Monday, August 16

The Staircase

This is from a note I wrote on Facebook about a week ago.  I've copied it here and added some new thoughts to the end.

The Staircase that will live in infamy
The rain started a few miles out from our destination with a few drops on the windshield, but as we drew closer to the turnoff, it was pelting us and we could barely hear the music drifting from the car speakers. I slowed to make the turn and we worked our way over the gravel drive and up to our cabin. The other three women in the car and I made a mad dash to the cover of the porch and went inside to investigate. We ascended the steps to the third floor, admired the beauty of the tall pines surrounding the cabin, watched raindrops hit the surface of the small fishing pond below us, then decided to go back down to the ground floor, via the outdoor staircase. The rain had covered the steps and deck, so I gingerly descended to the first stair tread, but wet sandal hit the slick step. As if in slow motion, I tumbled downward, sliding step to step on my left leg and arm.

Once at the bottom, my friends and husband rushed to my side, asking if I was all right. In that moment, all I could think of was my aching thigh and wounded pride. I picked myself up and headed to the restroom to inspect for scrapes and cuts. By the time I had walked the 30 or so steps to the first floor lavatory, the manifestation of the fall was becoming apparent. My pale skin was turning shades of purple and I could feel the skin stretching as the muscle swelled. The rest of the weekend I found myself reliving it moment by moment and resting in gratefulness that it had not been broken bones, bruised ribs or missing teeth, just the growing discoloration of my skin and intense ache.

Falls really are not that uncommon, you know. People fall down stairs, trip over sidewalks, slip on ice patches in the winter. Those are obvious and leave sometimes-permanent marks. You see a child with a cast on their tiny arm and you wonder how it happened...a bicycle accident? A tumble out of a tree house? But what about falls that leave less obvious marks, falls that scar or wound hearts?

A year ago this month, my husband and I found ourselves broken, wounded. We didn't experience marital unfaithfulness or the death of a child; but we had to grieve a loss nonetheless. Our hearts were bruised by words delivered with such venom it took us by surprise; heart bruises don't mend as quickly as physical injuries. It felt very similar to my fall down that unforgiving wooden staircase; there was no give under the weight of my body and in the situation a year ago, there was no grace or compassion offered. We wondered if we would ever be whole again.

And then something miraculous happened. In the midst of fear and confusion, we found ourselves in a place where love reigns supreme and we were allowed to heal. A new faith family rallied around us, accepting us as if we'd always been there, as if we were old friends. God's love poured out from their hearts and in turn, healed our own. We found ourselves flinching in these new relationships, just waiting for someone to brush up against our wounds, but instead, they applied a soothing balm and brought us to a new place of wholeness.

It was with this group of people that I found myself last weekend, sitting in a cabin, the sounds of worship rising from their hearts. Silent tears fell down my cheeks as I remembered where we had been and realized where we are now. It has been a long road to get to this point, but this group of people have loved us every step of the way, bearing our burdens in a way no one else ever has. We have seen true fellowship, true faith. So thank you, Mosaic. Thank you for loving us when we didn't have anything to give, when we fought to keep you at arm's reach because we were afraid. God has used you in ways you can't even imagine and we are honored to call you friends. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

Today (Monday, August 16) I was thinking more about this, especially when a clip on the radio talked about the "walking wounded", those people that carry bruises and wounds that aren't visible to our eyes, but only to our hearts.  I was that person for a long time as I struggled to deal with the offense, the bitterness, the hurt, the unforgiveness. The man in the clip said, "But Jesus is familiar with our pain."  Immediately, this passage came to my mind: 

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
Isaiah 53: 3-6

Another translation says, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities."   And yet, He wasn't left limping like I was after my tumble down the stairs; He rose, whole, victorious, the Conquering God-King, not the wounded human.

In light of that, getting offended over things that can (and will) happen in relationships seems very silly, doesn't it?  If anyone ever had the right to be offended, it was Jesus.  Blame was laid on Him that was not His to carry; He didn't deserve to die, to carry someone else's punishment, but He did.  He didn't have to walk that path, to carry that cross, to accept the wounding and bruises that should have been mine and yours, but He did. And then, He performed the greatest miracle of all and didn't hold it against us. 

How can I relate to that kind of intense, fanatical love?  Unrelenting, He pursued me, chased me down, loved me when I fought against it, when I pushed against Him.  He didn't just accept my punishment with a grudging heart, He accepted it and said, "Better Me than you."  He looked into my sin-filled heart and saw past the sin to the woman underneath, in need of a Saviour, in need of redemption.  He tore the separating veil and invited me to come sit with Him, to curl up in His lap and let Him shower me with grace.

Suddenly, my bruises, my wounds seem like nothing.  I think of what I would do, what I would endure for my own much more He endured for me.  Jesus, thank You.  Thank You for redeeming, for loving me while I was yet a sinner.  It's by Your grace I am saved, and by Your grace I am whole.

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