Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


A letter to you


This morning I am at home, missing church and having canceled a coffee with a girlfriend this afternoon. I haven’t had a pain day like this in a few weeks – which I feel grateful about  – so I  am somewhat content to be here.

I’ve been thinking about you, the reader, these days. Many of you have listened to my podcasts and read my writings and sent me emails telling me of your own stories. I am grateful to have a way to encourage you and hopefully draw your attention to Jesus.

But it’s strange, too, that many of you I will never meet. You tell me about your own stories, your own pain, your own inability to carry on with life as you once thought you would, and pain or illness or life’s circumstances have met you in the middle and interrupted where you thought you were going. In this way, you and I can relate and if possible, we could sit down and enjoy a coffee together and share and understand each other’s stories. I’d like that very much.

So this morning, as I sit here at home, unable to carry through with today’s plans because of pain. . . I think about you, and wonder how you are. What do you do when you have difficult days? What are the things that you have set in place for times such as these? There are many distractions available for us to entertain ourselves and fill our days and minds with something. . . and sometimes that is a  helpful distraction from pain. But I’m wondering about something else. . .

What if we aimed high?

When I read David’s writings in the Psalms . . . I get an idea of what kind of perspective is possible on days like today: 

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. . . my soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. . . your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. I am laid low in the dust; renew my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. . . my soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. . . keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. . . I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”  Psalm 119 (bits and pieces)

Let’s experiment a little.

Let’s say, for the next two hours, I plunk myself in front of the TV and watch a movie. Nothing wrong with that. There really isn’t. My husband and sons will come back in a few hours and join me here at home. They will be coming with ideas, excitement, hunger, frustration, whatever the morning was like for them, they will arrive at home and greet me. And I will greet them with whatever mind-set and heart-set I am in. If my first default setting is to go watch TV, then chances are, I am not facing the fact that missing out on things is disappointing, it affects everyone and ultimately begins to cumulatively affect me as well. My husband feels concerned when I am knocked out in pain and wonders if things are getting worse. He does extra work around the house and makes sure the dog is well exercised so she will be calm around me. And my response to all this is to watch TV?

I suggest there is a better way.  What if, regardless of my pain or symptoms, my first choice is to look up into the face of Jesus? I will be met with His intense gaze(which is probably why we don’t)  that will reflect the desire of my heart to have the pain eliminated, my fears and my hopes. . . I will know that I am loved by Him, that He too has suffered and understands and that the comfort and company and purpose that He offers is more satisfying than any distraction. When I say this, I am not referring to a ‘textbook’ description of a legalistic meeting with God  each day. I mean, looking up, into Jesus face, whether I am in bed or in the shower or on the couch, or sitting quietly somewhere. . . I mean as a first response, this is what I do, before anything else.

And instead of receiving distraction and entertainment, I would receive this. . .

“Jesus was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering….surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. ” (Isaiah 53)

My perspective would be clear, I would be reminded that the God that I approach in prayer on days like this, understands pain and suffering better than I do. That is the God who is with me today. Everything settles into place in my mind and I no longer need sympathy or pity or  need to control circumstances around me. I can gently interact with my family and the day from a grounded place.

A couple of suggestions to you?

I have a few things ready for days like today.  I find it helpful to be prepared.

On my computer, I have bookmarked some websites that are ‘good’ for me on days like today. I have a daily reading page by Oswald Chambers, Democracy Now (get caught up on the news), a website on Endometriosis in case I want to read up on new ideas of relieving pain, some creative writing I am doing for kids’ books, and a game that shoots bubbles! Just to keep ‘play’ in my life. In a basket beside my bed, I have books, sketchbooks, my Bible, journal, good pens, colored pens in case I want to doodle and write letters to friends. . . and some old journals that remind me of days like today and how to handle them.

I want to be full and satisfied with Jesus by the end of the day. I want to be more mature and healthy and whole by the end of the day. That’s our choice on days like today.

My prayer for you . . .

. . . “Jesus, please, draw these loved ones to You today. May they find emptiness in everything but Your Presence today. May they long to know You, relate to Your suffering and know Your Life in them! You prayed for your disciples and I pray this for your loved ones today. . . ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent!” John 17:3 Bless them today Lord God, in Jesus Holy Name, amen.”