Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hope Echoes in the Hollow Places

May 21, 2014, once again my world crumbled before me.

My cardiologist looked stern into my eyes, like a father who lifts his daughter’s chin, to be sure he had my full attention and warned: you need to take it easy so we get to keep you around. I slumped on the inside and shifted my gaze to his shiny navy shoes tied with bright cobalt blue laces and choked on the lump in my throat.

I was 37 years old with three young children and my cardiologist couldn’t promise me months or even a few years to live. He couldn’t be sure how bad things were, but he knew something had gone terribly wrong with my heart and it wouldn’t hold up to much more. All that radiation they had blasted my three-year-old body had killed the cancer and left me riddled with horrific side-effects. Now the risks of open-heart surgery were astronomical he said and the chances of survival were slim. 

How do you keep on walking when burdens of life weigh you down?

In days of waiting, how do you take the next step?

In songs of lament, where is the joy?

In these times of trouble, don’t start by looking to your problems—they are always too great to bear. 

Always start with God. Look to the Lord.

The author in Lamentations 3 directed his thoughts to the Lord and reminded himself that he has hope because He trusts in the God of hope. Listen to his song:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.”

On days when grim problems spark fear, look first to the promises of God and your faith will be strengthened.

When your faith is so stifled you think hope may be lost, look to the Lord’s great faithfulness. Seek the LORD and his strength, hope against hope, believing in God who is faithful.

When you have come to the end of yourself, you will find rest in the sovereignty of God.

Look away from your troubles and unto Jesus. We see him in the garden of Gethsemane, the eternal God, the God incarnate, the God-man, full of sorrow and deeply distressed, his soul “crushed with grief to the point of death”.

For months I lived not knowing if I would wake up the next morning. I reminded myself to hope in God and that nothing would separate me from His steadfast love.

Life wasn’t pretty packages tied up neatly with strings those days. I needed to cling to the promises of a faithful God. I had to anchor my soul to the Rock of Ages.

I scratched out my muddled thoughts and occasionally I weaved poetic words as if I could run my hand over a patchwork quilt and smooth out all the unruly strands of life. Poetry dares to peel back the hidden song, cracks open the lament and exposes the joy.

August 2014, sixteen days before my surgeon sliced his scalpel right through to my beat-up heart, I hacked through deep heartache and hope echoed in the hollow places.

These were those simple, unpolished words I strung together:

“She's stuck.

Gone numb to the needs around her.
She wishes for tears to surge to relieve her parched heart
then she corks them when they threaten to flood her panting soul.

Dishes stack up in the sink, laundry piles spill over in the halls
till her little one wonders where all her clean underwear is.

The list of to-dos would be endless if she cared to write them down.
It's easier to pretend that there is nothing to do when you can't do them yourself.

What do these things matter anyway?
The world has gone mad.
Why should she care if beds are made?

Rain breaks from heaven like unstoppable tears.
Thunder roars and lightening flashes across the sky.
Something beckons her to look.

She turns her face toward the sky.
There are slivers of light;
Speckles of blue sky in the fast moving storm clouds.

Day after day she will wake up and notice that she did.
Her heart kept beating.
The storm rages on;
the madness races on.
Morning by morning she will speak to her own soul.
Hope in God.
It appears in this world that He may be asleep.
That while she lays low in the dust
she must cry out for Him
to wake up.

to Rise up.

to Come and rescue us from ourselves.

To Redeem us from the darkness
for the sake of His steadfast love.

Nothing will separate her from His love. Nothing.

She beholds the gifts of his love He graciously gives:
In the slivers of light and speckles of blue sky:
The way her brother comes and empties the dishwasher,
and friends bend their knees, and pick up the phone
to boldly speak truth to her in her darkness,
the way her husband keeps on loving her,
and her sisters know the ache and cry for her,
and her sisters-in-law cook meals for her,
and her Mama comes and get things in order,
and her Dad holds her,
and her children need her to laugh at the days to come.

In the snuggles, coos and smiles of her niece,
the belly laughter of her nephews,
the sweetness of watermelon,
and maple syrup on waffles,
and strawberry jam surprises,
the zucchini loaf,
and cookies
and spaghetti sauce
made lovingly by her nieces.

It’s the clean underwear for her baby girl on a new day,
and Lincoln Log villages her boy made in the living room,
and precious prayers with her daughter in the morning,
and the way he kisses her fast pulse on her neck at night.

It's the way the sunsets in their lives
and promises to rise again in their love.

Joy comes in the morning.

She looks back.
She remembers.
She speaks to her soul.

She may be stuck,

but not forsaken.

God never slumbers or sleeps.
He will not let her go.

In the darkest of days,
He is Light.
In the hatred in the world,
He is Love.
In the brokenness in the world,
He is Peace.
In all things,
He is Sovereign.

Come. Come to our help.
Make things right
and new
and beautiful.

Come, Lord Jesus. 
She cries with the saints who long for Him 

to Come. Come.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

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