Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When God Draws Near

Driving home, I was listening to a radio station. "We will not sensationalize this tragedy," emphasized the host. "What we will do is pray for the families and all involved."

It was a family gathering we had traveled to, and we did not want the children to hear every horrific detail about Friday in Newton Connecticut. The news was muted during the football game, and the only conversation regarding what happened was with another mother, as we two went to gather supplies for the meal. Shock and grief linger, and we simply can not understand what drives one human being to destroy the lives of others. In truth, I do not really want to completely "understand" such darkness. I simply pray that God's light will shine into the lives of the suffering, that comfort would be found in His arms.

One of my personal heroes said: "There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Corrie Ten Boom survived the horrors of  German concentration camps. Her family was arrested for hiding those persecuted by Hitler's regime; her father and beloved sister did not survive. And yet this self professed Tramp For the Lord also said, “In darkness God's truth shines most clear.” She went on to found a refuge house for concentration camp survivors, and even a shelter for the very ones who had caused her suffering. When face to face with one of her own captors, she remembered his cruelty and still chose to forgive.

She writes of her experience,"But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
    And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. "I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"
    For a long moment we grasped each others hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.

Divine forgiveness poured through human flesh- the conductor being prayer and a willing heart. I see this response mirrored in the words of a father whose little girl was taken from him-- not by God, but by what can only be defined as gaping separation from the One who is love. This grieving father said that though he is devastated and does not know how to get through something like this, "he's not angry." In the face of overwhelming loss, Robbie Parker said his desire is to be more compassionate, and more humble, and help others. Can you imagine?

Shock and awe, indeed.Can we each learn to forgive like this? I am certain we can, in Christ alone. No matter how deep the wound, no matter how prolonged the suffering, there is a Healer whose purpose is to set us free from everything that would ensnare. Clinging to bitterness does not protect the wound; it deepens it. Yet when the guttural response is replaced with prayers of forgiveness for those who have left jagged edges in hearts and souls, healing comes, and light dawns.

 There may still be weeping, for grieving is done step by step, every one at a unique pace. But I have found that wholeness is a prayer away. It does take emotional work- but walking wounded is the more costly struggle- especially when multiplied over days, months, even years. Forgiveness is a choice- and it's the choice that sets us free from the chains of unforgiveness. We can choose to let our lives be defined by what has been taken from us- or we can pray through the healing process and move towards greater wholeness.  

As we lift up those suffering this holiday season, let us remember that prayer is not a last ditch effort, it's one of the most powerful weapons we can wield, for prayer invites our Healer in. Only God can bring beauty from ashes, and we can rest assured, He will!

~Just Me

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