Reduction sauce from life


The frosty bottles of beer sweating in the South Carolina heat.  The way the fried fish curled so fishlike over the top of the plate.  The salty air and river breeze on the dock were we ate.


Earrings glittering God-made from sun sparkle on wet hair.  The turquoise of the sky dotted with giant white fluff for clouds.  The tiredness of legs that traversed miles of sand hard-packed by the endless, relentless waves.  The sound of crashing water redundant in your ears for hours after you leave the shore.


Even with cancer still looming, and depression recently conquered, and freedom to dance like never before, I took so much of it for granted still, last year.  The sun-soaked child skin and the tired eyes, and the burnished blond highlights in their hair.  The salt-sticky skin, the sweat tea kisses, the sea grass furniture, the market that God transformed from slave trade to freedom.  I thanked Him for being alive, but so much of being alive still escaped me.


When I said a year ago that "He is faithful", I had a different idea of what "faithful" meant.  I never imagined that "faithful" meant taking you further down the road of suffering.  That it might mean confounding you and boggling your mind and shaking the very foundations of your assumptions about what words like grace, mercy and love meant.  I didn't know that there were harder trials than cancer.

        
I've had a clear delineation in my mind of what is ugly and what is beautiful.  Every year, the boundaries fade and wash out and there is more crossing over from one category to another.  Death has never been beautiful to me, until I learned how its threat and even its eventuality saturates my life with thankfulness and quickness to forgiveness, proffering and accepting grace, loving, really loving as I stay in the moment instead of just passing through it.


The arms of the trial cross arms with the blessings, and soon it is just one big tree of life that is all His doing.  The moss of time grows and transforms things from bitter reality to distant memory, and what sticks on the branches is the greatness of what He has done.

        

After nearly losing Amelia, coming to grips with what we have lost of her even though she is still walking this earth with us today; suffering infections, and losing babies, and cracking open the vessels that feed brain with life...now I see how I am anointed, how we are anointed.  That even though the cool ocean water feels like life, and I breathe life in the salt and the joy and the blessing that is an unexpected trip to the sea, what I know deep is that life is not here.  Now we see darkly, as through a glass, but then we will see clearly when we come face to face with Life itself and know fully and are fully known (my paraphrase of I Corinthians 13:12).  In one breath, I thank God for the glimpses of life that are so clearly present in all the beauties He bestows upon me each day.  In the next, I thank Him for assuring me that I will one day share in the reality of which I now receive only a glimpse.


As the "stings" of life...really, the sting of death...burns deeper with each passing month of this extended time of suffering, something interesting is happening.  I've seen it in so many I've tended during their last days (not that these are my last days.  What I mean to say is that, through suffering, I am drinking that same cup of death that I have watched others drink as they approach their physical end).  The most intellectual theologian abandons Biblical rhetoric, and once again draws nigh to the passages of Scripture that say it most bluntly and beautifully.  As I suffer, I think less about the how, why, where and what, and simply focus on the Gospel.  It is the Gospel that speaks deep comfort to my soul.  I could care less about theological debate.  What I care about now is that Jesus saves, salvation is eternally secure, sin has been washed away and will not even be remembered for those of us who have been washed by Jesus' blood, and that heaven is a real and eternal place where nothing but worship will ever matter again.
You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Whatever comes next, whatever trial or blessing, whatever sin I step into, whatever omission I make or commission I choose...whether the buoyancy of a week at school propels me through and I pass my exam in the next few weeks, or I flounder or fail...what comes hourly and moment by moment are the snippets of old hymns and long-ago memorized verses that assure me that He cares for me.  What I hold to, above all else, is the creed I professed before the trials, the creed that still remains my creed to this day.  I will not "curse God and die", nor will I choose to remain in a season of questioning.  I step forward with the same faith I placed in Him as a 5 year old child.  Because HE is great, and HE is good, and HE is omniscient and omnipresent.  I am just the glittering dust that blows in the hot wind of His sovereignty, the trials of my life turning dirt into diamonds that bring attention to His glory.
Et in Jesum Christum, Filium ejus unicum, Dominumqui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria virgine; passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus; descendit ad inferna; tertia die resurrexit a mortuis; ascendit ad coelos; sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis; inde venturus (est) judicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum; sanctam ecclesiam catholicam; sanctorum communionem; remissionem peccatorum; carnis resurrectionem; vitam oeternam. Amen.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.  (for a musical version of the Creed, click here)