Her eyes held me. My pain was reflected there. She added a mix of empathy and grace but I wasn’t ready for it. I needed more time. I needed to be angry first. I couldn’t understand this ‘laying down my Isaac’ concept. Or, rather, I didn’t want to understand.
“What type of alter do you see?” she asked again.
“I see a white room. White walls. A white slab. Sterol. Everything is sterol.” I replied, anxiety welling up in my eyes.
“Where is Jesus?” she asked.
I hesitated, seeing again the white room and white slab in my mind. “He’s not there. I don’t see him.”
“What if you pictured, instead of nothingness in a bare room, laying your son directly into the arms of Jesus?”
Bile soured my mouth. I began to sob. “It just feels like I wanna be sick. I can’t look at that picture. It’s too painful!” I said with head bent, tears falling to the ground under my chair.
“What about Jesus’ arms feels painful to you?”
My shoulders heaved with a grief I didn’t yet understand. A flood of emotions poured through my tears. My inhales and exhales became frantic for stability. This was a three-day retreat. A safe place to process, to feel, to be cared for. It was a break from the care-taking so we could be the cared-for. This session with the counselor felt more like surgery without anesthesia than care and comfort. It was a long-overdue, necessary cut to relieve the fear poisoning my soul.
I blinked ferociously at my blurred surroundings. The lake. It glistened in the high sun. One. Two. Three ducks in an easy line. Lots of trees. Green trees. Slight breeze. My room in the building on the other side of the grass. On the third floor. Three ladies on the path across the footbridge to the dining hall. Threes. Everything happens in threes. People die in threes. I feel like I’m dying. I can’t. Concentrate. Three counts in. Three counts out. Breathe. Inhale. One. Two. Three. Exhale. One. Two. Three. I wiped at my face and shook my head for some attempt at composure.
“What about putting your son in Jesus’ arms feels painful to you?” she repeated.
A rush of hot tears stung my cheek. “Because I don’t know what He will do with him. I’m sure Rick and Kay Warren prayed the same prayers of hope and healing and promises that I have and…” I hesitated. I needed to give voice to the confusion but my lungs were closing in the sobs. “…their son still died, he still took his life,” I choked out. She winced at the mention of the elephant lingering in every room and every conversation throughout the weekend. We were mom’s with kids with mental illness. All hoping for a different outcome. All wanting God to heal our kids from this terrible disease. I felt sick; relieved that I had said it, because I so desperately needed an answer to the pain, but ashamed for bringing their son Matthew into the conversation. Matthew was their son, not mine and at that instant I felt I had betrayed them by speaking something that wasn’t mine to speak. Still. I needed answers to the apparent contradictions in the Bible.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“I’m asking for my son to be healed, we all are, and he’s not healed. I’m praying that verse every day and nothing is happening. God is not giving me what I’m asking for,” I said, wiping my puffy eyes.
“Do you trust God?” she asked through her own empathetic tears.
“I guess I don’t. No. I thought I did. I go around saying I do. I read my Bible every day. I sing praises. But I guess I don’t really trust Him after all,” I said with a matter-of-factness that surprised me. I grabbed a tissue as a presence moved toward me. Blanketing me in warm validation and security. It was as if the Spirit breathed a sigh of “finally.” Finally, I had come to an honest answer. Finally, I had uncovered the source of my own contradiction.
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” Mark (9:24)
She still held me with her eyes. Now with a look of apprehension. I had given her a tough task, to try and explain the unexplainable.
“Yes, Kay’s son died ‘anyway.’ Our Hope isn’t in the healing. Our faith isn’t in a requested outcome. Our Hope is in Jesus, the One who heals, the One who redeems and rewrites our stories. Our faith is in God, not the outcome. We can pray for healing, and we should. Sometimes the physical healing comes on this side of eternity and sometimes it comes on the other side in heaven. Emotional healing, however, is available now, right here in the living in the middle of the mess.”
I had never thought of it that way. I had been so busy trying to control every aspect of my son’s illness that the thought of relinquishing control to God, not knowing the outcome, was not something I had wanted to take a chance on. I wanted my son safe and I had put myself in charge. I hadn’t the courage until this moment to fully let go and I was exhausted. I now saw that my efforts were futile. I was not in as much control as I thought I was.
I spent the rest of the weekend grieving, purging pent-up fear and anger. I allowed myself to take a deep breath in the safety of His arms. Instead of rejecting or abandoning me for admitting my distrust of His care, God pulled me closer. It was an undeniable embrace. I didn’t have all the answers I came searching for, but the walls came down. I was free. Free to ask questions. Free to say in my prayers, “Lord, I don’t trust you. Show me Who you are. Teach me how to trust you when I don’t receive the healing I’m asking for. Show me what it looks like to trust you in all things.” Honesty is a good place to start.
To listen to this story verbally and watch the entire conversation at the beach, go to the “Podcast Video Library” tab on this website to see the two-part YouTube version in Episodes 41 and 42, “What Are You Putting Your Faith In?” in regards to relationships, physical health, mental illness, parenting, finances, the government, God, etc. We are @TwoStepsAheadPodcast Highlighting the stuff we’ve stepped in so you don’t have to! Listen on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, iHeart, Stitcher) and watch weekly on public access TV in Santa Clarita, CA, Long Beach, CA and Pasadena, CA.
