3.27.16 RE-POSTING an EASTER MESSAGE
(This is something I wrote in December of 2014, a few months after Steve went missing. A few of you brought it up to me today, so I am re-posting it here.
God has been using my love for Ellie, my daughter, and Steve, my late husband, to teach me about His love.
It hit me one day right in the center of my chest–I was holding my brand new baby girl and breathing in that intoxicating smell at the back of her head when the scripture “…God, His son not sparing…” filled my mind.
You see, it took 16 years traveling on a long, painful road of infertility procedures, medications and miscarriages before we adopted Ellie.
So by that time, this long-awaited baby could only be amazing! We were picturing the future, and a rich life together as a family. Our joy felt complete, overflowing! So the thought of ever being able to voluntarily let her go? Unimaginable.
But God, His Son not sparing… Unfathomable.
Such a mystery!!…….
Now, I’m not a big lover of mysteries. Give me a novel with well-drawn characters, problems to solve and some complex dynamics between people, and I’m content. I don’t crave the adrenaline of a mystery—too anxiety provoking.
So I’m guessing that tolerance of the unknown must be one of my many growing edges, because I find myself living smack dab in the middle of mystery this year: some of it disorienting in its’ swirling mix of loss, suspense, pain and questions.
Some of it overwhelmingly lovely.
Today I want to talk about it all. But I need to begin with the darker mysteries before you can understand what the stunning, most beautiful one has come to mean to me.
Last year at this time Steve, Ellie and I were moving through the steady rhythms of work, school, Easter vacation. Spring passed, Summer began.
Ellie was doing lots of swimming and horseback riding. Steve & I took a camping trip to Yosemite. But otherwise, we were mostly just working, putting in our vegetable garden, enjoying the more relaxed pace of Summer. Steve was looking forward to the men’s backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps—always a highlight for him.
Then August 2nd happened. During a day hike on that trip —-In a heartbeat–Steve vanished from the peak they had climbed to, and so with him, the life we had known.
Overnight my family and I were transported to a place of chaos, questions, and drama that continue to this day.
Meanwhile, in these long days and months since Steve went missing, my heart has been rearranged—and in that new arrangement God has created space for an even greater—very personal—understanding of his fierce, reckless heart. “…for God SO loved the world…”
This is what I want to share with you. But first, I need to tell the story of what happened when Steve went missing: my journey to find him, and Steve’s journey down that mountain—carefully pieced together step-by-step by a team of volunteer searchers (including many from our church), along with a few experienced, dedicated trackers and cadaver dog teams.
My memories are like a photo montage—but this one is emotional: mostly felt viscerally—in the heart, in the gut.
At times my spirit scans the collection: my pastor’s call at 10 pm. on the Saturday night Steve went missing. The numbness that was replaced with a strange mix of adrenaline and peace. Those long days of sitting on the lawn with my sister outside the Search and Rescue command post, waiting for any news.
Then there are the things Steve experienced that I can only imagine:
His sense of adventure as he scouted out a better route they could take down the mountain than the steep, punishing one they had used to climb up.
The beauty of the beckoning peak.
Looking over the edge to see the unbelievable view from the tip top of the earth.
I feel the slow, lazy turn of my heart as my mind scans these images. As they are floating across my field of focus, my attention suddenly comes to a screeching halt as the next one comes into view:
The 40-50 foot fall off the cliff, the tumbling slide down the rocky slope.
Blinding pain—enough to leave him dizzy and faint. He could only make it a few steps before having to lie down with his head under a bush to avoid the punishing sun in the heat of the day. Harsh. Violent.
Then gingerly moving his mangled body down the mountain, as the white hot August sun turned to dusk, and dusk to cool darkness. Tripping and falling, his injuries forcing him to sleep sitting up. Alone. In the forest, with evidence all around of bears and mountain lions. No flashlight, no matches, no jacket, no weapon.
Almost unbearable, these images. I almost…can’t…let myself imagine them.
To look back on something so excruciating that happened to the man I have loved since I was 16 takes all the courage I can muster.
Then it hits me: a retrospective look at this is sheer torture. But what would it be like to see all of this happening before it even happened—to your husband, son, wife…whoever you hold most dear?…
Now, imagine that–through some magical power–you could stop this movie from ever playing—that you could tear into the projection room and rip the cued up film right off the reel before it even aired. You would do it, right? I know I would!!!
But God knew what was coming when He sent His only Son into our crazy, mixed-up world in the form of a vulnerable baby. He wrote this movie!
Coming close to this kind of trauma experienced by someone I love, has changed me. It has shifted my perspective on everything—but especially on God and His love for us.
When I try to wrap my limited mind around the idea that He could choose to set His Son’s story in motion—fully able to see the beauty, pain and horror that lay ahead for Him, my simple, limited mind goes “tilt”.
Then when I hear that He would choose to—literally—put his Son through all of this hell for me, my heart collapses on the ground, unable to begin to know where to put that.
The word “love” is so inadequate. We need some uber-charged language for that kind of blinding passion.
On this Easter Sunday, I feel so unworthy of this reckless, costly sacrifice God made for us. Ahh…but therein lies the beauty and the mystery: it’s not because we’re worthy—just because we’re loved……Deeply loved.
So here is hoping that you too can soak in the astounding meaning of God’s gift to you today—given from an inconceivably immense heart of love. Because He really loves you that much.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…”