Irma, Harvey and the Wrath of God

The last blog post I wrote was about my pledge to meet every wound with love. And then, as often happens, it seems I was due to be tested on this principle. Did I really mean that post? Would I really greet my wounds as a chance to let Love make my life more beautiful?

If they are my wounds, yes.

I did not foresee that my son would be in a flour fight (yes, baking products turned into projectiles) and that someone would throw a hard ball at his face, shattering his nose.

That was certainly a wound, complete with streaming blood, a trip to the ER and a head CT.

I did not greet that wound with love. In fact, if you hurt my kids, I will unleash a scorched earth policy that would leave Sherman breathless.

I was furious that the event organizer thought it wise to allow teenage boys to pack flour into bags, creating hard objects to throw. Teenage boys are universally renowned for their ability to turn any object into an instrument of pain and/or destruction.

My own son, in fact, found a way to explode a can of green beans from the inside out, thereby creating an explosion so loud that we have yet to see the birds return to nest in our backyard trees. Adults do not look at canned produce and see the potential for explosions. We just don’t. But if we are in charge of teenage boys, we must think like teenage boys.

But, to continue, my son was injured through the negligence of a third party. It was, in part, a deliberate injury and the fault was squarely on the business’s shoulders. So when the business owner called me in the ER, the Mama Bear in me raged. Even King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, warned that few things on earth are as dangerous as a mama bear.

However, I tried to make it clear that my fury was at the decision that led to the injury, not necessarily the person who made it.

On the way home from the ER, we listened to the news from Charlotte, and then the dire warnings about Hurricane Harvey. One person opined that America was facing the wrath of God for her many sins. And of course, with Irma making her US debut this weekend, even more people are suggesting that all these events aren’t actual weather: they’re divine punishment.

I know they’re wrong. Because on that night on the way home from the ER, I suddenly understood one of the least favorite references in the Bible: the wrath of God.

I have always hated references to the wrath of God.

Who wants to believe in a raging God?

Not me. Ever.

But…what if the wrath of God is quite different than anything we had imagined?

Follow me on this:

Every one of us yearns for justice. Yearning is now said to be the final stage of grief, in fact. That’s why it’s so silly to talk about closure when we’re dealing with deep wounds. Closure isn’t possible. The two ends can never match up again: what was and what should have been are forever separated in this life.

So we yearn for justice. Real justice, not just prison time. Real justice would go after the root of our suffering.

Ask any parent in a pediatric cancer ward what they would do to Cancer if they could. Ask a grieving father what he would do to Heroin. Or a victim of human trafficking what she would do to Pornography and Rape.

Their wrath wouldn’t be pretty. But it would be just.

So, I do want to believe in the wrath of God and you do too. But as God’s children, His wrath is for us, not directed at us. He’s not coming to destroy individuals. He is coming to destroy evil.

I like to think that when God’s wrath is poured out on earth, all of humanity will cheer as we see every form of cruelty, all manner of disease and torment thrown into the pit of hell.

We will at last know the truth and the truth will make us free.

It’s time to stop fighting each other. We must fight for each other.

We can’t destroy each other and find justice. There is no Us versus Them. Celebrities speculate that God has already picked sides. I would argue they are right: God is on our side.

So I don’t fear God’s wrath. I hope one day to see it, and finally see the end of all suffering.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Let Your Wounds Become Windows

Untitled design

Recently I bought a lantern that absolutely enchanted me. Made of tin, an artist had painstakingly punched thousands of tiny holes in the metal, until a breathtaking design of complexity was evident.

The plain tin box, when lit from within with a candle, was truly lovely. Its light was nothing like the harsh glare of a commercial bulb or even the inconstant glow of an open flame. More than just the light, more than just the lantern: together, they were a thing of rare beauty.

Ironically, C.S. Lewis compared us to objects made of tin. “[God] is beginning…to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”

I understand so well.

Transforming plain tin to rare beauty is a process both painstaking and painful. The more the tin is pierced, the more elaborate the final pattern. If I had been that piece of tin, I would have demanded a much simpler design.

And if I run my hand along the inside of the lantern, I can still feel the rough edges of the strikes. I feel something quite like them in my heart, too. Each regret in my life has left a rough edge, and each loss has created a wound.

The wounds are what I should have been, how I should have acted, and all the terrible things that should never have happened. I am pierced through with the reality of my own failures and the failures of a broken world that promises happiness and delivers scorn.

I am just a plain tin box wishing to be a thing of beauty, but each failure, each loss and regret, is another nail piercing me. I find no pleasure in the process, and no glimpse of a design. Certainly, I see no beauty.

It takes faith, as raw and real as the wounds, to believe that a Master Artist can use all this pain to create beauty. When we look at the news, it seems impossible. But then I take a deep breath and remember that I am not responsible for changing the headlines…just my attitude. I have to meet each wound with Love. I need faith to hold on, and wait for the beauty to be revealed.

I believe the final design of my life will be made more beautiful because of my regrets and wounds, not in spite of them. I believe that there is hope for me, for you, and for this aching world. I believe that Love is still, and always, at work.

May every wound become a window.

How to Define a Patriot

Last week I drove my teenage son to a United States Marine Corp recruiting office. Enlisting has been his dream since he was a toddler, but encouraging the dreams of a toddler was easy. Seeing your son step up to defend our country in an age of terror and brutality? That’s hard on a momma’s heart.

And then I remembered a story from long ago, one that gave me courage.

Several years ago, my parents sold their sold their ranch in Texas and moved to Georgia to be closer to their grandchildren, including my three kids. My kids were always begging to go over and raid Grammy’s pantry, or build something in Grandpa’s workshop.

One afternoon I picked up James’ little sister, my five-year-old daughter Elise, from their house after another fun day with my parents.

On the way home, I noticed that Elise looking out the minivan window, a sad expression on her face. “What is it, hon?” I asked.

“It’s Grandpa and Grandma. I just feel really sorry for them,” she whispered.

“Why?”

Elise sighed. “I was just wondering, aren’t they ever gonna have kids of their own?”

I laughed all the way home.

Elise understood that her grandparents were also my parents but she was not yet able to really comprehend the meaning of that fact.

Of course, I knew that, in time, Elise would understand. But children can know facts without understanding them. I wonder, then, if I am like Elise in my understanding of the founding of our country. The story seems familiar. The holiday has a set routine. Every year, I grill out. I watch the fireworks. I buy sparklers and of course I wear red, white and blue.

I understand July Fourth so very well…or do I? Or am I like Elise, with an understanding of the facts but no ability yet to grasp the greater implications? What if the gift of freedom is a gift so profound that the world is still discovering what was accomplished so long ago?

I wonder, too, if on that night when the rockets really did glare red, and bombs did burst in air, if those patriots understood the transaction that was made. By their blood, we live in freedom. That’s the oldest story ever told, isn’t it, that by another’s blood we are set free? And yet, although it’s a story I first heard in a nursery, I still do not fully comprehend the gift.

On those many years ago when the skies exploded with smoke and fire, and the ground trembled as mothers clutched their hearts for fear of ill news, the world changed forever. I want to pause this weekend and reflect on the change, because soon my son will take his place to hold secure what was won. Like the others beside him, he won’t be there for fame or wealth.

You see to some people, our heritage is defined by what we’ve achieved. But Americans are patriots, and patriots are defined by our sacrifices. What we sacrifice determines who we become, as individuals and as a country.

So on this July Fourth, I will put my hand over my heart for the mothers whose hearts were broken. I will lift my face to the skies as fire once more lights up the dark night. And I will say to those patriots of long ago and to the patriots of today:

God bless America. Let freedom ring!