Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grief and the Risk Taking Heart - Updated



Grief doesn't start when someone dies. Grief happens when any kind of loss slams a person into a wall, turns a life upside down, shatters dreams. We all know someone who is hurting, but often miss the treasures of going into the dark abyss of grief with them because we're scared or don't know what to do. It's risky. Grieving people sometimes strike out at the person nearest them. We are sometimes crazy! But we need someone willing to take the risk of being hurt in order to help us limp through the dark places. I repost this blog with hopes the message will encourage someone to walk in the darkness with a broken friend.

Originally Posted November 2, 2015

Grief and the Risk Taking Heart

A child  is gone.
Family and friends struggle to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty. We are on holy ground as we go into the darkness with them. Though it is excruciating to go back into the abyss of sorrow, we go willingly for too many reasons to count. We desperately needed someone like us when our son, Mark and his friend, Kelly, died in a car accident. Someone who had lived in the foreign Land of Grief who could show us the way, give us hope. Our desperation for hope hid the sacrifice these precious grieving parents made in order to answer God's call to comfort us with the same comfort He had given to them.
We go also because to be with a broken-hearted person who is a daughter or son of our King is to be on holy ground. God promises He is very near to the broken-hearted. Yes, He is always with each of His children, but in some way we can't explain, He is nearer to those who cry out for His touch when their hearts are breaking.
In the darkest night of our souls, my sister, Jane Anne, came along side of me in a way that kept the light of Christ burning. I hated for her to see the ugly, oozing sores of grief that covered my soul. But she would not let me hide. God inspired her to express in words how she viewed this calling. I included this piece in my book, Treasures of Encouragement, Women Helping Women in the Church. If God is calling you to go into the dark abyss of grief with a friend, whether it is grief over death or any other loss, I hope Jane Anne's perspective opens your mind and heart to the realization that you are on holy ground where you will discover riches stored in secret places, designed to help turn your heart toward Him.

The Risk-Taking Heart
by Jane Anne Wilson
I donned the unbecoming yellow paper gown and cap and put on my rubber gloves and mask as I prepared to enter the patient's room. The effects of her disease were repulsive, and I avoided the room until her needs required my attention. Raw, open sores penetrated to the bone. Involuntary nervous responses resulted in embarrassing outbursts of unpredictable emotions.
Pain permeated the room, giving a suffocating feeling to anyone who entered. The windows and glass door mocked the patient, allowing her to see a world she could not join. This patient was incapable of caring for herself in any way. Isolation always seemed ironic to me. In other cases, we put on sterile gloves to protect the patient from our germs, but isolation cases require full garb to protect us from the patient's disease. It was always risky to treat these patients. Why take it? I experienced a strange phenomenon when I chose to take that risk. Somehow I felt more alive to be in touch with such intense pain. I felt real. Of course, I took precautions and could always take off my protective layer and go back into the routine life that my patient longed to experience once again.
This patient, though drenched with disease, had a strange pull on me. I was always glad, after I began to care for her, that I could be the one to help. Once I was there, I wondered why I avoided that room so much. Perhaps it was not knowing what state I would find her in that caused my apprehension.
The key to the treatment was convincing the patient that she would get better (though no one would blame her for not believing it). All the research showed that recovery required patient confidence that it would happen. This confidence would enable the patient to participate in her treatment, speeding the healing process. I needed to give her hope.
I went into the sick room once again and began the treatment. Very little healing had taken place and I could see that the disease was progressing. As I went about my care for the patient, trying to convince her with words that she would recover, the cumbersome isolation garb hampered me. The patient was suffering because of my inability to fully function, and she looked at me with frustration in her eyes. I was causing more pain!
For a moment I stopped, our eyes met, and I finally realized what she could not express. No, she would not ask me to put myself at risk, but she wouldn't believe my encouraging words either. I stared beyond her eyes as time stood still. Then, without a word, I removed the gloves, mask and cumbersome paper gown. For the first time a glimmer of hope appeared in her eyes. At that moment we both began to believe that her disease - grief - would be conquered. (Treasures of Encouragement, Women Helping Women in the Church, pages 185 - 186, P & R Publishing, used with permission)


In His grip,
Sharon


 For more Help and Hope visit www.markinc.org


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loves Me, Loves me Not?



