In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flipping Rocks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy bare feet sink satisfyingly in the wet sand along the sea edge, small waves tickling my ankles with each step. The ocean vista is beautiful to gaze upon but I find my attention drawn back to what is at my feet. Ordinary pebbles and rocks glow like rich jewels through a watery prism while shadows of driftwood and seaweed float in the shallows.

An outcrop of larger boulders halts my progress down the beach, diverting me to another favorite seaside activity. Just where the sea meets the sand I firmly grasp a plate-sized rock, flip it over and watch in delight as at least a dozen little crabs scurry for cover. They are vulnerable creatures without their sheltering rock. Their tiny crustacean instinct for survival sends them running for new protection. I pick one up to feel it tickle across my palm in its comedic sidewise gait. It drops from my hand to the sand, disappearing beneath another rock like its fellow crabs and it is as if they were never there. But I know beneath the next rock there will be more hiding.

There are times in my life when God has lifted the rock on a myriad of wounding memories I’ve long buried in the sands of my past, sending them scuttling for cover from the light of His omniscient eye. I don’t want to look at those memories. They still retain a distant whiff of their ability to wound and sadden and grieve, so I would rather they stay hidden and I get on with my present life. But there they are, waving their pincers at me …

My big, handsome sailor father passed out in an alcoholic stupor while a six year old cries herself to sleep.

A beautiful violet graduation gown pushed to the back of a closet, worn a few hours then discarded when I couldn’t face going alone.

Sitting in my car outside a lawyer’s office, trying to summon the courage to go in and seal the dissolution of  my  marriage which has succumbed to a slow, agonizing death, one betrayal at a time.

Can’t these wounds stay hidden in the dark, stuffed under a rock where I don’t have to see them? I’ve moved on, made a fresh start, built a new life. But then there is that gentle nudge, that insistent tug on my spirit. It’s time. Time to flip over the rock and let the Light of the world shine on the past: reveal, disempower, dwindle hurts until they hurt no more.

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His.
He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.               Job 12: 13 & 22  NIV

When God shines the light of His love on the wounds of my past, they loose their potency. How do the wounds inflicted by sinful men stand a chance in the light of so great a love? Love like a mighty ocean sweeps clean the dark blots of pain and sorrow. They are absorbed into the limitless love of a limitless God.

Memories of sorrowful times will never be forgotten, but the pain has long ago dissolved. What is left is evidence of God’s faithfulness, provision, comfort and strength which carried me through. Someday every tear will be wiped from my eyes, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). The final rock will be flipped and all the scuttling little creatures of my past will be gone. Hallelujah.