Humbled, tested, blessed

Life is hard and life is good. "That he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end" (Deuteronomy 8:16). ~ John Piper's tweet today at 1:30 p.m.

That morning, we watched two friends hands run the length of a tiny casket, draped in a blue knit baby blanket, that final touch symbolic of the life and death the casket held: short and sweet. It's the second time we've watched them walk this road of sorrow, the second baby they lost the same day they met him. Two sons - Josh and Jake - arrows now around God's table in heaven instead of around theirs here on earth.

We passed through their darkness on the way to our own. A side trip on the way to Mayo to find out what was wrong with Amelia. The pale turquoise of the spring sunlit sky belied the shadow of the valley we felt deep inside. Yet walking a road of suffering nearly unbroken for two years has taught us that you still feel the sun on your shoulders when your heart is breaking. It feels paler, somehow, less vibrant. But you still see the beauty in the day. Sometimes I can feel the wrinkles forming deeper around my eyes, as if time has switched to fast forward and wisdom and age are overtaking me by leaps and bounds.

We froze the frames of the day for a few hours at a favorite park, Minnehaha Falls. I could almost feel the lift of the swing chains as I looked up at the children from the ground. Remember when you were light enough that the chains curved as your weight pulled the swing up just to the point of the pendulum where you became weightless? I remember that - the curving of the swing chains, and the sudden snap of them as my weight pulled straight down to earth inevitably. It is a picture of the state of the soul of suffering: brief moments when you are weightless and the grin goes from one ear to the other; and the sudden snap and flying heaviness as the weight of trouble and despair pulls you straight back down into the dark curve of the arc.

We all gripped tight to the chains that carried our hearts to joyous freedom that day, flitting back and forth from sorrow and darkness to light. We watched Amelia closely and I thought deep about how many of these moments have been lost to cancer, encephalitis, fear and forboding. Much of that fear stems from the fact that I am not yet ready. (Does anyone ever feel ready?) I feel like I have my claws into the lessons of life God has placed before me, but the book is still in the shadows and I haven't read it yet. There is a hint of desperation to the grip I have on these truths He places before me. Suffering, especially, I have not understood yet. I see hints of the why every so often. But the gestalt of the picture still escapes me.

As Philippians 2 says so eloquently in the King James,
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
It is the essence of the lessons I am in the midst of right now: I am Beloved. I must Obey. Work out salvation with fear and trembling. God works in you. For His purpose and pleasure. Don't murmur or dispute. Your goal is to be blameless, harmless, identifiable as a daughter of God, without rebuke, shining as a light. It is in these days of walking with God in faith when all that is in me screams for a better answer that I work out - understanding, becoming reverent, learning tenacious, trusting, defending faith - my salvation. I come to grips with what happened to me, the new creation I became, the day I believed. I decide, over and over and over again, to live this life to which I am called.

Even with cancer. Even with life-threatening infection that appears out of nowhere and threatens to swallow up the one thing I still call beloved and cannot loosen my grip on: my family. Even when it is epilepsy. Even when all of life changes in an instant. Even then...He is good. He is holy. He knows. He loves. He lavishes. He sustains. He is never gone. He never quits caring. He never quits drawing me closer. On this the solid Rock I stand...all other ground is sinking sand.