Monday, May 02, 2016

Hope Under Fire

Some days the difficult multiplies exponentially no matter what we do. The last few weeks have been full of those days for us. Sickness, grieving hearts, conflict management among those we love here—all the stuff of life that can accumulate tired and empty before we recognize the toll.

The most difficult things can happen when we already feel weak and tired.

A week ago, on Saturday night my husband and our two youngest sons were attacked on the road near our church by a horde of drunk, angry youth moving through town after a high school party. Our sons were not harmed physically. Jeff, who took the physical blows, is sore. The hateful words shouted at my family because of skin pigment will be with them long.

There really is no magic bubble that we step into when we follow after God. Sometimes all we have left at the end of a very long week is debris and dust.

Then this:

“Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 AMP


“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6

Rejoice. Exult. Steadfast. Patient. Constant.
I will not be shaken.
In God alone.

We have had the opportunity to exercise our cultural diversity muscles for two decades, but the strength training remains a discipline that strains. Jeff spent his whole day Monday at several secondary schools engaging with the boys involved in the attack. Despite his physical pain (he is currently nursing a mild concussion—which we were slow to realize, unfortunately) and his emotional struggle (racism hurts!) Jeff stayed in the conversation. Redirected it. Spoke grace into hate. He chose a forgiving tone and continues to choose the forgiving process.

All that self-control hurts.  

The feelings inside, in the midst of that choosing, do not in any way resemble a tidied up conclusion with a big red bow on top.

There is pain and struggle involved in forgiving pain and struggle.

This is an exercise. A tiring one. A WORTHY one.

Jeff had weapons in our car. This was not his first encounter with an angry mob. Jeff can throw a solid punch but he chose to refrain. He saw the attackers for who they were. Kids. Misguided ones. And he did not return harm for harm.

That choice was painful and difficult. In the chaos of all that anger, his included, it was a struggle to see the best, clear way through. Especially with the protection of our sons firing Jeff’s deepest care and motivation.

We are grateful for God’s Spirit that was clearly active in this painful circumstance and I am personally very proud of the way each of my men handled themselves under such duress.

But, our family is moving through the analysis with such caution both in how we process inwardly and how we share about the incident.

In healing from any difficult circumstance, one of the most courageous endeavors can be to remain in the raw reality long enough for Truth to do it’s thorough and complete work.

Sometimes, with the best of intentions, a moment of wise choosing can be set high up on a pedestal as heroic. And even though we mean it as a compliment and confidence booster that aesthetic reverence can deceive us. It can take an exemplary response (and the painful circumstances involved) and set it beyond us somehow. In the lifting up we may actually be pushing away. Instead, it is far more advancing to keep difficult choices illuminated in all the reality of their struggle. To keep the battle authentically human and complex. With us. Available in our own realities. Right where God is too.

This whole thing strides easier when we know we are not alone.

Will you join us on this journey? This quest to keep our eyes on Him? Can we, together, stay in difficult conversations seeking to understand and to hear more? Can we love into differences even when all we hear and see around us is screaming hate? Will we exercise these very difficult things: restraint, grace, love, turning that other cheek (ouch!)?


Will we exercise the courage to heal?  The courage to speak honestly of our pain, to be still enough to recover when we’ve been hurt, to step out of the punch that’s coming and make brave decisions that protect those we love, including ourselves?

Restraining from contributing more harm into an angry circumstance does not mean pretending the circumstance does not exist. Forgiveness is the road to freedom for all of us and the only mode of travel is honesty. That includes honest anger, honest sorrow, honest grief and an honest accounting of what has happened. Healing requires Truth. Acknowledging and listening. Hearing and speaking. Prayer. (“…Be constant in prayer…”)

The offering of grace can take on many shapes and forms. Grace is necessary in our words to others and in our words to ourselves. All grace does inherently reek of hope. And we need that optimistic stench to permeate our world today.

Our hope--for our family, for Fort Portal and for all the people we’ve been given to love in this world—our hope is in God alone.

His promises are true.

“…be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

When we are mocked or ridiculed. When we appear different than everyone else. When we feel incredibly outnumbered. When we wait on healing to take the pain away. When we feel so very misunderstood and misrepresented. When we struggle to do the next right thing.

We are not alone.

“…And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Matt 28:20

God is With.  So we can be too.

He is good.

“Hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption.” Psalm 130:7 NKJV

4 comments: said...

Cheryl,Jeff and family, I am praying for you. My heart goes out to you.

Cathy Sampson said...

Praise God for his many blessings. I'm praying for all your family to have comfort and peace and healing. May God continue to surround you with protection as you bring his light.

Life with the Marquez family said...

Many prayers for you, Jeff and the kids. May God put his loving arms of protection around your family. God Bless.

Linda armstrong said...

Praying for you and your family. Your writing humbles me and is inspirational..I admire your courage and strength.
Linda armstrong