It is raining.
There has never been a dryer month in Chattanooga than August 2011, and yet it pours.
Growl and hiss, snarl and bite, it’s raining cats and dogs, the dangerous kind. Black lips curl over porcelain daggers, ready to sink in to flesh, to spill blood.
To rob faith and joy and love. To try to, anyway.
This is l i f e and it’s raining sideways and for now, I’m under an umbrella watching others get wet.
Sara is the first one. She’s beautiful. Almost seventeen and a volume of pages unwritten, she’s dancing to life’s song when black clouds descend and thunder stops her mid-pirouette.
Her familiar-but-foreign-when-it-touches-you diagnosis sends me pounding my keyboard to understand; but even with all the information, I don’t really. I’m mad for her, sad for her, for her mama and her daddy, and though I know God–and she knows him, too–that doesn’t stop the mad and the sad.
And the fear.
What would have killed her ten years ago is now 90% curable. But cancer is cancer, and it’s scary even if the odds are in your favor and you love Jesus and Jesus loves you…
because Jesus loves the other 10%, too, the one in ten.
Jessi gives her permission to be scared and I'm so glad. Who needs guilt heaped on top of cancer? "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave." Mark Twain is a permission giver, too.
So Sara cuts her hair, a brave thumbing-her-nose and first kick at the monster who's invaded her body, and I admire her plucky "I have cancer but cancer doesn't have me" attitude. I see her faith well up inside and spill over to those around her. And what is faith? Substance and evidence….
She makes a sign, a bold proclamation–
God = Hope = Joy
and I watch this child become a missionary in a field that has chosen her.
* * *
Then it rains some more.
There's another family in our church who suddenly, tragically lose their 20-year-old daughter, and this with no warning? Their baby girl says "I don't feel well," and within hours she's gone.
I'm bewildered and my heart aches with the pain of this family's loss, someone I don't know but that doesn't seem to matter because we share the blood of Christ and the thread of parenthood.
It's a shock to their sensibilities–this mystery is too great!–and I find myself humming a line from "Rock of Ages," Simply to the cross I cling, because in spite of the absurdity of circumstance, I believe God is good, and even in this, he is accomplishing a work for the good of his people, to bring glory to his name, and to advance the sake of the gospel.
It all feels hollow but I've rarely been one to trust feelings.
And then I discover brilliance and wisdom from Henry Ward Beecher–
Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones,
and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.
Rain has cut this family, powerfully so; it's chiseling away at who they were to shape them into who'll they'll be. Grand? Isn't that hard to imagine, to believe?
I'm hungering for truth, no, for Truth, and Ancient Words, familiar words, feed me–
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
All joy in the midst of suffering? Really? Seriously??
And I think Yes, really…seriously.
The only thing that allows me to believe is what informs this belief:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
I don't know the whole story
The whole story is shrouded in faith, hope and love.
God is love and he gives hope and he enables joy…and I can either fight with the tarbaby of trying to make sense of it all or I can press in and hold fast.
So I pray for strangers who'll never know I care.
* * *
Years ago I saw the countenance fall of a precious teenage girl. She was outgoing and friendly and a whole lot of fun, but before she was fully developed, I saw her change. Eyes lined in black, tees and shorts practically painted on, even her walk all slink and allure.
Her parents were as involved as they could be, but she lived a masquerade. Sometimes, compliance on the outside, but interior rebel always to the well acquainted.
It made me so sad to watch her from a distance.
She graduated high school this year and I just found out she's pregnant and getting married.
* * *
Recently one of my kids confessed a "laptop dies after Powerade spills" incident, and my initial response was fury. HOW COULD THEY BE SO CARELESS? THEY DON'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO BUY A NEW ONE! A blast of knee-jerk responses, and thankfully, since I found out through a phone message, the response was only in my head.
I would have been unnecessarily vicious and fang-baring had I answered that call.
But before I had chance to respond, the rain-in-the-midst-of-a-Chattanooga-drought started–one…two…three–and my ugly thoughts transformed into gratitude… It's not cancer…or worse…or an unintended, teenage pregnancy.
It's raining but God is reigning….
and then I saw a rainbow.
Robin, you constantly amaze……and I’m so pirating your Twain quote for my status!
I want to comment, but I can’t quite find the right words. This is beautiful. Thank you.
Tonight our family (college girl included) all had dinner out at a nice restaurant here in town because we’re going to be all over the country this weekend. As the girls chattered and chattered and chattered some more, I just had to smile and think of God’s goodness to us. We have friends going through very deep waters right now–kind of like your friend–fine one day, dying the next. I don’t get it, but I will grab hold of the “O.K.ness” we’re enjoying right now and store up strength for our next storm.
Oh, Robin. These are the moments the soul searches for words and usually doesn’t find them… but you have. And I have nothing to add except amen and maranatha.
Thank you for your heart.
Beautifully expressed, Robin! We don’t understand the ugliness of life yet we remain Christ-lovers. That is faith!
Wonderfully said, Robin. God=Hope=Joy