Tara Hoke Schiro is a Los Angeles based author, podcaster, blogger, and designer for “Wear Your Character.” All can be found at www.TaraSchiro.com
The sun always shines. Sometimes the clouds cover it, but it is always there revealing things we would rather leave in the dark. What do we do with a day whose sun rises to reveal one doozey of a storm? A sun that rises on the evil along with the good? The criminals as well as the law followers? The hate-pushing extremists as well as the Democrats and Republicans? “Them” as well as me? What the light reveals can make the best of us want to go back to bed and wait until this mess is over. The phrases we tossed around pre-COVID—follow your dreams, live each day to the fullest—seem trite, or tone-deaf, or not applicable in the middle of a social hurricane. The opposite is true, though, if we want to harness the wind beating our umbrella.
When we wake up each morning not knowing what calamity the storm clouds have brought, we must have a different perspective of storm mode. It’s not just “baton down the hatches” or wait in the bunker until it passes. It’s piloting the Storm Tracker and flying into the eye to see what we can learn about our fears, our values, and our purpose. We need to verify the durability of our character in the gale-force winds.
What does it look like to live each day to the fullest, with everything we have, no matter the social climate? How does it take into account the past and the future?
In one instance it can question the arrival of tomorrow; either tomorrow isn’t coming, or it won’t be a very good one, so live today as if it’s your last. Dance, laugh, go to the beach, live it up, spend the money. You can’t take it with you. The past is the past, it can’t be changed, so just ignore it and move on. Survive the day. Hang on for the ride. Some people are dealt a better hand than others, so you be you and do what you gotta do.
Fact is, we cannot change the past. It’s done. But we can choose to view it as a treasure trove of fascinating lessons. We can learn from it. We can grow from it. We can understand how it shaped our current beliefs and behaviors and we can measure our progress from it. We can redeem it. The past is full of riches. Woe is the one who buries the gems of the past.
In another instance, we are fairly certain there will be a tomorrow. In fact, we’re so sure of it that we relish the thought of the many tomorrows to come with future dreams, future plans, future accomplishments. We take care of the responsibilities in front of us, but we endlessly build for all the future tomorrows of health and wealth. Tomorrow is always in our back pocket, it’s the perpetual assurance that another day is available full of time for that “thing” we are working for. And while we focus our intentions on how great tomorrow will be, we worry about the legacy we will leave behind. Will it have been good enough? Tomorrow is the drug of intention that clouds the view right in front of us.
We cannot predict our future as accurately as we’d like. We can plan for certain “what ifs” or “want tos” but when it gets right down to it, there is no guarantee our efforts will pay off. A year that started off with a strong economy and low unemployment is now in solid reverse in the midst of a global pandemic, civil unrest, economic downturn, and an impending presidential election. The future will happen, but to our anxiety we cannot fully control or predict it.
In a third instance, today is tucked neatly in balance between yesterday and tomorrow. The cliché’ “today is the tomorrow you were planning for yesterday,” is cutesy but appropriate.
Instead of waiting for the perfect tomorrow to live our best life, we can live today with the fullest of integrity, right here, right now, regardless what’s happening around us. We can be honest about the why’s of our decisions. We can be forthright with information. We can treat people with decency. We can be sincere about listening and understanding. We can stop waiting and procrastinating. We can be consistent with our words and actions in all situations, not just in those that suit us.
Today’s proper place between yesterday and tomorrow is the view from here. Here is where we can look back to see the steps of success and heartache travelled thus far. We can honor the past with braver decisions and wiser choices. Here is where we can look forward to see in the horizon the vast possibilities available to us. We can honor the future with those same brave decisions and wise choices, knowing the steps we take today will point us in a healthy direction.
But most importantly, the view from here is the intersection between what we’ve learned and what we will learn, between who we’ve become and who we will choose to become. Today is the when decisions we make are of tantamount importance. Today is when love is most effective. The homeless man is thirsty today. The single mom can’t pay her bills today. The neighbor is sick today. The refugee is in a cage today. What will we decide?
The sun always shines. Sometimes the clouds cover it, but it is always there revealing things I would rather leave in the dark. It reveals the hate in my heart, the apathy, the indifference, the depression, the selfishness, the procrastination, the fear, the anger.
When the sun rises to reveal one doozey of a storm, I can don the raingear to stand in this intersection of today. I can remember the God who chose me to be his. I can recall the countless times he has been faithful and kept his promises. I can choose to ask for peace and grace and forgiveness and healing. I can look for ways to help others. I can cling to the hope, rooted in trust, that this season, this world, isn’t the whole story. There’s more to come that will be bigger and better than my imagination can invent. I can choose to get to the basics of life in the middle of the storm. I can remember who I’m anchored to, remember whose holding me.
To watch the correlating podcast on this topic, go to the “Podcast Video Library” tab on my website to see the YouTube version of Episode 37, “Are You Living In the Past, Present, or Future,” by @TwoStepsAheadPodcast Highlighting the stuff we’ve stepped in so you don’t have to! Listen on all major podcast platforms (Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, iHeart, Stitcher) and watch weekly on public access TV in Santa Clarita, CA, Long Beach, CA and Pasadena, CA.
Tara Hoke Schiro is a Los Angeles based author, podcaster, blogger, and designer for Wear Your Character. All can be found at www.TaraSchiro.com
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