Beauty from the Ashes

I am a deeply spiritual person.  It’s fair to say that everything in my life, for me, has a deeply spiritual facet to it.  Everything.  I see God and His merciful handiwork everywhere.  I am always searching for His mark or presence in everything in my life.  Driving by giant fields on road trips, where the grass stretches for miles in a number of shades of green–I praise God for His beauty and thank Him for my sight.  I smell the sweet scent of my baby boy while nibbling him–I praise God for him and thank Him for my smell.  I give Him my days, every moment, and if I wake at night, I ask for His help to fall asleep again.

Lately, I have struggled with a surprisingly cliché question: Why do bad things happen?  And I don’t mean struggled in a passing, I should probably read about this type of way.  I mean, deeply and constantly.

To clarify, I know bad things happen.  I stub my toe on a toy…again…it happens.  A violent cold knocks us down after months of health…we hunker down and push through.  This month’s expenses creeped up more than normal…we tighten up for a bit until it passes.

But, when bad things just keep happening.  Over and over.  With no break.  Why?  I know it’s wrong to compare, but it seems like some hardly suffer.  Occasionally, sometimes minimal or sometimes gut wrenching, crosses hit other people.  But, they get seasons of peace.  They get a period of time to recover, decompress.  Rest.  Strengthen back up for the next season of difficulty.  That period might be a few months.  It might be a few years.  But they have peace.

What about those who suffer constantly?  When one period of gut-wrenching loss or pain or death has not even ended before the next blow comes.  Why?

To be honest, that’s been us for a few years now.  Literally one thing after another.  And I’m not talking about a stubbed toe or an inconvenient cold.  I’m talking consistent loss, pain, and yes death.  Why is it that some suffer incessantly while others have long, verdant periods of rest in their lives?  Why, specifically, does God allow that?

I don’t know.

I will probably never know.  None of us will ever fully understand His holy and equally confusing plan.

But, I remind myself that, regardless of the pain, no matter what we’ve lost, no matter whom we’ve laid to rest, there will always be redemption.

Back in 2008, in three weeks, my life changed dramatically in three ways.  One week, after having my boss sign my affirmation of employment, I moved into my first apartment.  I had just finished paying off my college loans within a year, so I was drained financially.  Fortunately, I was still going to be able to beef up my bank account and live in my apartment.  The next week, I got engaged.  The following week, my boss laid me off.  Yes, he knew when he signed that paper that he was going to fire me.  Yes, I was scared and so angry.  Money was tight and my now husband had to help me buy groceries and gas.  We had to move our wedding up from the following May to February, three months early.  I stood looking, in the worst part of trying to find a job and pay my bills, out my back window, questioning Him.  Wondering why He’d allow this.  I was a really good teacher!  I needed money!  February came, I had $75 in my account the day I said I do.  Two weeks later, two pink lines.  Not a day goes by that I don’t look into the face of my honeymoon baby girl, now nearing nine years old, and thank God I lost my job.  Praise Him for the struggle.  Because she is here.  And, oh Lord, how fiercely I love that girl.

There can be no resurrection without death.

I didn’t know why we lost him.  Halfway through the pregnancy, I was more attached to him than I had been with any previous pregnancy.  There was something different about that baby.  Something holy.  Something divine.  Peace invaded my soul.  And, through a week, I felt his kicks grow weaker.  No one listened as I pleaded that something was wrong.  Until my routine appointment halfway through. Too late.  He was gone.  I went home, packed a bag, and headed back into Labor and Delivery.  I got the room next door to the woman who was yelling through her labor.  All night long.  All night, I heard the heart beat monitor of her baby.  Mine was silent.  In the morning, he came.  Sleeping.  His eyes first opened to Great Glory.  Not to mine.  My second son.  Both of whom I lost.

Why, God, why?!

I wept.  That afternoon a priest came in.  With the same name we’d given our son.  He leaned in close.  I heard he put up quite a fight.  “What?!” I asked. I heard he put up quite a fight, he looked upward, but the Good Lord needed him home.

Why, God, why?!

A few months later, I got the diagnosis.  Clotting disorder.  Endometriosis.  Both of these enemies took three of my children too soon.  And very nearly my daughter.  Without the diagnoses, any future children would have died in utero.  They wouldn’t have done the testing, they said, if my son hadn’t held on for 18 months.  Because they don’t normally do that testing without other factors.  Four months later, two pink lines.  Nine months later, a healthy beautiful son.  So beautiful.  Without his death, there wouldn’t have been his birth.

Without a death, their can be no resurrection.

I don’t fully know why good people must suffer.  I don’t know why beautiful, loving mothers have to fight through breast cancer as their children watch.  I don’t know why children must be abused.  I don’t know why parents reject their children.  I don’t know why babies have to leave so soon.  I don’t know.

But I know, deeply within me, that great good will come from that suffering.  I know that our God will bring redemption from the pain.  We might not live to see it.  We may not understand it until the next life, but I know it.  Life is full of death.  Suffering. Loss.  Pain.  Great pain.  Ashes.  Life is full of awful ashes.  But, He always bring beauty from the ashes.

I am not done with you yet, Beautiful.

He whispers it to me.  To you.  He is not done with me.  And he’s not done with you.  Because even as I, even as you, are crushed with suffering, to others we radiate His beauty.  We reflect His great love.  To you, dear one, suffering great loss, great illness, great pain.  I see Jesus in you.  I see His great love shining through your resilience.  Through your heart.  Through your getting up, every morning, and living each day–I see Him.

He is not done with you yet.  Not with me.

There is still beauty rising from the ashes.


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