“Your friends are wanting to give you a party, and I thought I should ask.” My husband’s face showed uncharacteristic earnest as he patiently waited for my response.
Initially one would think him to be a killjoy or perhaps even a jerk for revealing this to me. This situation was posed to me last year, three months before my 50 birthday. It is a milestone generally celebrated on a consistent basis in American culture, and just two years prior, we had done it up big for my husband; managing to pull off a huge surprise! Mine, however, was different. In September of 2011, my brother and only sibling, died very suddenly. My life it forever changed. I spoke with him nearly every day. He was not only my brother, but a confidant, a dear friend, a sounding board, and a brother in Christ who admonished, encouraged and sharpened me.
Today is my 51st birthday. I thought it would be appropriate to share with you, five truths that I own after living half a century on this earth; and after living through one of the most difficult years of that life. For your sake and mine, they each represent a decade!
1. Life is hard, but God is always good.~ This phrase has a tendency to become trite when it flows from our lips to the ears of others. Especially if those “others” are the ones going through a hard, trying, or seemingly impossible time. I’ve learned that often, especially as an American desiring a quick fix, it is best to allow the Holy Spirit of God to be the revelator of this truth! After all, He has promised to be faithful, to bind up our wounds, to heal broken hearts and to not break a bruised reed. Since he cannot lie or go against his own nature, these are legitimate promises based in absolute truth. When I try to quantify or qualify the grief of others up against the template of my own, I do a disservice both to the Lord as well as those other individuals. Grief is real to the person experiencing it; regardless of how large or small is may seem to me. In order to offer the most genuine and true compassion that I possibly can, I need to remember this; while pointing those in need to the only One who can truly fill it. It also serves me to remember that I am not compelled to have something to say. Just being present or ministering through the gift of serving even the smallest of needs, is often more than enough.
2. Friendship is worth cultivating. Don’t neglect it.~ Deep within each of us is a desire to be heard and understood. The tyranny of the urgent, the busyness that demands a portion of each and every day, the lists, appointments, and endless chores: these demand attention and can squeeze out time set aside for relationships with others. It is easy to move people, especially those with whom we have a history or established relationships, to “tomorrow.” Worse yet, we often file desired events, face-to-face encounters and the like, to that fateful, non-existent time frame titled “Someday.” Relationship will always take effort. View it as a privilege rather than a chore. Ask the Lord to remind you that people are meaningful and eternal beings in which you can invest daily; and that friendships with others are sweet evidence of the grace of God. When hard times hit, they become a bulwark, physical anchors and the hands and feet of those who are broken.
3. Family is the framework in which you are forged.~ Every one is flawed, has individuals and circumstances that can’t be explained, and grates on us from time to time. But guess what? It is God’s design to teach you, mold you, and shape you through both relationships and those circumstances, to be the individual you will become. You are a chosen people, tied to a royal priesthood, given the privilege of representing the God of the Universe to a weary, often hope-less world. You have a choice: You can resent and rage against those people God has placed you with, or you can get to work practicing his economy; which is being faithful in “small things” so that you will eventually be found faithful in much. How grateful I am to be able to say with a clear and free conscience, that I have no regrets in my relationship with my brother! Did we have hard or difficult times? Absolutely! We’re sinners. But I treasure the fact that Tim and I worked hard so that neglect and busyness didn’t overtake our relationship! We learned through some tough and dirty times to fight clean, to agree to disagree, and to celebrate the gift of one another…flaws and all! The roots of bitterness and anger can’t exist where mercy and grace are given an invitation to thrive.
4. Let’s talk about grace…~ I honestly could forever, and am convinced this side of heaven, I won’t ever fully grasp it in a finite mind! I now own this truth: Death is not natural. It was never intended to be a part of life or something we were to experience. Adam and Eve and every man or woman to ever have walked this earth, ushered in death and all of its creepy, unnatural feelings, experiences, and struggles. In our humanness, we perpetuate them, even when it is an involuntary act! Grace changes all of that every single day we look to Jesus as the victory over it; whether spiritual or physical! While friends and family can offer comfort and physical care, Jesus alone gives victory over the grave. Any grave! He is the fill dirt to ones I dig for myself when I rebel, and is always there to give me a hand up and offer hope, while helping me out of them.
5. There’s always HOPE.~ I need it. You need it. Mankind thirsts for it every minute, hour, and day of existence. Because of grace, we possess it! Because of grace, we are privileged to represent it! Because of grace, this is the longest, most agonizing separation we will ever experience…and THEN, eternity!
At a time of year when we concentrate on gifts, and choosing the “perfect ones”, I am overwhelmingly grateful that God chose to gift me with himself. In doing so, he conquered every situation I will ever face, every tear I will ever shed he has bottled and saved, and he is waiting to personally wipe them from my eyes when I see him face-to-face in all of his glory! And Tim will be there to welcome me…along with countless others.
Happy Birthday to Me! There is no greater gift!
Teri is a believer in God, Family, and Community, and Lover of Leadership Education The Thomas Jefferson way. Teri writes and also speaks about lessons learned on her educational journey with 5 rambunctious sons, ages 24 down to 11, one Hero Hubby, and celebrating day to day life with lots of humor, within the human race. Find Teri blogging at Tommy Mom | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest.