Friday, November 18, 2011

Embers--The Lifting of Stooped Shoulders

His lips were reduced to a single slip of pink embroidery thread--a thin line holding back a torrent of tears--when he came. Already, he had thrown the Newton's cradle, a tangled knot of weighted silver balls and fishing line, into the bulging garbage can. In full resignation he announced, "It's broken; we can't fix it this time." Shoulders stooped, his head drooped, and his eyes filled with drips he refused to let flow. Bent over. My boy. And I saw the words, none of them eloquent, all of them embers in the furnace of hope. The Lord...lifts up all who are bent over." (Psalm 145:14) Life bends us over sometimes. It just does. A single slip of hand had sent Cort's hard earned Newton's Cradle soaring through the air where a thousand invisible fingers worked together to tie and tangle the lines so that they were spaghetti, and his heart couldn't bare it all. Holding his rescued wreckage in calloused palms, I thought of my own tangles--the motor in our car that gave up with Christmas around the corner. I thought of the family who saw the soil cover the coffin this week, the neighbor who went from blowing leaves off her deck to immobile in less than a week. I remembered my sister's text telling me a baby where she works died. Another boy overdosed. Life bends, and bends, and bends. My hands held a child's set of knots, but in my heart there grows the knots of a lifetime--a mass of death, divorce, tumors, and billowing bills. Some my own. Some others. All twisting, turning, touching my spirit, whispering, Bend. And that word bend? It means to submit--to bend before a King. And how is it that it is life that causes us to bend when we say we are followers of the King of Kings? How is it that we slump our shoulders and stoop our hearts to the overwhelming flood that gushes when the King of Kings says, "The Lord is near all who cry out to him," (Psalm 145:18) And when did we start crying instead of crying out to the God who is near? Lord, help me to bend to you, that you might lift me up. Show me how to bend to you and not the circumstances. What if we purpose to bend to the King when life demands we bend to it? Daniel danced this waltz--the one where he bends to the one true God. The decree was that no one would pray to any human or God other than King Darius. That was the decree. Bend. Bend to another, not your God. And Daniel bent. He bent to his God offering prayers and thanks. The situation was dire. Surely he knew he risked his body to the shredding of lion's teeth. Yet he bent. He prayed. He thanked. Scripture says, "just as he had been accustomed to do previously."(Daniel 6:11) He was in a familiar pattern where bending to the Sovereign God was his habit. And I think of my own habits. I examine them next to Daniels'. Why, when difficulty bares her jagged teeth do we bend to her when our God remains enthroned? Don't we realize all the raging universe is on a leash? "The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything." Psalm 103:19 Everything. Extends over everything. Extends over the suffocating moment when we know our child is no longer present in their earthly frame. Extends over the moment when husband of twenty years walks out, and we are left murmuring a thousand times, "Don't leave." Extends over the negative bank account, extends over the day when the sun climbs into the sky and you realize you've chased a dollar your entire life and yet have nothing. Extends to the babies in Haiti at the orphanage where they haven't had rice for three days. In His kingdom, His subjects, we are. Even the suffering ones? Even the destitute ones? Yes, even them. And even the bravest of us, the most-determined-to-not-question Him of us all must sometimes admit we want to know. Why? Why then, if we are all His subjects, must we be bent? Why, Oh Great King, do you sit back when children starve? Why do you let young ones die and old ones wither? Why do you allow the wars and the pain? I am just an untangler of human knots, the child-sized spider's webs, not the great universal utterings that together become a theological loftiness beyond the reach of my 67 inches. But still, I hear mankind's murmur--a low mumble at first, and then the fields sway, and the trees flail and I hear them all together--a chorus of questions. "He is the one...who heals all your diseases, who delivers your life from the pit, who crowns you with his loyal love and compassion, who satisfies your life with good things...executes justice for all the oppressed." (Psalm 103:3-6) Now hear me whisper here because I don't mean to tread toes, I only mean to explore our hearts in truth. What if the promise for healing isn't always realized in this parenthesis we call life? What if it comes on an eternal timetable our human minds can't fathom? And what if it isn't our finances He delivers from the pit but our very life--the heart that is freed to make good decisions with the resources we have? What if we still see foreclosure, but our spirit is unchained from the pit of self indulgence and greed, from the sense of entitlement that insisted we needed that mortgage in the first place? What if while our white knuckled hands wring the empty swaddling blanket we sense the Holy Spirit lullaby that soothes our sorrow in His loyal love, in His compassion? What if it still hurts, but He's present? What if justice for the Haitian, the Ecuadorian, the African orphans comes when eternity is revealed? What if pain is sometimes the precursor to joy? What if His ways are higher than ours? What if we bend to the unknown of God's ways? I thought about quitting. That darn Newton's Cradle took me almost an hour to unknot. We waited six weeks on China to ship us that $4.99 desk oddity, and somehow I knew it was more than a proof of Newton's laws. But those embers--The Lord lifting up those who are bent over--they were still burning in my heart. I had to lift the shoulders of my boy because really, when he threw that toy in the garbage and told me it was hopeless, he still had the embers too. He hadn't given up. He'd come to me, hadn't he? He'd hoped. He'd hoped that maybe, just maybe mommy could take the tangles and sort them out, piece by piece. I won't always be able to do that for him. But he'll know, won't he, that I still love him? That day, when the mess is too big, and the circumstances aren't going to be changed by the keyboard clicking pads of mommy's fingertips? On that day, he'll still know he is loved. I'll grieve, and I'll ache, and I'll swallow forkfuls of swollen angst as I watch the day I can't make things better for him. It is somehow the same with God--those who suffer greatest are the most deeply attended by the heart of God. The promise is not that He will fix the Newton's Cradle, not that He will shift the continents of our lives into alignment, but that He supports all who fall, and lifts all who are bent over. Supports ALL. Lifts ALL. Extends over ALL. What, my friends is your ALL? Because there is a decree demanding you bend to that ALL. Can you name it ALL? God gave Adam the chore of naming. We too must name, both the good and the bad. Now can you turn your back on ALL that you have named? Can you turn your eyes upon Jesus? Can you go to Him and bend before His ways, before His goodness, before His mercy, before His compassion, before his purpose? Can you bend to Him? Because if you can, He will lift you up. "Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine...." (Eph. 3:20) "And we know that all things work together for good..."(Romans 8:28) Hope burns not because the world is right, but because the God who made the world remains right. And He will never let go. It has been written and sung more beautifully than I can express. Will you click and listen?


