Lent- the aftermath of struggle

A moment of insight

The image of Jesus in the desert, being tempted to take shortcuts, to be influenced by human pride and show, and struggling for his God -given identity is powerful. And then towards the end of the time, satan leaves him, and he is ministered to by angels.

Lent this year, for myself, and maybe for many, has been particularly intense. We are buffeted by temptation, sorrow, grief, despair and at times we can feel that it will all never work out. The aftermath of three years of covid, years of sorrow, isolation and fear have left their mark, and leave us less well equipped to cope with the trials of daily life.

I remember the verse in Luke chapter 19: 41 and 42 ‘ but as Jesus came closer to Jerusalem, and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.’ NLT.

Jesus wept over a people in denial, who didn’t recognise who he was, or the veracity of his teaching. He saw the consequences and the suffering. Today, the national church is going though an extraordinary and agonising time of change. We question is how do we stay attentive to the promptings of the Holy spirit, to listen for the ways of God, rather than the ways of humanity. We need to keep our eyes fixed on our beautiful Saviour.

For me this desert time, has been a time of struggle, tears on my pillow, deep sorrow and questions. I have learned new things about myself which have made me weep. I have also pleaded with God to take my broken piecesĀ  and to remake me in Christ’s image, to help me grow closer to Him, and to strengthen me in my inner being. In the aftermath, I have much to reflect on, but I haven’t given up hope, for God is still good, and angels are here in this place, even amidst the exhaustion and the grief.

Gracious God, thankyou for the example of our Lord Jesus, who set his face to Jerusalem, who retained his godly identity in the midst of temptation and trial. Lord Jesus, we are as small children, trying to discover our identity, seeking wisdom in our choices every day, to draw closer to You. Forgive us when we have acted out of pride or naivety or judgement. In desert times, we cry to You for help, but in the aftermath, may we be reflective and discerning, to learn, and to ask your holy spirit to heal us, to pick us up, and to ask for the gifts that will transform us, and recentre us in your loving purpose. May the presence of angels bring hope once more, as we continue on your path, Amen.

The power of telling our story.

Learning to speak.

In recent weeks, I have been mulling over the power of telling your story. It is perhaps a bit of a cliche, but there is something that is cathartic about trying to put something you gave experienced into words. It helps you to reinterpret the significance of what happened, and to understand it in a different way. You often notice something that you hadn’t seen before.

It might look a bit selfish to be focused on telling your story. Yet I think the purpose is a deeper understanding of our humanity, and the connection that exists between us all. And you hope this might help another human being. Some one said ” the courage it takes to tell your story might be the very thing some one needs to open their heart to hope.’

This spring was three years after Colin’s death. I thought enough time has passed to make things more bearable, and I was taken aback by the pain all over again. This is not just about his death, but also about the trauma and behaviours around epilepsy and brain injury. So many difficult memories.

I am not saying this because I am looking for sympathy. Rather I am just saying this because that’s where I am at. The processes of grief don’t follow a neat path, but are an emotional storm that is unbridled and turbulent.

So I write this to help others who are grieving. So often people say ‘ you should be over this by now’ but it really doesn’t work like that. All we can do is find the courage to say where we are at.

I started to tell my husband Colin’s story to honour his memory, but in doing this, I told our story. I had to decide which bits to leave out, or to focus on, so there is always an interpretative context. Doing this, and writing ‘love song for a wounded warrior’ has changed me, it has helped me look into a time of suffering and pain, and to try to speak to challenge people about the suffering of veterans and their families. It has helped me notice things about myself, which have been hard to face, but which ultimately will be therapeutic.

Brene Brown said ‘ owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we will ever do.’ I can understand that because I feel vulnerable and sad, and for many years I kept it all to myself. To speak of some of what happened has been tough, but also feels like a calling.

To anyone who is reading this, thank you. I think of Rick Warren’s words ‘ other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out if your deepest hurts.’ That is my prayer.

In the midst of all this, my Christian faith has been my strength. In psalm 45, the NLT translation it says: ‘beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about my King, for my tongue is like then pen of a skilful poet’ I am not a skilful poet, but I do feel called to tell this story, to write, to connect, to seek to tell others of the wonders of God’s love, even in the darkest of moments, and to encourage and bring hope.

Gracious God, Your story is told in Your beautiful book, the Bible being full of Your grace and love towards a broken and fragile humanity. Lord Jesus, things happen in life that are so difficult, beyond the power of words to tell. Yet I thank you that You understand. Bring healing to all those who suffer and are in pain. Holy spirit, give us the courage to tell our individual stories, howeber messy, and somehow may they bless others. And as we speak, may we also find fresh insights, which enable us to grow stronger and find deeper peace, Amen.