living the exiled life: on finding purpose in suffering.
To be very honest, at my lowest, I feel like our lives are so close to being “over”. While others kids are picking pumpkins in the patch, mine is in the hospital, and couldn’t pick pumpkins if she tried. And as much as we try, sometimes our life as a family revolves around doing very little, to keep us sane, to keep her safe and because we just don’t have the resources to do much.
There are always multiple medical appointments and the ever nagging need to watch her for signs of aspiration or sickness or respiratory failure.
And I get that feeling, in moments like this, while I sit in hospital, desperate to see the suffering of my wee one end…it’s the feeling like I’m losing, like I’m under the giant’s heel, crushing weight, wheezing heart. That crumby feeling that threatens to extinguish any song of joy I may have.
Self-pity pulsates through my head.
That person recovered. They had a good blood test result. They dodged a bullet. They don’t have any health problems.
When the health of your child (or even your own health) is threatened, it can be very debilitating. There is a cloud of lack that hovers, carries weight and rain. If it’s not fear (and it’s not always), it’s fatigue, sense of loss, grief, heartache.
There is very little good. But it’s there, tucked away deep, but alive. It looks like hope.
I’m not going to lie, it can feel really terrible to trudge through some days, the long days. Part of me screams that I can’t go on, I can’t run this race with a broken leg. The other part responds, you have got to keep running, run like your life depends on it, be dragged.
Entering into the rest, into true rest in Him can be as simple as a coffee break, a date night, not sleeping at the hospital every night, taking a walk in the brisk air, a fresh, hot meal, a movie night with our girl safe at home in her crib. In this battle, rest is practical. And through the practical, it becomes supernatural, a spirit lift, a flicker of hope, a thick covering of peace.
The hitch is when I stumble across my need for a normal life, for a life that I envisioned.
This is when the anger surfaces, the comparison, the spirit groan.
This. is. too. much.
Don’t you see, doesn’t anyone see? God, don’t you see this?
And then I see her: the mama that lost her three children to diarrhea and HIV. The one who had her child stolen in the night, straw mat empty. The one who gave birth to three children in a hut, all of them dying from lack of a birth attendant.
Don’t you see, doesn’t anyone see?
I see you mama. I feel that pain, the ache traveling across five thousand miles, rippling into my own hurt. And it’s making me want to do more for you, for the suffering, for the world’s throbbing wounds.
Isn’t that what we as Christ followers are called to do?
Aren’t we called to do more, to live differently, to love harder?
From what I recall, the heroes of the Bible lost an awful lot on their journeys. They struggled, endured heartache and loss, had broken dreams, fits of rage, lust and jealousy, and yet God still carried them through. And they overcame, and God used them to birth nations and split seas.
We will face heartache and broken dreams. We will have debt and sickness. There is suffering, it’s inevitable. There are bad medical reports, there is death, and sometimes our hearts desires don’t happen the way we want them to happen…even if they are good, God honouring desires.
This world is not our home, not near perfect. We are sojourners, homeless and…willing, are we not?
So what do we do in the waiting, in the groaning? Pull back in our grief or hurt or rejection and let life flood pass us, rushing river that it is?
In the waiting, the long pilgrim’s progress, how are we journeying?
This is I tell my soul, in a moment of walking rest, autumn sun far too warm for October’s end. I left her bedside while she slept, respirations high, oxygen levels making me cringe. I left the dark room, windowless and dry, not because I wanted to but because I needed to. Deep breath, fresh heart pumping new blood, eyes opened, tears wiped away.
This is the journey. This day. This moment. I tell my heart to keep pressing on, sojourn, oh exiled one, this world is not our home.
And yet, here He is. Dwelling in our camp, the one we made by the river, determined to keep watch, though the flood waters rise. Here He is, the Beloved One, with justice and mercy at His side.
In this journey, I have learned no earthly pleasures will sustain me, feed oxygen into the red blood, feed the ache. Nothing can compare.
Is this why Amy Carmichael gave her life?
“Amy saw a dirty little beggar girl with her nose pressed against the window. The poor little girl, with no food, touched Amy so much that she made another promise. She promised that when she grew up she would give her money to the poor.”
A childhood memory, pressed deep into her clay, an impression everlasting. And she packed up everything one day, she moved to India, for 50 years, she lived, husbandless, full. The rescuer of girls from temple brothels.
And Katie Davis, young mother to 13 Ugandan orphans, left behind a life of wealth, of feather duvets and worldly comforts, for the red dust, for the King.
They saw a need, they saw the wounds, and they packed them, salt full, with love and healing, with just their hands and the little they could offer.
And they changed and are changing the world.
Each day of their lives, a journey, a breathless thanksgiving, worth fighting for.