The little girl in the pew ahead of us clings tightly to her daddy. It’s obvious that she loves him deeply and can’t get enough of him. Unfortunately, she’ll say good-bye again in a few short hours. Mom will come pick her up and drive several hours to their “new” home … without him … and grandma and grandpa.
The husband and wife at the other end of the same pew chuckle at the misspelled words on the screen at the front of the church. They both sing with their whole hearts anyway. His devotion to her is so apparent. My heart aches for her though. She’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Tears sneak out here and there … she’s hoping no one sees.
Irony? Maybe that’s just the numbers. There are over 300 people here today. They can’t all have major problems, can they? What makes them come to church anyway? Why not stay at home, go back to bed, have a little pity party. Why not? There’s nothing we can say to make them feel better. If anyone deserves a break, it’s them. Why do they show up here? Why do they want to?
“Love deeply” the Pastor says. These are the words that jump out at me. They echo in my brain. They sink deep into my soul. My own “recovery” from past afflictions seems far away now. I used to flinch when the Pastor admonished to “get involved”, “treat others better than yourself”. “I have my own problems”, I’d screamed inwardly.
I struggle to find the right words. What do you say to the friend who is raising two children alone? Dad’s departure is both a relief and a source of anxiety. His drinking was doing no one any good. Emotional tyranny drew the last straw. She’s left to pay the bills and nurture the kids, to be both mom and dad.
This is MY church. These are MY friends. I just want to embrace them all, protect them from any harm that may come their way. I heard Mark Schultz say today that he was trying to write a song for the family of one of his youth group kids. (He had leukemia.) After struggling for three months, he begged God to help him. God said to him, “Mark, do you have a son?” Mark replied, “No Sir.” God said, “Do you have a son with cancer?” Again, he replied, “No.” “Then you better slide over!” The song was written in 45 minutes…He’s My Son.
As I was listening to the song (for about the fourteenth time), I started changing the words. “See, she’s not just anyone … she’s my friend.” I felt the pain of that father, offering his own life in place of his son. He’d do anything … take his place … just let my son live. Just let my friend have a good life, let her be healthy ... let that little girl’s parents love each other again ... let those kids’ dad come home and be the dad they need.
What is my part? I’ve never had cancer … my dad left though. I’ve never been divorced, but I’ve been a single mom. I lost custody of my daughter for ten agonizing years. I struggled with alcohol and drugs. I wanted to die. I found hope. I healed. Some days I feel downright triumphant. Life is good now. Sometimes I’m almost afraid to admit it. I never want to be complacent. God’s given me hope … God’s given me HOPE.
He’s also given me the ability to share that hope, hasn’t He? He’s given me the experiences that now serve as “common ground”. I can be someone else’s beacon. I can show them the way. I am a messenger. I am being used by God. What higher honor could I receive? Recognition? No. To offer someone else that hope. That mom who is raising kids alone; that dad who only gets to see his kids every other weekend; that woman who is facing chemo and surgery; they will all have hope to cling to … because God gave me compassion and even those agonizing struggles. I would not appreciate or wish to share that hope otherwise.
You may be facing dire circumstances, painful consequences, life or death decisions. I can do more than wish them away for you. I can offer you hope. I know because I’ve been there. Now I’m here … offering that same hope that saved me. Let me introduce you … His name is Jesus.
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Little God-bumps raised the hair on my arms when I read that last line. It was like I saw it coming, but didn't really. Yes, and I can offer that hope too. Funny, I was just telling a dear friend this morning about some traumas of yesteryear and the times when I was sure God wouldn't hear me. But He did. And He does. And He gives me a hope. The very LEAST we can do is share it with someone else. ((hugs))