Nobody’s perfect. Even so most of us try to put the best foot forward. Our Facebook accounts glow with smiling portraits of ideal trips, stellar family events, A+ accomplishments in the marketplace, and lovely gardens. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even the mysteries or puzzles—if the mystery is a novel, or the puzzle is a crossword or jigsaw—are welcome. We all rejoice with a resolved plot or with the last pieces in place—no unanswered questions or missing parts.
Unfortunately life isn’t always that neatly packaged, is it? Things in Pleasantville are sometimes, well, not pleasant. Then what?
Last spring our church Lenten Soup Suppers focused on the theme Refiner’s Fire: An Honest Look into the Hope of Christ found in Suffering. This topic is not an academic one for me. I’m experiencing this vista up close and personal. In the last three years I’ve received unwelcome gifts accompanying Parkinson’s disease. I’ve had significant falls resulting in several broken ribs and a black eye. I am at this moment nursing a compression fracture. At one point I lost most of the vision in my right eye, and have endured many painful or sleepless nights. I have trouble walking and the use of my left hand is limited. Last winter I came near death with the downward spiral of untreated symptoms and found myself at the Mayo Clinic on Christmas Eve day. It was on that day, December 24, 2013, that I received the Parkinson’s diagnosis and began to improve. My new friends include two pills every four hours 24/7/365, a cane, walker, and, on occasion, a wheelchair.
There is an elephant in the room. Pain and perplexities, broken pieces, unanswered questions, the nagging doubts, and the messy realities collide with my vision of life as it should be in the Pleasantville world and I am still stunned. At first I tried denial. It didn’t do much for my body or soul. So I began to share more openly with my worlds, not just because misery loves company, though it surely does—but also to acknowledge and point to the encouragement and redemption of suffering as I begin to see the resurrection beyond the cross in Christ’s life and, hopefully, in my own as well.
As I write this today in the midst of this ‘messy reality’ of a mysterious puzzle, I am thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the myriads of ways friends and family shower me with prayers, meals, unexpected visits, and notes of encouragement. I’m thankful for my dear church family and awesome staff and especially for the intense prayers for healing and grace that are being said on my behalf. I’m thankful for a dear husband who passed his international obligations on to others so that he could be home with me. I’m thankful for our wonderful children and spouses who have sacrificed time and again to help me out.
I’m also hopeful. Daily reminders from God’s Word and hymns I know by heart bless me as the Holy Spirit brings them to mind. I’m hopeful as I see signs that the current meds are working. I’m hopeful as I see how these trials are refining me and my family and my friends. I’m also hopeful that as I experience the gifts of Christ’s joy and peace this suffering will yield its own unique redemption stories.
I can by the grace of God co-exist with elephants.
Check out this amazing story —–
It Is Well with My Soul | Horatio G. Spafford 1873
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
it is well, and it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! —
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
the sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.