I've perfected the art of balancing on the gutter behind our house. I take my hiking stick as I start on a walk with my husband or our dog and pretend I'm on a tight rope, so I don't fall into the neighbour's yard. I don't have a great sense of balance, so this isn't particularly EASY, but I feel pretty good about it, and I haven't fallen -- yet.
It happens when your life appears to be moving along without issue. In essence, you have improved your morning routine, organised sufficiently for everyone's activities, and even dinner around the table is working out fabulously. Your spouse and kids are playing along and all in all, you feel like you are getting the "upper hand" on this wild thing we call, well, doing life.
Then, BOOM! Out of the blue something occurs - you lose someone you love, work lets you go, someone is diagnosed with a critical condition, or, or, or, or ... or you experience an undesired life-changing event like, um, maybe a global pandemic? (Really? Is this happening?)
If you have ever read the book or seen the movie about The Hiding Place or if you know anything of the Ten Boom family you are going to love this story and I hope it helps you. If you haven't, I guarantee you still. will. love it! It's pretty rad ... and it happened to me many moons ago.
But before that, let me give you your first verse of hope.
I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. -Jeremiah 29:11, MSG
In 1989 I was robbed in Amsterdam. I wasn't mugged or held at gunpoint or scared at all except that I didn't know how to pay to eat or get around that day. I only woke up from sleeping in hostel bed and noticed that all my money disappeared overnight even though I had put it "safely" under my pillow so that it would be close to me. Yeah, I know, I should have known better (you would never have done something that silly, I'm sure). But, that's not the part you'll love ...
I still had some transit passes in my front pocket since I had slept in my jeans, so I decided to take a quick trip over to Haarlem to visit the Ten Boom Haus ... the second time that semester in Europe. I felt safe there so returning was my first response to suddenly having no money. I knew I couldn't pay to do the tour and I went anyway.
Guess what? No one was on a house tour that day even though it was late morning (usually a busy time), so I ended up chatting with the guy selling clocks in the beautiful shop still there in the main floor. Then a sweet lady (sometimes a tour guide) heard what had happened to me from him and invited me up to the dining room to sit at the family table and have tea. She told me her name was Monique.
The family table!
God knew what He was doing. He had it all planned out.
Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. - I Thessalonians 5:11, MSG
Monique then read to me from that colossal family Bible that Casper ten Boom would read to his family at dinner before the Nazis found out about the secret place behind the wall. As she read she saw me crying and after a prayer suggested I rest because I was probably worn out. I was tired, yes, and I admit that the exhaustion probably accentuated the overwhelming sense of ... GOD. The Berlin Wall had come down only one month before when my friends and I had been on tour in Berlin. Maybe I'll save that story for another post! So yeah, walls were becoming less and less of a hurdle.
And then ... okay, she told me to lie down in Corrie’s old bed. I am not making any of this up. I don’t know why she said to me that was okay of all places. I mean, it isn't holy or anything, but, it just felt special and sweet and undeserved. I fell asleep for a brief nap staring at the big hole that is now in that hidden wall in order to see to that hiding place that saved a good number of lives so many years before me. And this memory brings me to the next verse to remember in order to find a place to hide when life seems hopeless:
"The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world."
-John 16:33, MSG
I still remember that Monique had a son named Michael and that he had meningitis after working in Africa. He was in the hospital, and she was sick with concern, but after telling me about that she immediately went to a quote from Corrie’s sister Betsie. That brave sister had comforted a fellow prisoner who had been challenging the sisters' discussion of suffering. She said,
"There is no pit so deep that God isn’t deeper still."
I got a Christmas postcard from Monique later that year and that is precisely what it said. In fact, that is all it said. I do wish I still had that sweet reminder from Monique; I never heard from her again yet I prayed for her son. I last looked at that card after we lost a baby. And I haven't seen it since the 2010 Nashville flood took our home and we lost every earthly thing we owned. Oh yeah, a ton of stuff. All pelf. Not ours anyway. Neither was the child. I kinda miss having that postcard, but clearly the sentiment has stayed with me. Until glory you and I may never truly understand the whys of loss or illness, but ...
"Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled." I Corinthians 13:8, MSG
I did eat that day in Amsterdam. I have no idea what persuaded someone on the returning train from Haarlem to buy me lunch, but it happened. #yeahiknowitwasgod I got on the plane back to the states alone, but with my belly and my heart full.
So what on earth does this have to do with YOU? Everything really. Few of us have accounts as horrific as Corrie’s; I was simply broke in Amsterdam at the time. I had NOT suffered. I was NOT in fear for my life. It was just a silly inconvenience of disappearing cash that led to a reminder of what to do in difficulties to come in later years, horrible situations that would almost steal my soul, not my pocketbook. The things is, I do not doubt that you have some real events in your life that you would rather forget and may have almost stolen your soul. Your next verse?
You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, a lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You’ve always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you." Psalm 61:3-5, MSG
Year later and I thank you, Monique. I thank you, Corrie. Thank you for being "my people." And I REALLY thank you, Jesus.
All of this brings your impressive balancing act to an abrupt halt. You find yourself still in bed at 10 am, no longer giving a whit about family systems or activities, and the last thing on your mind is eating. Suddenly, something very different is on your mind. You must now forage for food in the grocery store while staying at a social distance from everyone and their Aunt Lilian, who are in the same predicament.
During the current troublesome times, it’s easy to confine yourself in other ways: pushing 'your people' away, lashing out at your family, and completely detaching from your spouse. Do those people feel confused and somewhat abandoned? This is very possible.
Listen to this wonderful song using footage from a story about sister Corrie. It is lesson about what God CAN do when we can't.
Yes, this pandemic is tough and may get much tougher, but we have got to remember not only to receive love during the tough times but also to supply love. Yeah. I know. This is hard right now, but it is crucial. We might have expected Jeremiah to reject God is the face of HIS suffering. But instead, he urged the survivors around him to "pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Pour out your heart to Him FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN!" (Lamentations 2:19)
Right now the only people you aren't scared of contaminating the ones in your home because if one of you has it, you all have it. So ... what if we all crawled out of bed and requested a group hug from our families in the morning? As Christians, we are called "to strengthen one another, to lift each other up," and to trust that God is in control of every circumstance ... yes, even this global thing. Sometimes I need to remind myself how this spinning world came to be in the first place.
I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel ... And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
-EPHESIANS 4::2-3, MSG
So, take a deep breath. Invite The Master Spinner to fill your heart with His love as you face the difficult days ahead, remember to accept love and encouragement from your friends and family, and don’t forget to love them in return.
If the balancing act I attempt when I walk my dog lands me in the neighbours' yard at one point, the least I can do for myself is to remember that it was never me who was balancing in the first place. It was the hiking stick. It was my staff. "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
We must always remember, we DO have an Almighty God who CAN move the mountains. Trust in Him, for He has plans to give you, me and even Aunt Lilian ... a “future and a hope.”
Hide yourself in Him. Take your hurt, whatever it may be, and make something beautiful out of it. Somehow.
I believe in you! God has definitely NOT forgotten you, and your suffering is precious to Him. So many accounts of those who survived those times in the second world war are stories of courage and strength and faith ... and even forgiveness. I've kinda fallen in love with suffering. I hate it. I want out of it. Bad. But I like the human that is me SO much better after it. Trust me, you will too.
So we’re not giving up. How could we!? Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. - II CORINTHIANS 4:16, MSG
No pit is so deep that God ...
There is also a wonderful story relayed in The Miami Herald a couple of years ago about Eva Kor, author and founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center. I encourage you to READ IT HEREor salt it away for when you are having a struggle forgiving someone.