In case you were disappointed with Valentines Day......Chuck hates Valentine's Day. As soon as the marketing gurus launch their onslaught of commercials designed to create deep guilt for every man who doesn't buy his love a diamond ring, heart shaped necklace or sexy lingerie, Chuck warns me not to expect anything. After all, according to him, he doesn't need anyone to tell him how to express his love for me. He does that every day by the way he treats me. True.
My husband is a romantic and I have lots of stories I could tell about how he has demonstrated his love in surprising ways over the years. In ways that are so much better than a Valentine's Day Card that he has to buy because of marketing pressure. Yet, I brought preconceived ideas about Valentines Day into our marriage. When I was growing up, on the morning of February 14, I would sometimes wake up to find a small heart shaped box of candy outside my bedroom door.
My mother always said it was from my father but sometimes there would be an extra gift that only a mom would think to buy for her daughter. As a young wife, I tried not to let the commercialism of February love raise my expectations of my husband but I wasn't really content to let the holiday go. One year I decided I could still create Valentines Day traditions with our children without seeming to insult Chuck for his lack of recognition of this unashamed attempt by our culture to get us to spend billions of dollars on cards, candy, jewelry and roses.

 Loves me, loves me not . . .
I covered a shoe box with construction paper, cut out hearts and a slit in the top for mail. I gave our children dime store Valentines Day cards to address to each of their siblings, mommy and daddy. I carefully followed instructions for making a heart-shaped cake and set the table with china and candles. I put on my best spiritual face that this display had nothing to do with guilting my young husband into giving me a gift. What should have been a Hallmark Card moment ended up in disaster. The two older kids fought over who got the most cards, the two babies were cranky, the cake crumbled because it was still warm when I iced it and my sweet, romantic husband didn't think my motives were quite pure! I have a feeling that deep inside I really was trying to make him feel guilty......

Loves me not?
At the first sign of the Valentines Day commercialism, Chuck still makes his speech in which he declares he will not bow to commercial pressure. Yet somehow we always end up doing something special on February 14 and last year we even exchanged funny cards - but absolutely not in the name of Valentines Day! This year, roses . . .

Loves me?
What does love look like to you? Is it always wrapped up in the gift of a card, jewelry, perfume, sexy lingerie? Or is it better displayed when someone takes out the trash, picks up the dirty clothes, clears the table and cleans up the kitchen, makes the bed, surprises you with your favorite ice cream for no reason at all, lets you pick out the chick flick instead of the war movie, would rather watch the Super Bowl with you than his buddies, sends a card thanking you for your friendship, says "let's order out" or just sits by your side when you're grieving?

Definitely loves me.....
I have a drawer full of cards from Chuck that I cherish. I love finding the cards I have sent to Chuck tucked away in his dresser or saved in a folder of his important papers. Each one reminds us of a moment in time that is forever seared on our hearts and that makes them priceless. I treasure the times Chuck has surprised me with a special gift, a uniquely crafted piece of jewelry, a surprise evening out. Yet without the daily and mundane consistent demonstrations of love that transform a relationship into a majestic lasting friendship these gifts would be worthless baubles. I know this because I have friends whose Valentine's Day cards, precious gems, furs and material possessions cover hearts longing for genuine love and respect from their spouses.

What does love look like to you? Valentine's Day can be fun and a special opportunity to express love. But be careful about making that the sum total of your day.  Instead of hanging your hopes on one kind of demonstration, look for love in the mundane, the dailiness of life and you may be surprised to recognize that the marketing Valentine's Day gurus don't have it quite right.

In His Grip,
Sharon

(Originally Posted At : February 3, 2009 12:21 AM | Posted By : Sharon Betters)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Honest Grief


I've lost so much, precious loved ones, my mother, sister and now my daughter. Is there more loss to come?  I'm afraid. Every cell in my body hurts. I can't think straight. My heart pounds. I am trying to hang on to my faith, but what if it isn't true? Because frankly, just the idea of believing that God loves me in the middle of this grief taunts me. Is He sovereign? In control? Does He really love me? Then why, why, why?

My friend's cries pulled me back to those early years after Mark's death. The anguish in her voice, face, eyes, words was almost too much to bear because I knew the reality of the deep sorrow. She was me. I was her.  There are still days I wonder, I hope, that the foundation of my faith, the Bible, is true.

Like my friend, I desperately searched for answers, bought and read every book I could find on grief, taking hope from those ahead of me in this journey, who expressed confidence that God is sovereign and I could trust Him. But on those long days, weeks, months, years that the tears wouldn't stop, the ache in my chest wouldn't break, I questioned God's love, the reality of His presence, the truth of His Word. What if it wasn't true? What if there is no heaven? What if this is all there is? What if there really is no purpose in any of my life?

