It’s easy to see him circling someone else; it never occurred to me that he was looking my way.
I woke up on September 21, 2020, to a Facebook memory from a year ago. A friend of mine had convinced me to attend a concert that would require me to leave the hospital, where our family had been keeping vigil over my dad. The concert was a life-giving gift, at a time when I needed it more than I knew. But the Facebook notice abruptly burned the memory into my heart that this time last year, Dad only had a few more days to live.
He was our rock, the patriarch of our family, and the go-to guy for everything!!! He was my friend, the one who shared my passion for horses, and the one whose advice and approval I always sought.
We never thought we would lose him. He defied death every time it tried to take him, even though it reared its ugly head with regularity. As I read back over my prayer journal from last year, I had little doubt he was going to remain victorious and defeat his current confrontation.
But then, something else occurred to me. After he died on October 11th at 11:22 AM, the other relationships in my life, one-by-one, became all-consuming cycles of dysfunction. And, even though I KNOW not to let Satan slip in when no one is looking, there he was, meddling in the aftermath of Dad’s death. I was so caught up in the offenses of others, I couldn’t see anything clearly, and yet, as I just recently realized, I was the only common denominator.
Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. My husband and my son were, and always are, my greatest supporters. But in a moment of discourse, when family arguing hit its crescendo, my son told me he was tired of hearing about all the things someone had said, or done, to me. He didn’t really mean it. He was always there to listen. But he wasn’t wrong.
It started with family, moved to one of my dearest friends, segued to a neighbor, and the scenarios swirled in my mind, stealing joy in the most sacred places. The things that happened, the things that were said, the injustice of it all, on my side or theirs, definitely don’t matter. I was growing weary in doing good and I KNOW that is not good!!
And then I saw him! I recognized him. I knew, in that moment, that I had been blindsided. That’s hard to admit for someone who envisions herself putting on spiritual armor every morning. But then, self-righteousness is a topic for another time. God doesn’t like that either.
In all the chaos, I heard a Christian radio conversation suggesting listeners try and improve their relationships by completing the following sentence.
“If you REALLY knew me you would know…”
So I filled in the blank for myself. “If you really knew me, you would know that my heart is broken and I try to keep it well hidden. You would know that, for months, I picked up the phone to call my Dad. You would know that every day of my life is full of his memory. But long after the funeral, when life went on without him, the enemy of my soul was prowling around, and he did his best to devour me.
Pondering all that had happened, it reminded me of a day, many years ago, when our son was playing community basketball. His team had the lead in the championship game. A volunteer was slow in restarting the clock and the opposing team hit the winning shot. While they were caught up in their victory, the mistake was discovered, and pandemonium set in. Parent complaints that night were epic. My husband, who coached our son’s team, got the kids together and explained to them that it’s not so much what happens to you in life, but how you react to it, that really matters. He asked the kids if they wanted the championship title so much, that they would be willing to watch players on the other team grieving, just as they were.
The boys talked it over and, with great humility, chose not to protest, to walk away, and let the other team retain the title.
It was a milestone moment, seeing how those kids responded.
Jesus instructs us to come to him as little children.
Now, a year after my Dad’s death, looking back on all the challenges, the things that happened, the things that were said, emails, text messages… often read with my own tone and inflection…and let’s just throw in a quarantine and a pandemic…and I wonder if I would have reacted differently if I hadn’t been reacting with a broken heart? Not an excuse, not looking for sympathy, just a realization that I’m susceptible to being devoured when he comes prowling around. And, its past time to quit reacting from the filter of a broken heart. I don’t need to win against anyone but the enemy of my own soul. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else.
By the grace and mercy of an Almighty God, I’m picking up the pieces and trying to repair the relationships that became the casualties of this war.
Psalm 38 instructs me to be deaf to those who really do speak against me…but Psalm 39 instructs me to put a guard over my own mouth.
Our pastor frequently reminds us that we are ALL hypocrites. We say one thing and do another.
It’s eye opening and mind boggling when you recognize no one is immune…no matter how prayed up and prepared you think you might be…we are all vulnerable.
But thankfully, Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lord, have mercy on all of us this morning!
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