Most of my life, my face - and I have even heard from many that my very thumbs - remind others of another: my precious mom. Many close to me cannot speak of Lisa to someone new without mentioning my momma and that tragic day. A car accident, so common, but so sharp, cutting, and so very defining. I was then defined, described, associated with, and introduced as tragedy and loss. They seemed close, unfeeling, yet familiar friends.
I grew, I lived, I teenaged, I made decisions, I reached, I searched, I failed, I succeeded, I formed relationships, I took and I gave, I colleged, I married, I worked, I birthed, I loved and I struggle. The struggle is not past tense. For we all have a thorn in our side, do we not? My dad grew, he struggled, he remarried, he divorced, repeat.
As I now have a 12 and a 16 year old myself, their love, their good mornings and their good nights, and especially their I-love-you-Moms are like air to me, but I often spend time with another old friend: FEAR. It grips me at times and in the strangest of ways. For you see, when tragedy comes knocking, fear is a looming yet comfortable companion. Fear makes you feel out of control while trying to remain in control. Like a weighted blanket, the presence of fear, tricky as he may be, gives you a false illusion that you are actually in control by worrying and fretting.
This life of worry and fear seemed completely justified. My young experience — the hardest blow to a six year old child — the hands and love of a mother becoming unavailable in an instant was dictating how I was living and how I was loving DECADES later. My children and husband will tell you that I am a scaredy squirrel and the captain of the safety squad on any occasion. The continual fear circle goes like this: I cannot bear to experience any more loss, and I love my children so very deeply so I must live my life to make sure that they live theirs. The other side says that I must live my life in such a way to ensure that they will continually have a mother around.
Now, do you relate? Of course, we all want the very best lives for our children and ourselves and to remain healthy and well. However, living and giving into the fear nature is a lie because it replaces the trust nature that Jesus freely gives us. My friends, fear is not free. It costs and it steals and it robs us of joy. There is a worship song out now that is dripping with truth. Zach Williams’ Fear is a Liar’s bridge boldly begs “Let your fire fall and cast out all my fears, Let your fire fall, Your love is all I feel.” In that contentment is now where I try to live.
Every year, for years, the month of August delivered pain and made all the colors go gray. I dreaded it, I circled it on my calendar, even wrote a sad face next to the actual date when my mom had passed and declared it a day of mourning. As an adult, I took it even further; I prepared for the worst, I feared and I struggled. I closed my door and threw myself on the bed each year and had a glorious day of missing my mom. Several years back, as I was writing an upcoming appointment down, something wonderful occurred in my life. As I wrote down an appointment on August 15th and then another on August 17th my heart began to flip flop. There was no sad face. There was not even a date circled. Then the dull ache began. That familiar dread set in. The date that defined my entire life was unrecognizable to my everyday living calendar. Then something stranger yet… was the date the 15th? Was it the 17th? I couldn't remember. What!?!? At first embarrassment and shame washed over me. How could I forget?
Then like a bubbling brook, a small tinge of joy came and for a full minute of my existence, I could not recall the actual date. I then uttered aloud, August 18th. It was August 18th! Then a huge smile graced my face. Then joy, a full cleansing joy filled me up. I smiled at my God, for WE had shared that moment. Circumstances, they do come. Tragedy, it does indeed occur. Everyday. Somewhere. Someone. Death touches us all. I was tired of treading water in the pools of loss and tragedy. I was ready to dive deep into the living water. To breathe thoroughly and swim uninhibitedly with the living. Then the thought occurred to me, our loved ones who have passed and who knew Christ are among the living. Alive, truly alive in our Savior. The kind of alive that we do not yet know of.
Tragedy. It is dark, it is deep, it hurts, it is lonely, it is sometimes unavoidable and it touches every fiber of our being. From tragedy, a heart loves deeply and holds on a little tighter. However, our Savior’s love holds the tightest, loves even stronger and holds us together when we fall apart. The mess is still a mess and that is ok. I often like to ponder on the grace that shines through moments of loss and tragedy. God’s goodness is so apparent, so real and so palpable. He is there. Always. I have never questioned God’s sovereignty. He is good. The world is sinful and fallen and devastating events plague us but He is good. That is a constant that I can cling to.
Interestingly, another life accidentally defined by death is Jesus. Sometimes we keep Him on that cross. Persecuted and dying or even dead. Yes, thank goodness, He was on that cross at one point in time for us. He did indeed go to hell and conquer the grave for us. So much of our story does revolve around His darkest day. However, He is NOT a life defined by tragedy. He is undefinable. He is life. He is living water. He is truth. He is ABBA. He is a friend. He is our treasure. He is our Shepherd. He is love and He is in everything. So look up today. Yours is not a life defined by tragedy or loss or a circumstance that you find yourself in. You are a life defined by grace and HIS goodness.
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