Painting: Bearing One Another

Do you ever feel like you are stumbling along, burdened and feeling heavy of heart? I sometimes get there when I have a lot to do and it is not coming together, like this morning before I wrote this article. Some of it had to do with the thoughts I had been thinking this week. You see, recently we watched two drama movies, Wild and the Judge, which left me feeling unsettled and thinking of hard things, difficult lives and painful circumstances.

In Wild, we walk the road of grief and recovery with a young woman on the Pacific Crest Trail, a three month long hike. It is about a mother- daughter relationship. In the Judge, it is a father-son relationship, of broken relationships and hurts so deep but unspoken, of love withheld, of confusion and finally a sort of reconciliation.

I cried during the movies – we walk in a broken world and what the movies portrayed is all too real. Even as followers of Christ, we are not immune to that brokenness in our own lives: unforgiven, not talking about what is wrong, hiding truth, withholding love and affirmation, sickness, death. I feel a heaviness in my heart just to think of it all.

Will I have the grace to forgive others when I am hurt by their actions? When they seem stubborn and unforgiving to me?

It doesn’t take long to find any of the above scenarios in the newspaper or online news. I cannot change the world, but I can change me. And even that is difficult without Christ by my side encouraging me on and giving me the strength to love myself and have compassion on my fellow people. God calls us to forgive and to love, and he promises to walk with us when we are devastated by loss.

But sometimes when my heart is heavy I just need to cry and let the feelings flow. The song I shared last month still fits here. It lets me cry and feel, yet trust my Savior. My attempts at recording the song have not been successful yet, but here are the words again:

I will sing to the Lord, sing though my heart is aching, sing alleluia to my Lord.
With my heart I will sing, sing though my heart is grieving; have mercy on me, O Lord.

I will trust in the Lord, with all my heart, my soul, my mind, I will trust in you.
I will choose to rejoice, regardless of the circumstances I’ll trust in you.

Singing alleluia! Praise the name of Jesus, alleluia, amen.
Singing alleluia! Praise the name of Jesus, alleluia, amen.

In My Weakness, Part 2

Painting: open hands/letting go

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” says the Lord of Hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)

At the end of my last newsletter, I was healing and thought I was done. But no, after two weeks I went for a follow up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The infection was still there and he wanted to go back in and remove the cyst sac and scrape out the infection. So four days later, I was back in the hospital, admitted. It would be overnight at least and he wanted to keep me until the right antibiotic would be found.

Waiting – in the hospital.
First there is the waiting on an empty stomach for the surgery. It was noon before the surgery finally took place. Then I began to see and experience all kinds of waiting:

  • To be able to eat again
  • For a nurse to respond to a call bell
  • For pain to go away
  • For recovery from medication given during surgery
  • For healing to happen
  • For a doctor to come by with his/her prognosis
  • For a prescription
  • For a good meal
  • For time to pass
  • For visitors to come
  • For the okay to go home

In a hospital there is no control - 

  • Of when the doctor will come by
  • Of how long it takes to heal
  • (Sometimes even) Of bodily functions
  • Of all the above

Vulnerability is high and you have to trust the doctors and nurses.

I had a couple of roommates. One who had had hip surgery and complications afterwards. She was bed ridden and needed a lot of help. She was in her 80’s. Physio came by every day just to get her to work on standing.

On my third day in the hospital, I wrote this poem from her point of view as I watched her situation in the hospital:

Stuck in this chair
Waiting for a nurse
“call” bell is dinging
No one responds, no one hears
Waiting an hour
Hoping they get here before I make a mess
Where are they?
Don’t they care?
Can’t wait much longer
…So uncomfortable
Roommates are listening
But they cannot help
Shake my head,
In come the nurses
Lift in position to move me to the chair with a hole.
Too late!
What a mess!

By the fourth day in the hospital, I was pacing the hallway. In the last newsletter I wrote about the difficulty of vulnerability, but I found it became even harder the longer I had to wait. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I paced the hallways waiting. I was frustrated, impatient ready to cry and realized that this is how I am with God. I wrote in my journal that day as I was waiting for the doctor to come by and let me go home:

“ Honestly, I do not like the lack of control when waiting for You, Lord. I don’t like giving up control. I don’t like the vulnerability in crying – I would rather hide my feelings. I don’t even have it as bad as some people here. Lord, I confess, I do not want to give up my control. I want to feel important and valid. I don’t like being a “nobody.” I confess, I do not like being vulnerable, weak and teary. I’d rather be sunshine than rain. Strengthen my faith that I can let go of control. It’s not about me. What does it mean to rest in Jesus, trusting in him, letting go?”

I am currently working on this painting, “Letting Go,” as I work through these feelings and experience. I started this painting last week at the Art Vocabulary of the Soul retreat, where I shared this journey. Our weekend focus was on God as our strength in our weakness. And he is. And I can rest in that as soon as I let go.

Hope Does Not Disappoint

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us,
because God's love has been poured into our lives through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

We also "boast in our sufferings..." When was the last time you did that? It was certainly not something I had made a practice of, but God is teaching me to reconsider it.

This last fall, I was going through a difficult time with some relationships and in the midst of this I was very hurt and angry. I didn't like what was going on and I didn't know why it was happening. It's easy to fall into the ways of our culture of entitlement. Christian's are not immune to feeling "I deserve", "you deserve", or "we deserve" and feeling that suffering or tragedy of any sort is just plain wrong. Or sometimes we feel guilt when tragedy strikes, as if we've done something wrong and the suffering is our fault. Both of these attitudes are centered around us and what we do. We feel we have worked hard. We are good people. Therefore, we deserve good things to happen.

As all these feelings swirled around inside, I turned, as I often do, to painting to draw close to God and sort my spirit out. But when I got to this painting, what I felt I really need to work on was the rainbow. I didn't paint the hurt, instead I painted the hope I have in Christ. A sign of God's promise that he loves me and walks with me in my pain. He heals and redeems situations beyond what I can imagine. And he does it, not because I deserve it, but because he loves me. For that I will trust God to take me through and work through all that is before me. And hope does not disappoint.