Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Oh man. Sometimes we just feel the torrential rush of the troubled waters. We feel the cadence of our failures rush against our ankles. We see ripples of many moments missed and botched by our weakness’ to our left and right and we feel super heavy. Like an anvil tied around our neck and we are almost drowning beneath the weight of it all.

Thank God for God. He takes the MOST broken places and He comes for us. Piece by piece. Mending by mending. Morning by morning. He will not leave you stranded. He will not abandon a broken heart. He will not allow a flower to wither in the desert. He brings the sustaining rain in its due time. He provides the bridge over the troubled waters and He obliterates the troll guarding it all.

Broken places are no joke. They call to us and suggest we are a hot, hot mess. But, child – you are never beyond repair. Never. The crap you’ve pulled over the years is hushed by the weight of the grace of God. It’s literally quieted under the mystery of His redeeming kindness toward us. He will show up for you. He will come for you. He will lift your heavy heart out of a tub of piranhas and set your feet on solid ground.

He redeems EVERYTHING.

It’s all gonna be okay. All of it.

I believe in us.

The Woman at the Well

There’s a story in the Bible in John chapter 4 that has long been my favorite. I am NO biblical scholar and for me to describe its significance is like a kindergartener reciting the alphabet. But here goes….

Basically it was the middle of the day. As in the hottest part of the day. The time of day that ordinary women did not go to the well to draw water because it was so stinking hot out. Nevertheless, this far from ordinary woman hauled her vessel to the well at the hottest part of the day likely to avoid interactions with other women because she had some serious baggage. She was probably the talk of the town somehow and ridiculed or judged because her life story was less than pretty. She had serious relationship struggles and had made her way through not one, but five divorces and the man she was with now wasn’t her husband. In this day and time that rap sheet made her “damaged goods”. She was considered an epic failure. Or maybe she was just a woman looking for love in all the wrong places… or just looking for love in general. Nevertheless, she went out of her way at the hardest, hottest point of the day simply to avoid being around other women that would exacerbate the shame she already felt in what her life held.

Here she was doing her thing in what she hoped would be isolation. But, she ran into a man sitting on the edge of the well she came to draw from. This was a bit of an inconvenience especially because when she arrived He spoke to her and asked her for a drink of water. This too was an atrocity in that day. No man asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, much less a woman who was considered “dirty”, but this guy had the audacity to break the code of silence between them. He had the audacity to ask her for a drink of water suggesting she was capable. It’s an awkward situation really, but even right there at the beginning of their interaction, I believe Jesus was calling out the honor He saw in her and was declaring her worthy. Something she likely didn’t feel on the daily. He blew up the status quo with his request of her. She contested his request based on her status and He began to tell her all that he already knew about her and her story. Talk about a vulnerable moment. But, talk about a magical one as well. Here is a woman clearly having hauled herself to the well in some form of living shame and there’s a guy, of all people, telling her that she was worth interacting with and strong enough and whole enough to give him a drink of water despite her rap sheet. They talked back and forth for a bit even when His fellow disciples showed up and found Him deep in interaction with her. They showed up and were shocked that Jesus was speaking with the town’s dirt bag of a woman. He didn’t shy away. He continued to tell her that despite her story she was more than worth His time. Despite her failed marriages and the relationship she was currently in that she was still of value and that she too could have the freedom and healing and eternal water that quenched all the thirst in her spirit. She was being offered an opportunity to know that she didn’t have to feel empty and hollow and ashamed anymore. She didn’t have to feel like crap about who she was and where her story had taken her.

In this text it states that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria….. He was on his way to Galilee. He could’ve gotten there another way. But, in some sort of mystery He chose to go this way, through Samaria, on that day, when He had to know that this woman would be there. Basically, He went out of His way to speak life and truth and hope into the heart of a woman who felt broken and damaged and ashamed.

If He could show up for her…. then we can strongly deduce that He would do the same for us. No matter what your story holds. No matter where you’ve been or where you are now, you are strong and worthy and deserve to feel free just like everyone else. There’s no rut too deep, no story too heinous, no one thing or a hundred things that can disqualify you from the honor that He was bestowing on this woman.

I just want to say this: no matter where you’ve been – you are of infinite worth and value. No matter where you are going and what’s ahead for you – you are of infinite worth and value. No matter what you need to change, or work on, or make right in your life – you are of infinite worth and value.

And that truth, my friends, is liberating to say the least.

I believe in us.

Suffering, Struggles and Trials

I’ve just finished reading Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s a harrowing account of the atrocities suffered by himself and millions of others in concentration camps. I have to say, that I tread lightly when even sharing my perspective on this read. The suffering described in these pages is epic, and unjust to say the very least. The pure, unending horror suffered by these precious individuals is more than my heart can bear. I literally hate that the experiences described in this book were suffered by any human on the planet in anyone’s lifetime. Sorrow bypasses my soul and grips my spirit. I cannot fathom the ripping of a man’s soul that took place as they were treated day after day after year lower than the value of animals.

I am enamored by many phrases throughout this book, but one that struck my core was this:

“The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future- his future- was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future he also lost in his spiritual hold; he let himself decline to mental and physical decay” (Frankl, page 74).

