FWIW: Three messages posted to the “Messages” page today. Cheers!
This past Sunday I was given the honor of pitching in relief for our pastor at our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. The text I was asked to address was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
In case anyone is interested:
I thought I did a relatively okay job of unpacking the theme of Life and Death in the passage. Then, in a moment of synchronicity on Monday I stumbled on the blog post entitled “The Stench” by my fellow blogger at Beauty Beyond Bones. She happened to hear a different message on the same passage this past Sunday. She wrote a powerful post that articulated it all so incredibly well:
When I was “dead” in my anorexia, my stench could be smelled a mile away. Aside from the obvious skeletal body and having my hair fall out, there were also things like, isolating myself. Being angry with a micro-short fuse. Lying. Manipulating. Outbursts of venomous speech. You name it.
It was ugly. It “smelled bad.” It was the stench of death.
But the thing about the story is that Jesus worked through the stench…
I encourage you to read her entire post (and follow her blog). She nailed in a short blog post exactly what I was desperately trying hard to get at in a 30 minute message.
Stinkin’ synchronicity. I Iove it.
I mentioned the attached message in Monday’s post Hope and Disappointment. The message, in which I share about Wendy’s and my journey through infertility, talks about three important waypoints we went through in coping with the disappointment, when our strongest hopes remained unrealized.
I’ve included the message here in both audio and video formats. These are posted with the permission of Third Church in Pella, IA who holds all rights.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
Sunday was an emotional day for Wendy and me. I had the privilege of sharing the morning message among our local gathering of Jesus followers. The topic came from Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth; One of the most well-known chapters in all of God’s Message. “The Love Chapter” is what it’s commonly called and I had been asked to speak to the phrase “Love hopes all things.”
As soon as I realized that I had been assigned that phrase, I knew in my heart that it was time for Wendy and me to share openly about a particularly difficult stretch of our own journey. I have touched on it from time to time on my blog, but we’ve never really spoken about it openly and publicly.
For many years Wendy and I eagerly attempted to conceive and bring a baby into this world. We started with high hopes, each of us endured surgeries, and we repeatedly travelled down the path of virtually every medical procedure and homeopathic suggestion available to us in our hope of having a child.
As hope waned for this desperate desire, Wendy and I experienced all of the stages of disappointment and grief. We felt doubt, anger, envy, despair and rage. We cried. We screamed. We fought. We wrestled with all of the hard questions. If God loves us, then why…? Why her? Why them? Why not us?
It has now been a handful of years since we surrendered our hopes of conceiving. To this day the grief still surprises us. It’s amazing how the sadness and tears well up unexpectedly in the oddest of moments. Nevertheless, Wendy and I recognized in the depths of the valley of infertility that we had come to a spiritual fork in the road. One path led in rapid descent into hopelessness, anger, brokenness and despair. It was an easy path to follow as are most paths of descent. The other path was a much longer road of ascent. It would still traverse hopelessness, anger, and despair, but the long slog eventually climbed toward trust in a larger narrative God was writing into our stories.
In my message this past Sunday I tried hard not to make it about our infertility as much as speaking to the myriad of hopes and disappointments each of us experience along this journey. In today’s chapter King Hezekiah’s hopes were for a long life and a prosperous reign. Those hopes are dashed with a terminal diagnosis, yet Hezzy comes to the same spiritual fork in the road that Wendy and I faced. He chooses the faith slog, and comes to recognize that there was purpose in his pain. There was benefit in the anguish.
Wendy and I can relate to that. Just was we are sometimes surprised by the grief that appears in unexpected moments, so are we often surprised by joy in the midst of our grief. It has taken years, but we can honestly say we experience a deep sense of thankfulness for having to traverse that valley. Our faith journey through infertility has led us further up, and further in. We have experienced facets of life and love that we didn’t know existed with clarity we didn’t know was possible. From our current position on life’s road we now look back and affirm the lyric of Hezekiah’s song.
Anguish has it’s benefits.
Faith, hope, and love have led us through disappointments, but they have not disappointed us.
Here are the audio and video of the message (used with permission of Third Church, who holds all rights) in case you’re interested.
For any interested and for what its worth, this is the first in a series of messages on Mark’s biography of Jesus that I had the privilege of sharing with my local gathering of Jesus’ followers in the auditorium at Third Church a couple of weeks ago.
I’m scheduled next on May 15: “The Power…”