You don't have to lose a child to ask these questions, do you?

Shortly after the birth of our third child, Daniel, in the dark quiet of early morning, I rocked him, looking out a window over the dark skies of Philadelphia and a wave of despair and sadness washed over me. Thoughts foreign to my heart pushed to the surface. "What if there is no God? What if what I believe isn't true?" These questions terrified me because they brought into question the very foundation of my life. If these building blocks were destroyed, what purpose did I have, did any of us have? How could I have brought a child into such a dark, hopeless world?


I was twenty-seven years old and I decided that if Billy Graham believed the Bible was true, then so would I. I know, that's kind of pathetic! But I was too afraid to take on the challenge of questioning my faith.

Grief didn't give me that choice.  Our youngest child's death threw everything I believed into the refiner's fire and if I wanted to experience purpose and joy again, I had to allow sorrow and anguish do its work. Grief is a hard taskmaster and I have learned that the only way to survive its lashes is to transparently confront the challenge to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty.

Another bereaved mother further along in this journey encouraged me to be honest with God, to pound on His chest, to understand that He invites my questions, that He is not afraid of my struggles.  For it is in the darkness of this frightening place that my understanding of God's love would grow deep and wide. Her words didn't make sense, God's love didn't compute in the depth of my insane grief, but I decided to follow her counsel.  I discovered that the Bible is filled with people who transparently and honestly communicated every emotion to their God.  Our Father in heaven seems to applaud such honesty in his rebuke to Job's friends in Job 42:7-8 when he declares to Eliphaz, one of Job's comforters:

Job will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for speaking such nonsense about me, and not being honest with me as Job has. (The Message)

Every morning I met with God, I asked Jesus to open my eyes and heart to truth that would put my shattered heart back together. I wrote out my sometimes heretical thoughts in my journal, then read a Psalm, a Proverb, the daily devotional in My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert. And I waited for God to speak, to respond to my emotional tirades and to comfort me in the darkness. Sometimes He did. Other times all I heard was silence. This journey, the cries of the Psalmist and Hebrews 10:19 - 25 pushed me into a deeper understanding of what it means to pound on God's chest.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19-25

Here I see an invitation to come with confidence into God's presence, to pound on His chest with my questions, doubts, wails of anguish. He promises He will not reject me but rather pull me into His lap, hold me, comfort me with His truth,  reminding me of the gift of His Son, Jesus, the greatest love gift. Spending time in His Word reminds me of the hope that has guided me throughout my life. The Bible reminds me that He cannot lie, His promises are reliable. And then I see that time with Him will eventually lead me to offering others the same help and hope that He has given to me. Scriptures acted as medicine for my soul, but friends, that medicine was not an overnight fix. sometimes I felt a moment of relief, but grief is long term, a chronic sorrow. It is not one and done. I had to take it for years, and when I skip taking it, my soul reacts badly.

A friend of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once said, "The woman who has no experiences in the dark has no secrets to share in the light." Shortly after the death of our son, Mark, this statement challenged me with a choice. Would I accept midnight sorrow as an opportunity for God to reveal his secrets of the darkness? Or would I refuse to open my eyes and hands to treasures designed to turn my heart toward him?

I will give you treasures in the darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you will know I am the Lord your God, the One Who calls you by name.  Isaiah 45:2-3

 In time, desperation to understand my heavenly Father and experience his power drove me to place my hope in what I know about Him, not in what I do not know.  This was not a once and for all choice, but rather daily, moment by moment. I began to more clearly experience the treasures in the darkness and riches stored in secret places, each one designed to remind me that He calls me by name, and help turn my heart toward my God.

Learning to see when the lights went out took me back to the foundations of my faith, where I unpacked each belief and examined it through the grid of God's Word. I needed to know that what I had believed and taught for more than twenty-five years was absolute truth. For years and through tear-filled eyes, I searched for God's presence everywhere and in every event. No detail was insignificant. It still isn't.

I am revisiting these early grief years because several of my friends are experiencing excruciating sorrow and loss. Their shattered hearts remind me that there are many who live each day, trying to make sense out of this broken world, but afraid to admit their own struggles to reconcile God's love with His sovereignty. I write to encourage you to lean into the pain, honestly grieve, pound on your Father's chest, expect Him to hold you tightly in His grip because of Jesus. The journey is hard and long. But don't give up. Keep running to His Word and ask Him to give you treasures in the darkness to help turn your heart toward Him.

