Battle-scars, even those that bear shameful memories, can become a triumphant testimony to God’s limitless love.
He specializes in the broken.
I wrestle between fear and faith. I don’t believe I’m alone in this battle. I believe it’s an internal war we’ll constantly face as long as we have breath in our bodies. Fear will always be a nagging voice. It seems so subtle, yet it rages destructive warfare in our minds. If we’re not careful, it will take up residence in our hearts. It’s a tough battle, but not one that has to be lost.
The painful blows and scars of a sin tainted world…
My mind recalls… having to walk across a blue tarp that covered my best friend’s blood, my husband… burying 26 people in the span of 7 years… stripped of titles and dreams… Pain. We’ve all been touched by it and have felt its fiery arrows, they often leave our souls wounded and bleeding. It is in the first moments after that first arrow strikes, that we face a pivotal decision. Here is where we determine how we heal. Do we allow the pain to harden our hearts and suck up life, or do we deepen our resolve to let love win? Will we live beyond broken?
I fight this battle almost daily. My mind screams for me to run into hiding, and sometimes I do, but there’s another voice that causes me to pause at the crossroad. The sign for the road marked “Fear and Flight” stands bold and broad, but the voice beckons me to choose another road, one less traveled, it’s the pathway of “Faith and Life.” The battle is great in my mind, but my heart beats not to fly away, but to live!
It was nine years after I stepped out of our tour bus and walked across the tarp that blanketed my husband’s blood. I sat at the intersection to leave my neighborhood watching a funeral procession. Two men stood in the middle of that intersection, one was stopping traffic as the other directed their fellow bikers into the large church across the street. The procession was long, so I put my car in park and waited in silent pause with everyone else that came to stop at this crossroad. Suddenly, the quiet was disrupted by squealing tires. A car came piling through from behind the line of traffic and hit one of the men that stood giving direction. Without hesitation I grabbed my phone and dialed 911.
The man hit was in shock, we all were. He stood back on his feet and was cradling his arm as he watched the man who hit him speed away. Thankfully, I was able to get a portion of the license plate number before the car drove off. I felt strong and unshaken as the police and ambulance arrived. I calmly told the detective all I had witnessed, but when I pulled away to resume the plans for my day I was rudely interrupted. I barely drove a quarter of a mile when a river of tears came gushing, bursting through the ducts of my eyes as if a dam had been broken. I drove the rest of that first mile away from the scene of the accident to the nearest parking lot. There I sat, sobbing. Nine years later and the shock still has impact, and without warning its force can plow through the most joy-filled and carefree moments.
Many of us face these moments. We’re blindsided by a memory, or we experience a past feeling that leaves us questioning the stability of our emotions. I was completely stunned by the tears that day. I thought I was “over” all of that. I had driven by many accidents and had witnessed others happen, but for some reason, on that day I felt as if I were stripped naked and thrown into a Roman arena to await the next death-blow. Why?
Pain touches us all, however it does, it changes us. These are the moments we find ourselves at the intersection of fear and faith. Fear will always scream in our mind, but faith will peacefully lead our heart. Fear sucks up life and leaves us crippled, cradling our wound at the scene of our pain, but faith will give us strength to stand and walk forward again. We will wear battle-scars as we rise and walk, but they do not need to bear the image of shame.
When we face a painful trial, we experience a wound. Those wounds leave a mark and our brain stores a memory. This is a normal reaction. We need to remember things that pain us so we can avoid making the same mistakes again. Like the time I placed my hand on a hot stove element, I suffered severe burns to my right hand. That painful experience at the age of seven has kept me from purposefully, or accidentally, touching another hot surface. It’s also good to recall troublesome moments in history, only when we remember can we testify to victories we’ve experiences and to the joys that followed. To forget would be more tragic than taking a moment to remember and feel the emotions of that past journey, both the pain and joy.
“He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder-twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” – Joshua 4:5-7
When God led His people through a trial He had them build an altar in the spot where deliverance from that trial happened. His instructions were followed with a command to tell future generations what the stones meant. The altar of stones were a visual to trigger a memory, and that memory allowed the feelings of the journey to flow. We need to feel our stories as we tell them, so that the recipient can hear that we can identify with their pain and still grab hold of the promised hope that awaits on the other side of their life-storm.
“In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and kept it dry until you were all across, just as He did at the Red Sea when He dried it up until we had all crossed over.” – Joshua 4:21-23
I am grateful that I can feel deeply. What was meant to harm me has been turned into an ability to empathize with others. That would have been impossible had I not walked the journeys I have. I’m learning that people will disappoint, but when all is said and done, Love never disappoints. Moments, like that at the intersection of a funeral procession that turned into a scene of an accident, can stir many emotions inside us all. The visuals we experience send signals to our brain that, like it or not, awaken memories and the feelings that go along with them. It can be a memory from recent days, or it can be years past. It’s all good and normal as long as we are honest with them.
Truthfully, none of us live beyond broken, we just let love reign through the broken places as we stand and walk forward, and we’ll grow stronger when we do. We rise and walk in faith, because we believe God’s promise that “No weapon formed against us shall prosper!”
Life’s light can radiantly shine through the battle-scars. God specializes in the broken!
I will declare to my woes as Joseph did, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Then, I will choose the whisper of my heart over fear’s howl. I will choose to walk the road less traveled, I will walk the pathway of faith rather than the broad road of fear. I will choose to live!
What crossroad do you find yourself at today? What are the memories you’ve wished to silence? Instead of running from the pain, grab a stone and build a memorial. Look how far God has brought you. Then, let His love light shine through. He specializes in the broken!
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Eccl. 3:11