Didge said...

Dear, dear s. This is so what I needed to read today. My shoulders keep stooping lately, even when I think they had already gone as far as they could.

Thank you for the reminder.

Anne Arnold Pierce said...

I always think even in the midst of the worst of bendings....I am in the palm of his hand...for all the reasons you mention....the tumors, the broken marriage vows, the death, the crying child, the broken engine, the lack of rice, when the vows were broken to me twenty years ago a stranger came to my door bearing the words....." feel God....feel him surround you... you are in the palm of his hand...
So yes Sarah, lean toward God for he is Lord and his love ever present and in the worst pain try so hard to fall back into that palm that is ever there. It is all we have been told to do.. it is what we need..
Yet so hard to watch.
love you Sarah. praying for your arms to hold many many children..

Kate said...

Learning to view each circumstance as not "good" or "bad" but as gifts coming to me from the Father's hands. When our faith and security and hope lie nestled in HIM, the only One who is sure, steadfast, everlasting, can we choose worry or stress? The "hard Eucharisteo"...the sacrifice of Thanksgiving is made possible as we SEE Jesus, the lover of our souls! He makes all things...even the things that scar us, that immobilize us...all things work out for good to us, His dearly beloved children. Amen.
Thank you sweet sister for the sharing of your heart for Him, once again with us.

~ Bending towards and before our Abba Father God,