In His grip with you,

Sharon

For more on Honest Grief, check out:



Treasures in Darkness, A Grieving Mother Shares Her Heart


For more Help and Hope, Free Resources that transparently address many life crises visit MARKINC.org

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Grief is War

Grief is war.

One of our son's friends posted a picture on Facebook of our son, Mark, with three of his friends, saying their dad had found it while cleaning out. I loved seeing the picture, loved reading the comments, chuckled over the memories evoked. Wished more of Mark's friends would share pictures and stories about Mark. And then I cried because what I really want is our son. I want Mark.
Almost twenty-four years after the last time I saw him, I want him back.
Grief is War.


A friend posts a picture of her beautiful daughter, and I know immediately that this is the anniversary of the day her daughter lost her life on this earth nine years ago. Her beautiful girl looks like she is ready to laugh out loud, so full of life. But behind that picture is the face of a shattered mother, father, sister, brother. I remember the agony of our lives nine years after the deaths of our son and his friend Kelly. This family longs for what was. Yes, joy comes in the morning. Yes, the ache in our chests does ease up but the battle to find purpose and joy is fierce. The ache finds its way back when we least expect it. Grief is war.

A beautiful, loyal, faithful, tender hearted, strong, godly friend, wife, mother, grandmother  suddenly dies and her death rocks all those who love her. Her legacy of faith is firm, her family holds tenaciously to the rock of their Salvation, that this beloved woman is now experiencing Salvation and Heaven and seeing Jesus. They commit to clinging to this hope as they find a new normal without her. Now the war begins. The plans they had, the empty place at the table, the quiet house. Grief is war.

After the death of our son, another bereaved father said he wished he could pick us up and move us down the road, past the extreme agony and despair and anguish he knew we faced. Then he said, "I want to, but I can't, you have to go through this to experience joy and peace. You have to confront the pain and expect the Lord to meet you there."

I've thought about those words when I've wanted to pick up friends and move them past the war of grief, accepting that they have to lean into the pain. There is no other way to fight this battle.

But what are our weapons in this war? For me, I learned that Scripture was one of the weapons in my arsenal against hopelessness, despair and deep anguish.

On those days when I could barely get out of bed, God reminded me through Ephesians 2:10 that He had given me everything I need to do the good work of fighting this war. in a way that reflects His presence in me. By faith and His strength, I put one foot on the floor, sometimes crawling, but still moving, and forced myself to trust that promise.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 
Ephesians 2:10

 So even now, almost twenty-four years later, when the collateral damage of grief grabs my soul, Paul challenges me to remember the love of God and to remember who I am in Jesus, that He is with me, and I can take another step forward in His strength. Sometimes it is minute by minute, no, second by second, choosing by faith to trust the precious promise Paul mentions in this passage.  Grief is like being in a meat grinder or having major surgery without anesthesia. Grief is a marathon of hard, hard labor. Yet here we are promised that even in this war, God has already equipped His children to continue to walk by faith.

At first when death pushed me into the grief abyss, I was terrified because I was afraid I would never climb back out. I learned that the hard periods grow shorter.  Choosing life is harder on some days than others. Grief is war and the sacrifices of praise are often covered with blood, sweat and tears. Chuck often said that we were like two wounded soldiers trying to help each other crawl off the battle field. Wounded sisters, listen to this wounded veteran of the Grief War who walks with an obvious limp. Fight the despair and depression. Get up out of bed and move. Cling to the weapon of Scripture and wield it with confidence. Choose life and know that you are in His grip. He will never let you go.

In His grip with you,
Sharon


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Warrior Women - Through it All


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When I see women marching for their rights I think of women who have or are quietly marching for righteousness in their own life journeys. Warrior Women, facing extraordinary obstacles with grit, determination and faith. Women like Cancer Fighter Debbie Kahler, Karen Marsh as she parents Victoria, Sherry Bitler whose 24/7 companion is Multiple Sclerosis. Their stories give help and hope to others struggling to overcome unexpected mountains.

Over the past year, we have been producing a Warrior Woman Help and Hope series for MARKINC and every time I interview women like these, I feel as though the studio is sacred ground. In each resource, listeners hear remarkable women share how they have experienced purpose and joy in the middle of their difficult life journeys. When I ask them how they continue to fight their own personal battles, each one points me to their choice to trust the truth of God's promises. Each one quickly shares a specific "go to Scripture" that helps them focus on His love.

