THAT ONE TIME WHEN I DIDN’T DIE

I love TED Talks! As in anyone-who-says-they-enjoy-TED Talks-is-automatically-my-new-best-friend kind of love. And, no, the poor souls never see it coming. This morning, this 16-minute talk showed up in Twitter and I’ve been excited to share it all day long!!

The title reminded me of my friend who celebrated his first birthday after surviving necrotizing faciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) as his I Didn’t Die birthday. And it reminded me of so many of my fellow survivors in the Aortic Dissection Support Group on Facebook. I hadn’t expected to hear so many of my own thoughts come out of someone else’s mouth.

On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised that someone else had those thoughts. Suleika Jaouad gave voice to an idea that I’ve been pondering. In the years since I survived my ascending aortic dissection, I have noticed that I have as much in common with cancer survivors as I do with dissection survivors. I also have a lot in common with people who have dealt with break-ups, being relieved of job responsibilities and the key to the employee entrance, financial losses, etc. You can add whatever you want to the list.

These are the 9 things I’ve noticed so far:

  1. You are not alone. Everyone has either already endured a struggle or will eventually endure a struggle. No one finishes without at least one, and some people should probably just get their own punch card.
  2. Any loss is still a loss, any pain is still pain, and no one else gets to determine how big, bad or scary your struggle is.
  3. More often than not, you weren’t asked if it was okay with you. No, you didn’t get a vote. Yes, you get to clean up the collateral damage.
  4. Surviving wasn’t necessarily a matter of being a warrior. Let’s face it – it’s intuitive for us to do what we can to not die, and everyone around us from family to physicians is doing everything to help us survive. That being said, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to work your guts out getting to the other side.
  5. These things can change you in ways you may not be able to articulate. In fact, you may not want to share your thoughts at the risk of sounding ungrateful, because…
  6. Your new life might suck. (I’m no angel, but this blog hardly seems the right place for a word that may offend some. So I apologize for any offense, but maintain that this is the most appropriate inappropriate word I can think of.) But honestly, “new normal” is a phrase only used when the change in your life is no picnic, right?
  7. You are not the only one who went through it and came out on the other side a changed person. Your friends and family (and even your coworkers) are now the friends and family (and coworkers) of the person who survived. They have a “new normal” to adjust to as well.
  8. Your recovery doesn’t have to be pretty or polished to be progress.
  9. Finally, the biggest lie you may ever believe is that you’re the only one. Your story, statistics and survival may certainly be unique, but…See #1 again.

That’s it. That’s all I have right now. No confetti, pep talk or words of wisdom to end this post. But while you’re here, feel free to share something you think might help someone else not feel quite so alone.

Oh, you are so loved!

And Then What?

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures. Occasionally, she would walk around the room to see each child’s work.

“What are you drawing?” she asked one little girl who was working diligently at her desk.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

The little girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

God must think we’re kind of funny when we try to identify Him or his plans. Or figure out the platypus, which I contend is the product of a heavenly inside joke to keep our minds occupied as we wait in a long line at Walmart.

I remember several years ago that someone contemplated the vastness of the universe. Imagine, they pondered, that we live in a solar system that we barely know anything about. That solar system is part of a galaxy. It’s one of several galaxies. The universe is all of the galaxies. So…you’d think that somewhere out there is the end of all of that…a wall at the edge, right?

The question, then, is…What’s on the other side of the wall?

The “other side of the wall” is the stuff that I think God is all about. We have those things we can see and ponder and may some day be able to identify and label; but what about the stuff on the “other side of the wall”?

We like being able to put a label on something, give it a name. We like anticipating how things will work out or figuring out how they work so we can manipulate and master them. We especially like being able to tell God how he can “fix” the problems we have in our lives, right? We can make a list and a timeline that we can check and follow. It’s so very  comfortable.

People had ideas of what Messiah would sound like, look like, act like.

Do you think they were surprised when he was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit? C’mon, that doesn’t even make sense!

Do you think they expected Jesus to be raised in the home of a carpenter – or in the home of a soldier or politican?

Do you think they expected him to “slum it” with lepers, Samaritans and tax collectors – or with society’s elite?

Do you think they expected him to actually encourage his brothers and sisters to walk the extra mile for the army that oppressed them, when they were expecting him to overturn that same government – or to begin an insurrection? (Ironically, this is the very thing Barabbas was accused of when the people chose to execute Jesus instead and free Barabbas.)

