“It takes heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us.” — Brennan Manning
As I’ve been reading fellow counselor Kegan Mosier and guest blogger Rachelle Sparks blogs this past month, my faith has been both challenged and blessed. They have tackled what are arguably the most difficult and for many of us– the most emotionally-ridden– questions within faith: how do we reconcile the goodness of God with all the pain we must go through? Does this thing really work out toward our good? If so, where is that good in regards to [insert greatest personal struggle or experience of loss].
As a dad to two little ones, Rachelle Spark’s book and blogs have unsurfaced my greatest fear: outliving my kids. I can’t imagine anything more painful. Can’t imagine anything that more clearly depicts how sideways this Story has turned. Parents will tell you there is something categorically different about the love you feel for your kids than anything you will experience. It’s true. Most love grows, it’s not just there. I understood that the first time I held Mackenzie. Immediately I knew this little girl required something strong within me. I knew without question that I would be willing to die for her to live. It was something I had not experienced before. My love for Brittany, my wife, has grown over time. She is my greatest love, but hers has taken the most time and work. Yes there have been heartfelt moments that I can look back on and see how our love shifted in a new direction in the moment. But for the most part it’s been slow and steady growth the farther into this journey of blending our lives into one another. It wasn’t like this with Mackenzie or Levi. I can vividly remember holding each of them for the first time and thinking “I’m your dad. There isn’t anything of mine I won’t give for you.” The feelings were and continue to be so powerful, so good, so true. It is these feelings which have been disrupted by Rachelle’s writing the past few weeks. The ache of a parent losing or fighting to keep their child. And the journey of pain and hope throughout this battle.
Rachelle’s writing intersects my wife and my stories in unique ways. As a little boy, my family’s story took a sudden turn when a car turned in front of our family’s car. Some of the most painful and raw moments of my story are from this chapter as I watched my sister’s life and the world I knew hang in the balance. Disruptive memories that I can still close my eyes and see and feel. And while the pain and chaos which followed are no less real because of it, I look back and see hope and purpose where there once was fear and doubt. Much of the dependency on my faith as well as my passion and purpose for counseling find their foundation in this season. And yet even with decades of clarity in terms of hope, redemption, and purpose, it is still a rare day full of trust and faith that I would say that I would choose this path for my family.
My wife’s family was actually blessed with a trip to Disney world by the Make-a-Wish program when she was a little girl. Her family’s story parallels many of the lucky ones Rachelle writes about to have been blessed by Kelsey’s– Brittany’s sister’s– victorious battle with Leukemia. And while they were blessed with Kelsey’s survival and still vibrant, whole-hearted life, Brittany’s world was forever altered by Kelsey’s battle with cancer.
As I have gotten older and the stakes have gotten higher in terms of my emotional and relational investments in this world with a wife and two kids whom I love dearly, I am coming to realize the danger of living in this Act of the larger Story. In this period of time still full of the painful effects of sin– namely death. In this part of the Story before all has been forever restored, we live in the tension. Caught in a war between good and evil in which the casualties are real and personal and have names and special places in our hearts. It is here that ruthless trust and dependency on God is required. Without it the pain of past loss is too great, and the fear of future loss is debilitating.
In his book Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning writes, “The supreme need in most of our lives is often the most overlooked– namely, the need for an uncompromising trust in the love of God.” It is only in God’s outrageous love that we can find lasting relief in the unbearable pain in our individual stories. It is only here where we can find a violent hope in a larger Story in while our smaller stories are healed, redeemed, and restored.
John 3:16. The most well known verse in the Bible. Ask the guy walking down the street, and he will likely be able to recite it without much effort. In fact likely with no effort at all. Not only will he be able to say it. He will say it in the same tone and in the same rhythm as everyone else you might ask. There is so much danger in the familiar. In the commonplace. The danger is it becomes common. It loses its meaning. “For God so loved the world he gave His one and only son.” Familiar? Common? Meaningless? Hell no. I love a lot of people. I would say I live a life that often extends and expends myself in the hopes of loving other well. But let me be clear in case you are wondering… there is no way in hell I’m giving Levi for anyone reading this. The fact of the matter is I am way more likely and willing to die for you than to offer up Levi my one and only son. God– the perfect Father– loved so well, so outrageously, so violently He bought us back with the very thing I am most afraid to lose. His son. Somewhere amidst all our own pain within this life, we have missed this. Or at the very least we have minimized this. The love of our Father to offer up Jesus so we can have life. To give Jesus so that if God forbids something were to ever happen to Levi, I get him back for eternity. Somehow we must fight to get this picture of God’s love back. The lasting hope we need to navigate this life depends on it.