This past week I met Gracie Rosenberger through an hour long phone conversation. Gracie's life journey includes 78 surgeries and the amputation of both of her legs. Gracie's story caught my attention when I saw a video her husband, Peter, Host of Caregivers With Hope Radio Broadcast, produced. Gracie and Joni sing Through it All in this video. You can learn more about how Gracie is reflecting Jesus through her non-profit outreach, Standing With Hope. I cry every time I watch it, grateful for such a profound picture of faith and for the way the message reminds me of God's faithfulness in the dark times of my own life. Having a bad day or moment? Let Gracie and Joni take you to the cross where you'll find help and hope.

"
Through It All: Gracie and Joni from Standing With Hope on Vimeo.

I will have the privilege of interviewing Gracie for our Warrior Woman series but in the meantime, I hope her story, along with Joni's as depicted in this video, encourages someone today, to "keep on keeping on." Listen carefully to the words of Through it All by Andrae Crouch, especially the chorus, where he exclaims: Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust His Word." This song has a personal spot in my own heart since I heard it as a young woman and its simple message of learning to trust God's Word has taken me through some really tough times. Each Warrior Woman in our Help and Hope series is a testimony of the power of God's Word to fuel our daily struggles with His grace and strength. May their stories offer you the help and hope of the Gospel for your own life journey.

In His grip with you,
Sharon

You can subscribe for notifications of the release of new Warrior Woman and other Help and Hope Resources when you visit Help and Hope - MARKINC Ministries

Through It All Lyrics

By Andrae Crouch
I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.


Chorus:

Through it all,

through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God
Chorus2:
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.



Verse 2:

I've been to lots of places,

I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own!



Chorus



Verse 3:

I thank God for the mountains,

and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in His word could do.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cruise Director Grammy




"Ahh, here come the cruise guests!" my husband exclaimed as Dan and Laura dropped off their three younger children for the day so that they could enjoy biking around Washington, D.C.with their older two kids. Chuck tells me the grands think I'm their Cruise Director, as in, "What can we do now, Grammy?  What games can we play, can we bake cookies again?   What's to eat?"

His words challenge me to think about my time with our grandchildren.  Am I just waiting on them and spoiling them?  Well, yes, I guess I am, but all that waiting and spoiling has as purpose.

We're ready for some baking action!


This is Serious Work

























All of those fun times are helping me reach a goal that was planted in my heart before any of these young ones were born. Some of Jesus' last words to His disciples were, "I go to prepare a place for you..." As a young mother, that promise seemed to be a call to action for me. Jesus' words outlines a plan for our children, that just as Jesus is an ultimate Place for His family, and just as He is preparing a place for us, I have the priceless call to prepare a place right here for our family. No doubt my efforts were often flawed. But I haven't given up hope that each member of our family, from adults to grands, sees our home as a safe place - sees us as a safe place.
Cleaning up the drips on the pan before baking...

Motorcycles and cars are more fun than mixing.....

Intentional Fun

Ok, so back to tasting!
I want them to KNOW that no matter what, they are unconditionally loved by us. The older the grands get, the more challenging this goal becomes, as their busy lives make it more difficult to have quality time with each of them. I'm hoping that all the fun "little person" times we shared are building blocks into a lifelong friendship.  All those special moments of reading stories, baking, playing games, shopping trips, naps with Grammy, Dollar Store adventures, neighborhood walks, s'mores in the backyard, beach times, cousin sleep-overs -  they are all stepping stones in a pathway that I hope will lead them back to us when they need a second opinion or reassurance that their parents are the best and adore them even when they might have to say no or when they wonder if God is real and really loves them.  There will be moments when the lights go out, where they will need someone ahead of them who is a credible witness of the hidden things of old, things taught to us by our God.  Things He exhorts us not to hide from our children, important stories to tell the next generation that declare His power and the wonders He has done..  So that they will tell the next generation, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  So that, they will put their trust in God and will not forget his deeds but will keep his commands
(Psalm 78).  






Picnic lunch on the porch - 

peanut butter and fluff




And now for dessert!



Yes, I'm tired!


And so, while I may look like a Cruise Director at times, I'm actually intentionally laying a foundation for influencing not only the children I can see, but my great, great grandchildren - those not yet born.  Maybe even my great, great, great......well, you see what I'm saying!

Our together times have a parallel unseen goal that is even more important than having fun.

