Friday, January 13, 2012

Engraved on His hands

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.   Isaiah 49:14-16

The many days away from my family are almost at an end.  I have felt a longing for my husband and children in the past week that aches in the deepest places of the heart.  This is how I know it is almost time to go home.  I began my time here sleeping a lot and in great amounts of pain.  My mind was dulled by medications and utter exhaustion.  Those first weeks finally flowed into carving out my own routine and rituals.  I found great comfort in quiet mornings on the couch listening to hymns and praying with my face turned towards the sun.

I started out praying for all the "wrong" things.  I didn't realize I was so thirsty and hungry for living water and the bread of life.   As I listened to many messages, particularly one saved on the playlist of the family who owns this home, I was convicted to change up my prayer life.  I was drawn back to liturgy and Christ's example.  "This is how you ought to pray . . . "  I have begun to pray the Lord's Prayer in earnest.  I have literally stood on the shore of this lake and watched God building a bridge to take me from the years of pain and suffering to a new thing.  I needed these months of rest and solitude to make me whole again.  I needed the quiet to hear His voice calling my name.  I needed the space to draw close to Him as He reminded me of my identity.  I am a child of God. 

A year ago I made a promise I would make a discipline out of solitude and spiritual retreat.  Remember my night away?  Christ modeled this better than anyone.  He would often separate Himself from the disciples and the crowds and spend time with God.  He was tempted there as He wrestled with the perfect will of His Father leading straight to the cross.  I have been here alone long enough to have encountered Satan and His same old lies about how God doesn't love me, and I am never really going to rescued from all this loss.  Adele Calhoun writes this in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

"Solitude is a discipline that gets behind those feelings to who we are when we feel invisible and unrecognized. Who are we when productivity and recognition fall away and God is the only one watching us? Some of us simply seem to lose our sense of self when there is no one to mirror back who we are. Without the oxygen of doing and the mirror of approval, our feelings of being real and important evaporate. Hollow places open up in our heart, and our soul feels empty and bare. We can feel agitated, scattered, and distracted. These disconcerting feelings do two things for us. They reveal how much of our identity is embedded in a false sense of self. And they show us how easy it is to avoid solitude because we dislike being unproductive and unapplauded.

But we need solitude if we intend to unmask the false self and its important-looking image. Alone, without distractions, we put ourselves in a place where God can reveal things to us that we might not notice in the normal preoccupations of life. Solitude opens a space where we can bring our empty and compulsive selves to God. And no matter how well we ‘do’ silence, God is there to accept, receive, and love us. In solitude we see how little we embrace our true identity in Christ. And we find the truth of who we are in Christ. We are the beloved, and God is pleased with us. This identity is given; it is not earned. Many other voices pull at us, seeking to own and name us, but in solitude we learn what it is to distinguish between the voice of God and the voices of the world.”

My identity was slowly stripped away even before my surgery.  I couldn't work in gainful employment.  I couldn't care for my children without help.  I couldn't be a true helpmate to my husband.  I couldn't participate in corporate worship.  I couldn't be a good sister or daughter or friend.  When I woke up from surgery without the vice grip on the back of my neck one of my first thoughts was, "Who am I going to be if God chooses to remove this thorn in the flesh for good?"  The answer is simple.  I am a child of God.  This identity never changed because of my ability to perform any duties.  I am His beloved.  There is no guilt here.  There is no shame.  I don't have to produce anything or be recognized by anyone else.  My name is written on His hands!

The verses above are my dad's "go to" verses when he visits the sick and people headed into surgery.  I only know this because too many times he has prayed with us before such an event.  Dan and I have joked he needs to find some "new material" for repeat customers like us who seem to find someone in our family on a stretcher in a hospital several times a year.  The truth is I find great comfort in these words.  God paints a picture we can all understand and relate to.  Tonight I kissed my fingers and touched the picture of my girls and I.  Beside it is the sweetest picture my Danica Jean drew of her and I a few weeks ago.  She was learning how to make hearts.  I was thinking about how impossible it would be for me to ever forget my children.  I breathe them no matter what else I am doing.  This is how God feels about me but perfectly.  I ran to get a Sharpie and wrote my name on my hand.  No matter what I do it's there.  He never forgets me.  Not just my name but my likeness.  I am never off His mind or away from His sight or out of His care. 

I am in pain.  The back of my neck and head hurt where my nerves were clipped, and I am constantly aware of the holes made in the top of my head.  I am lonely.  The reality of my recovery is not meeting my expectations, and this discourages me.  I slip back into praying old prayers for the wrong things until I catch a glimpse of my hand.  This is what I pray instead:

Our father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts
As we have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory,


I trace the scars in the hands of my Savior and see my name imbeded there.  Kingdom.  Power.  Glory.  Forever. 

I rest in His perfect will tonight.

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