Do not lose the will to overcome and to power through your obstacles. Sometimes life and its unexpected tragedies and trials seems to attempt to swallow us whole. They mount before us like a mountain to climb and they call to our will to conquer them. I think of my friends who have lost a child through tragedy or illness or miscarriage. I think of the many friends who have experienced the brokenness of a marriage they thought would last forever. I think of a friend who has lost not one, but two loving partners in her lifetime before she was even forty years old. I think of the friend who after years of dedication decided to quit her job in search of deeper meaning only to find herself perpetually unemployed and the despair that has stirred for her. I think of the woman in me that has battled an all-consuming eating disorder and absolute mental turmoil for decades. I think of a woman I know who was raped, carried a baby to term, only to have him murdered by her fiancé through his anger while she was away. I think of a woman who was beaten repeatedly by a man who swore his love to her until death did them part. I think of the many patients I cared for as a Trauma Nurse back in the day. I think of my career as a sexual assault nurse and I remember the hundreds of times I was called to work to complete an exam. I think of so many things that people have suffered and my heart wants to break wide open with tears that rival Niagara Falls. Suffering in this lifetime is inherently unavoidable.

That said, may I tenderly suggest this: Please, do not lose courage. Do not quiet the small inner voice that wants to tell you that you are strong and worthy and wise for the way forward. Turn up that volume. Your life holds deep meaning and you matter to the people of this world. It would not be the same without you. Your suffering matters. It matters deep and wide and there is room enough for your tears and disappointment. Do not, under any circumstance, lose hope in the fact that you matter. There are people in your life that are better off for having you in it. There are people in your life that feel comfort because of your presence. There are people, like me, who simply sit and ponder what you have overcome and genuinely feel a surge of hope stir when I choose to face my own mountain. Believe vehemently in your future as a survivor.

He who has a “why” to live can bear with almost any “how”. -Victor Frankl

I believe in us, our worth and the power to overcome our suffering.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness Defined: the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.

Forgiveness, such an intuitive definition, simple, yet a challenge for so many of us. I believe it’s a practice, a skill to hone, something that evolves within us. It’s not a punch card moment in the least. It’s an action OR process that is often repeated time and time again.

I was thinking today about the wrongs that have occurred towards me in my life and the wrongs that I’ve committed towards myself and others. I immediately felt a dark cloud come over me when I thought of the wrongs I have committed. But, when I thought about the wrongs committed against me I felt a sense of grace and peace, an extension of pardon bubble up within me. At first glance, I was alarmed at this feeling thinking “oh boy, I have work to do. That dark cloud can’t stay”… but, at second glance I felt proud of the feeling that has evolved within me towards others. Nevertheless, this does beg the question: why can I extend an evolved pardon towards others yet hold myself hostage?

If a doctor told me that there was a diet pill that I could take that would result in a twenty pound weight loss by day three I’d be jamming that down my throat in two seconds flat. Forgiveness over ourself and others can have the same effect as the diet pill in many physical, mental and emotional ways, yet we hesitate. I hesitate. I hesitate for many reasons. I suppose hanging on to the wrongs I’ve committed somewhat confirms the poor self-image I have. I know that sounds terrible. But, it’s true in a way. Holding on to the crap I’ve done mirrors the crap I feel about myself. If I chose to let go of the stupid stuff I’ve done I would have to take that poor self image, the crappy mirror, and start speaking kindly to her. I’d have to look at my mangled messes and pour peace all over them until they were drenched and untangled. I’d have to extend a handful of peace that wasn’t earned, but gifted to myself, by myself. I’d have to set myself free. I’d have to do the work of altering completely my internal dialogue and what I choose to be true about my worthiness.

When we choose forgiveness we are taking a once tightly bound, fully constricted blood vessel and serving it with oxygen. We are therefore serving everything that surrounds it with oxygen as well. Forgiveness is the process of recovering wholeness, breathing life into the broken spaces and making way for a healing. It’s a coming to peace. It’s a process of acknowledgement followed by a restoration of our will to be free. Forgiveness towards ourselves and others is the currency for an exchange that makes way for growth and restoration of our worth. Simply put: It’s the bitter pill we swallow that sets us free. It’s the very medicine that releases pounds of anger and hurt and all that stalls our growth and change.

Forgiveness is rarely a one and done. Our memory banks are keen and ever so vivid. They are tied to our emotional make up. We often inadvertently keep a record of wrongs. We need the action or process of forgiveness to restore justice in our hearts. The impact of our experiences is strong and the ONLY thing greater than that impact is the power of forgiveness.

I just want to convince you today to do a little inventory. Search your heart. Where are you held hostage? Are you able to release others, but hold yourself hostage over wrongs done? Or do you suffer from the opposite? Can you forgive yourself, but you’re holding with a vice grip wrongs that have occurred in your life at the hands of another? Either way. There is a coming to peace waiting for you through the process of forgiveness. This blog post is not exhaustive. There are easily a million more words to say on the subject. But, consider this today: where is one area in your heart and life that could stand to have the gift of peace breathed straight into it? Where is one crack in your heart that could use the healing balm of forgiveness gifted to yourself, bu yourself? Consider your freedom and get to work ushering in peace as though your livelihood depends on it.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Victor Frankl