Do you think they expected him to go to his crucifixion without a single protest – or would he defend himself and finally rise up to make his stand?

Do you think they expected him to come back to life after three days in the grave?

Now, that is the stuff God’s about! That mind-blowing, are-you-serious, how-is-that-even-possible stuff is absolutely what God is all about. 

The Hebrews knew the stories of God’s miracles and deliverance – the exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, Sarah’s conception of Isaac, crazy Noah and his ark, David’s defeat of Goliath. But even then, they were determined to fit God into a man-designed box. Just like we do today, they considered very human, very limited ways that Messiah would or could come to them.

But Messiah didn’t come in a box. He came in a womb.

 

 

baby jesus.jpg
“Immanuel…God With Us”

Now, that’s outside the box! But outside the box is exactly what we need because we’re not fighting a war that’s “inside the box.” The war is not about the possession of land or resources.

The battle is for our souls, for eternity.

lion reflected in sword

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

And the battle?

But as it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Like nothing we’ve seen before or can possibly imagine with our five senses and limited imaginations.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

But how unbelievable is it that God would to us as a baby – vulnerable and dependent, yet so very embraceable.

God came down to be embraced. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

WHEN YOU QUESTION YOUR PARTNER

Remember when you were in school and you had to partner with someone to complete a project, and your partner failed you? Not only did you do most of the research, but you got a bad grade besides because of their lack of participation.

Or as an adult, you were on a workplace committee to work on a project. Most of the members did a fair job of contributing; but there was that one person who not only didn’t do her part, but actually made the outcome of the project worse than if she’d done nothing at all. In the end, your boss didn’t care about how each member performed individually; they only wanted results, and the results were dismal.

Sometimes, you think, it would have been easier to have done it all yourself. You know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That would be the easiest way to handle things, wouldn’t it? But that’s the world’s answer to everything. The world will tell you to “look out for yourself because no one’s going to help you, baby. You’re in this alone.”

Some Christians would go so far as to say the temptation to not rely on anyone else is from Satan because division has always been his goal. And there’s truth in that, too. Satan will wait until you’re weak to suggest that no one – not even God – will be there to help you.

But what if it’s not a school partner or a coworker who isn’t pulling their weight, but your spouse – the one you believe God set aside just for you? Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

For some, this isn’t a theological contemplation for meditation; this is a question they need an answer to because they feel very alone right now. And quite scared.

That’s the root of it all right there, isn’t it? Fear. God’s Word reminds us again and again to not fear, do not be afraid or dismayed. As a child of God, our heavenly Father promises that he hears our cries and knows our hearts. He is our Abba Father, our provider. Will he come through when no one else does? Will he show up when the one he chose as your partner fails you and leaves you afraid that he or she won’t do their part to provide for the family?

Satan whispers, “See? I told you you were alone.” He is constantly on the move to see what he can destroy, and if your relationship looks wounded and helpless, you can be certain he’ll attack it. All he needs is an opening, one small opportunity. He only needs us to be weak. Weakened by fear, disillusionment, anxiety, unfulfilled promises, unspoken assurances.

I believe there are warriors out there who are battle-weary and need encouragement. I don’t feel it’s enough to simply say, “God says that you shouldn’t be afraid.” He has said that, several times in fact; but I think it’s naïve to think those who need an encouraging word right now will find it encouraging enough. For some, it would be like slapping a smiley face sticker on your problem and calling it first aid. Some of God’s children have a history of disappointments that have left them feeling hopeless and helpless when things get scary. They expect nothing more more than self-preservation to be their security.

God gave you emotions, and fear was one of them. But it’s not his plan for you to live defeated when you have been designed for battle. And if the best way for Satan to gain a foothold in your life – in your marriage – is for you to be weak, then you need to be strong. Tou can be afraid if you choose, but do it afraid!

God knows you can’t do it alone. He never intended for you to fight in your own power and has made it clear that apart from him, we can do nothing. So pray for the peace, confidence, discernment and courage you need. Then put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle, knowing this:

e1c684994e507d17dfba51c7c62d0200

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10 – 17). Then stand firm.

7698070e47f125cc0f451d562f10b582

He is God. He will not fail you!