In church a couple of weeks ago, the minister tackled a difficult passage, Luke 6:17-26, in which Jesus talks about blessings and woes and doesn’t mince words. At all. The minister explained how it is tempting to simply want to divide people into two camps: those who are poor in various ways (the good guys) and those who are rich in various ways (the bad guys). But the reality is, we are all both. We are the poor, those who have suffered, those who don’t belong in this world, those who have very real needs. At the same time, we are also the rich, being the recipients of many blessings yet, with those blessings, having the temptation to focus entirely on the gifts, worshiping and counting on them instead of God.
The wondrous and countercultural reality of God’s Kingdom is that it provides a safe place to be vulnerable, sharing both our burdens and blessings. A place where we can live with both, as the minister encouraged. We admit our sorrows and brokenness, while simultaneously giving out of the areas of individual and corporate abundance. Together, we proclaim that pain and suffering do not have the final say. Furthermore, we are challenged to uphold Christ’s values and His blessings as central, putting this perspective to work in a broken, impoverished world… ushering in the fullness of God’s kingdom.
So, how does this relate to my life right now? How does this relate to yours? The pastor challenged us to reflect on both the areas of burden in our lives and also on the areas of blessing. He also asked us to contemplate how we can give out of our “rich” places.
So I sat there, ever the teacher’s pet desiring to do what is asked, and I put my thinking cap on…
Burdens first: This is easy, and you may even be tired of hearing my story (feel free to skip to the next paragraph!). My child died a tragic, untimely death. My remaining twin, John, faced grave medical circumstances and still struggles every day due to his condition. John has to live without his twin brother. We mourn the loss of all we dreamed about and anticipated: twin boys growing up together as best friends, supporting each other in the challenges and joys. And of course there is the pain of watching John work so hard (and if I’m honest, we work so hard too) for what can appear to be so little gain. There is the isolation and feeling different from others. And we dealt with significant posttraumatic stress trigged by giving birth to Daniel in the same hospital where John and Warren came into the world. Then brining him home and realizing all we missed out on with both Warren and John. Yes, burdens…
Next blessings: Of course there are material blessings that I hope to never take for granted. But when I thought about blessings and rich places, my mind kept going back to my children and back to our marriage (after what we have endured and because of what we have continued to endure). I thought of Daniel’s joy and curious nature. How he keeps us on our toes, having to laugh as he “gets into trouble” just as we prayed he would be able to do! And I specifically thought of John AND all the therapies, the efforts, the doctor’s appointments, the trips, the constant flow of people in and out of our home, the unknowns… Undoubtedly, John and his struggles bring us closer to Jesus, they have taught us all how to pray, they point us to a greater reality beyond ourselves and beyond this life… where all things are fully and finally made new. But even in the current reality, my supposed “burden” of having a child with special needs and all that entails, is actually my “rich place,” the place where God wants to work and bless others through John and through our family.
|Three of my blessings|
WOW, I was amazed as I pondered the pastor’s question… my areas of pain are also my areas of blessing. So often in my life, I have viewed these areas as separate. But through my three sons, these areas have been redeemed in a beautiful overlap. My life, burdens and all, are my rich places from which I can give. Is that not the hope of the Gospel, of God’s intimate restoration? That the same things that are the “burdens” in my life are also my richest areas? The areas that bring the most joy and fulfillment? The areas I want to share with you? The areas that our therapy volunteers frequently claim bless them (even though it is hard for me to see past how greatly they bless us with their time and devotion to John)? Praise God.
There is pain (I never want to discount that), and I know He mourns alongside us as we hurt and are battered from this broken world. YET, He is sovereign in and over the greatest pain, promising to bring beauty from the ashes. Working tireless and tenderly to make all things new. Working to weave the beautiful overlap into each of our lives.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”
|Uncle Cole in town from college and Daddy B!|