection to God is not a distant one – this isn’t a remote control you can lose.
Whether you see Him or not, he’s there – with you in the ICU, in the divorce hearing, in your lonely home. NEVER will He leave you or forsake you…
And He doesn’t ask you to make jump up and down like a cheerleader when life STINKS.
He asks you to ABIDE.
He asks you to be STILL.
He asks you to cry out.
He asks you to ASK.
…and these things, they take studying, they take a lifetime to learn.
HE asks you to believe an outlandish promise that…even when the punches
just. keep. coming:
there is joy…even in this desolate place, in the shadow of his wing,
there is hope, even in the dungeon, when you seek Him,
there is sustenance even in this desert, when you abide,
there is peace even in this clamor, when you are still,
there is beauty, even in these shadows, when you ask.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 37:18
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
PS – If you need an extra book to inspire in these times, I’d recommend “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper. Excellent book for any one!!!