Monday, October 20, 2014

On Words and Worth

"You're ugly."

Shocked and dismayed, I glanced up at the young girl of 8 or so who had carelessly uttered the words.

"That was rude!" I responded, never much one to be less than direct myself. Even still, I was surprised and caught off guard by the unkind words directed toward me. I can imagine what my mother's response would have been if I had done or said something of that sort at this girl's age and it wouldn't have been anything close to an enjoyable experience for me.

She attempted to shrug it off with a less than heartfelt apology when I told her she ought to, but I persisted with something along the lines of "How would you like it if I said you were ugly? You're not, but how would you like it?" 
She stubbornly insisted that she would not care for several moments before finally blurting out with a healthy dose of passion "Someone at school bullied me and said I was ugly."

Ah, the truth. Finally something to go on. 

I spent the next few minutes attempting to undo the damage that had been done to her heart. But really, there is no undoing it. I can only hope that my words were something of a healing ointment as I told her how God sees her and I see her, etc. 

I came away with some lessons perhaps I already knew but that were reiterated in my heart and head through this experience and all throughout my day today that I would like to express:

1. Be careful with words. Despite the old saying (you know the one), words CAN hurt.

2. Grace. Grace. GRACE! While obviously this young one was downright rude, it was also obvious there is something deeper going on. We don't know everyone's hearts. "Hurting people hurt people" is SO true! I'm grateful that I worked through it instead of simply putting her in time-out. What a great opportunity for growth for the both of us!

3. Forgive. When people offend you, forgive. If you don't, their words are still allowed to fester in your heart and hurt you continuously.

4. Ask for forgiveness/apologize when you've offended others. Even if you feel you did no wrong, the fact remains that someone was offended and relationships with those we care about are worth SO much more than our pride. I had to do this recently to reconcile with a family member. No fun, but so necessary. Slowly but surely my Father is working on me in the area of being sensitive to others needs, especially when they vary from my own and I might not understand them.

5. Build others up. This is especially needed in regard to parents of young daughters, but really is applicable to everyone. 
So your daughter is loved, accepted, and beautiful. How often do you tell her? She is faced with so many negative messages about herself and needs you to show her the truth about how God sees her or there will be serious negative repercussions in her life as she matures into an adult. Have those conversations about her life at school or among her friends. She may be too embarrassed or ashamed to broach the subject herself. Talk about bullying. Bullied or abused kids often become bullying or abusive adults. Deal with it now or you will be sorry. 

6. Know the truth of God's word and teach it so that you might identify and help others to identify that which is not and disregard it.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

"Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Accident and the Struggle

"How can we pray for you?"

If I were to be honest I would say that sometimes I find this question annoying. But recently the question was put to me and at this point the analogy that comes to mind in remembering the conversation is that of someone throwing a life preserver to a person in an ocean just trying to keep their head above water. I'm not one to cry in front of people if I can help it. If I feel as if I'm going to lose control of my emotions I seek privacy. But occasionally, I am too broken and it is unavoidable and incredibly necessary to lose control. This was one of those occasions.

"I just want to sleep." I blubbered like a baby as my voice barely held up to get the words out.
"But I don't know. Maybe not sleeping is better because not sleeping means not dreaming" I countered myself.

Have you ever been there? When the crickets are chirping, the lights are out and it feels like the world is one collective snore, but you're laying there, reminded of the caffeinated espresso owl in that Facebook meme.You know the one...

And in the quiet of the night, all the memories you've been able to set aside come rushing back like a flood and you find yourself drowning in the torrential onslaught of emotions you've been so carefully avoiding?

Dust settling, overturned vehicle. It took a moment for the scene in front of me to register. The pressing urgency within to assist in whatever way necessary. The agonizing wait, and longest traffic signal stop of my life. Pulling off to the side of the road. My family member's voice echoing in my head "I can't go. I'm staying here." as I turned on my hazards, grabbed my phone, jumped out of my truck and ran, with the sinking realization that the still form lying in the street was that of a man... the growing pool of blood, things I don't want to describe.

It all came back... still rushes back, though it was over a month ago... both clear as day yet somehow all a blur at the same time as some things stand out in my head but others I feel I should remember fade into background noise. What I've simply come to refer to as "The Accident" still comes to mind daily. It still breaks my heart. I still wonder, and doubt, and question, and struggle. One big relief is that I'm okay with that struggle now.

And I want you to know, that if you are there too, it is okay. 
You see, something God showed me awhile back that I'm understanding more everyday is that faith grows in the midst of trial. It is the very essence of what faith is. If faith requires no surrender to the Known in the midst of the unknown, is that really faith?

I don't understand why I'm alive instead of the man who lost his life that day. I know Jesus as my Savior and the love of my life and I am "ready to die." Not to be mistaken or confused with the desire to die, but I am okay with dying.
The man who from all appearances did not know the Lord passed away instead of me, before my eyes, when a few seconds made all the difference between him being in that accident instead of me. I don't understand why I pray–why I prayed–because the concept of God's sovereignty is one that seems to elude my understanding. But I know and knew then that it is beyond me to determine these things. I must simply be willing to say yes to that which the Lord asks of me, and in that moment, all I could do was pray. I prayed, I told that man that if he could hear me it wasn't too late to call on the name of Jesus. I asked for a miracle that day. I still wonder if the answer to my question was really "yes" even though it appeared to be "no." Because the greater miracle would not have been the sparing of his physical life, but that of his soul. I take some comfort in that, whether founded or unfounded I'm not sure.


And that's OKAY. If you don't understand, that's okay too. I want to hold your hand in this, be the person unafraid to wrap their arms around you. "It's OKAY to cry." was also probably one of the most thoughtful, heartfelt statements expressed to me during the days immediately following The Accident, and I want to pass that liberating sentiment on to you. It's okay to NOT be okay with the pain you experience and to struggle deeply. Personally, I think it is healthy. It is a reminder that you're still a living, breathing soul who loves deeply and feels passionately. If we were meant to be unaffected by pain or grief, we'd be stones. Grief is such a complicated thing. There will be times of great happiness–don't feel guilty or obligated to end those moments. There will be times of immense sadness–that's okay too! Struggle is so painful but there is not a single struggle in my life that I have endured and now regret. It is part of what makes us who we are. It's the hug for your neighbor. The tears shared with a friend. The grace extended to the broken. Our struggles are what makes us stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more graceful. 

And the most beautiful part of it all is the presence. The peace He brings, the calm, the hope, the strength, the love, but most of all Himself. All else is secondary, He offers me Himself. 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."

I'm learning more about prayer every day. That God allows what He wills, and asks us to pray to change what he desires to change. What it comes down to is His plan and being in tune to His voice regarding it. 

I feel like this post is a mish-mash of thoughts, emotions, and convictions but it has been awhile in coming. I originally started it a week (or few) ago and it's been in my heart for longer but I wasn't ready to post yet. It has taken me awhile to be okay enough with it all to talk about it. I hope this makes it to someone's heart today and that maybe, just maybe, there is a purpose beyond what I can immediately see in what I experienced and am still experiencing. 

Many big Jesus hugs to those of you, especially, who are struggling right now! You aren't alone--or needn't be. Jesus wants to be there with you. Beyond that, feel free to contact me if you just want to talk or pray, whatever the case may be. Maybe we can go out for coffee (or hot cocoa or tea since I'm not a huge coffee fan myself, ironically). Peace!

Victoria Christine