When I showed these pictures to Eva, Siddhi and Jovan, they begged to come over again - yes, my plan is working!

Looking forward to more of those Cruise Director moments.

Blessings,
Sharon

PS - These pictures are from a few years ago but my goals haven't changed! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Wayward Child and Prayer

"I'm staying up all night to pray for you." Ruth's words pounded my heart as I drove home, knowing my boyfriend would probably be upset that I was so late in meeting him. Once more, we fought about our different views on religion and faith. Once more, he left frustrated and confused and once more, I knew I was making a mess of my life and his. I didn't know how to communicate what was in my heart. And such frustration begged the question, "Did I really understand what I had so much trouble expressing?"

My father followed me upstairs a few minutes after I trudged up to my third floor bedroom. I tried to hide my tear stained face but I'm pretty sure he knew I was upset. He asked, "What did Ruth say?" Who knows why I told him? We were estranged because of my rebellion and talking was not our strong suit. But the words came tumbling out. "Ruth told me I need to run away." 

Close to fifty years later I wonder what my father, a man of few words, thought in that moment. Did he quickly pray, ""Lord, is this the moment we've been asking for? Give me the right words to help my daughter do what you want?" Was my mother in their bedroom, pleading with the Lord to break through my hardened heart? 

Whatever he was thinking, I can still see him standing in my doorway, quietly and calmly speaking truth about my circumstances, asking questions to help me sort through my thoughts, encouraging me to listen to my dear friend who promised to stay up all night and pray for me to do the right thing. 

I easily recall that feeling of being moved by an invisible force, knowing my future depended on the decision of that moment. With my permission, my father called my brother and I heard him say these words, "Your sister is in trouble and needs a place to stay." 


 Reunited with my praying friend, Ruth Auffarth, at a Women's Conference near Atlanta
Within forty-eight hours, with my car packed, my two little sisters stuffed into the back seat and my mother by my side, I was on my way to Bloomington, Indiana. No job, no permanent place to live. No friends. And a "Dear Chuck" letter taped to my boyfriend's door, telling him I loved him, but loved Jesus more. And, "don't try to find me."

I fell into a deep sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow of the hotel that night. But a few hours later, the sound of crying woke me. My mother, like so many mothers before her, was crying over her daughter. Were they tears of fear for my future? Or was she crying with relief that the Lord had moved in a supernatural way?

When loved ones are in trouble, making choices we are sure are harmful, and our words are met with anger, there is a way to be mysteriously connected to them. It is the way of prayer. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had marshaled together a force of faithful women (including my pastor's wife, Ruth) to cover this wayward daughter with prayer. They pled my case before the Father, that this covenant child of His was wandering and the Shepherd needed to bring her back home.

Almost fifty years later, friends  recruit me to pray for their wayward children just like my mother recruited her friends. Whenever despair fills my heart that a particular young adult's heart seems too hard, too rebellious, too determined to go their own way, rather than His, God reminds me of my own rebellious heart, the disrespect I exhibited toward my parents' faith.Whenever I am tempted to respond with disbelief when a beloved young adult child makes immoral and dangerous choices, I remember that I was that young adult.  I keep praying for the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do. And I start watching for His presence, hoping and then trusting that He is doing something better than anything I could dream.

I love how author Paul Miller captures this truth in his book, A Praying Life:  "When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. 
You are learning to trust again.” 

God used multiple circumstance to turn my heart toward Him, to where He made my childhood faith an adult faith, my own faith rather than my parents'. My young adult choices created chaos, havoc, conflict, and excruciating pain, not just in my family but in my boyfriend's family. How I wish I could undo the hurt I caused. Yet through my sinfulness God's grace reigned and He brought beauty from ashes. We experienced reconciliation, not only with our God through Jesus' sacrifice, but also with family. 

Is your prodigal far from home if not physically then spiritually and emotionally? Has every attempt to reach him or her built more walls, created more anger, rebellion? Pray. Pray and pray some more. Ask Jesus to guide your words, or to show you small ways to demonstrate your unconditional love. Ask others to join you in praying fervently, and watch, watch for the Lord's movement. Don't be surprised if the change takes place in your own heart before the heart of your child. Listen carefully as the Lord challenges your own attitude and behavior. And then obey His Word, no matter how insignificant you think your obedience is in the context of our child's sinful decisions. Though this is an excruciatingly painful and fearful time, it can also be one of the most tender times of experiencing God's presence.

In His grip with you,
Sharon


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