Letter to Elijah

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This is the letter I wrote to my nephew Elijah on November 7, 2011:

Dear Wee Elijah – I have only seen your sweet little face once.  This is because I am sick and we need to help keep you well.  I was just at the kitchen table finishing up lunch and reading Henri Nouwen’s book, “Adam.”  It is a true story of how Henri lived and worked in a home with disabled people, and specifically a man named Adam.  Adam was severely handicapped and needed help with nearly everything in his life.  Henri’s book is about how Adam’s complete lacking demonstrated in an amazingly clear way the simple truth that he is beloved of God because he is, not because of anything he has or can accomplish.  I’m at the part in the book where Henri talks about an emotional crisis he experienced.  I just finished reading this paragraph, “As I lived through this emotional ordeal I realized I was becoming like Adam.  He had nothing to be proud of.  Neither had I.  He was completely empty.  So was I.  He needed full-time attention.  So did I.  I found myself resisting this ‘becoming like Adam.’ I did not want to be dependent and weak.  I did not want to be so needy.  Somewhere though I recognized that Adam’s way, the way of radical vulnerability, was also the way of Jesus.” 

            This past year the Lord has been showing me in many ways the illusion of security and permanence and control.  I have discovered, because I have been shown, that at my most core level I am desperate for security, for the pleasure routine provides in appearing to be permanence.  In the core of myself there is an incessant wild grab for control.  Because ultimately, there is the question of what happens if…?  There were two things that happened in the world this year that showed me that what seems to be permanent is absolutely not.  The first was the wild fire of revolution that has been happening in the middle east culminating most recently in the actual death of Gaddafi in Libya after forty years in power.  All sorts of seemingly permanent social and political situations have been absolutely toppled. Then in March a massive earthquake caused the island of Japan to move 13 feet.  It still astounds me to imagine.  Who could believe the actual ground of the earth could move so dramatically.  This spring also brought about the final symptoms in an auto immune disease I have that results in hair loss.  I have been shown that I took pride in my health prior to this because I was diluted to believe my health was actually in my control – that I had actually accomplished something on my own.  I cannot even control the very hairs on my head.  In the midst of all of this I was spiritually thrashing about against the Lord, crying out that I was absolutely beyond weariness with needing Him to fix me.  There was an area of sin in my life I could not only not seem to overcome but could not even make progress on.  I read these words from Isaiah:

 “Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you”

                                    Isaiah 46:4

Instead of rejoicing in these words, I raged against the Lord, declaring that I was utterly done with needing to be fixed.  I was out of my mind weary of being needy and dependent.  I wanted to stand strong on my own two feet.  In all of my energies and crying out to the Lord against my sin and asking for His help, I realized in a moment, that I had been wanting Him to fix me.  To make me well.  I didn’t want God, I wanted how He could fix me.  I wanted Him for what He could give me.  What I wanted was a good thing, but not the ultimate thing, because it wasn’t God Himself.  I saw then that I was no different essentially from any other idol worshipper as described in Isaiah.

            {Here I’m editing out a bit of the personal from the original letter but retaining the effect that it had}…it felt as if my carefully constructed life was taken up like a box and dumped upside down – all the pieces falling and breaking and scattering apart.  I feel shaken, I feel undone.  I listen to the news and hear of possible world financial crisis and it seems as if every single place I turn to hold onto is itself also shaking and rocking. 

            Now why in the world would I want you, little one, of all people to hear these things?  You whose life is as fresh and new as can be?  Because it occurred to me as I read that paragraph from Henri’s book about Adam’s “handicap” and Henri’s “lack”, that this disease of yours is a very special gift from the Lord to you.  The ragged ugly bald spot on the top of my head is a gift from the Lord to me.  Among all these other happenings this year, they are reminders in our flesh, our flesh which is the very closest thing to us, that we are not in control.  We never have been, permanence and control are merely illusions, they are not real.  You were not in control when two cells came together and contributed genetic information to form all the wonders of who you are from your beautiful perfect brown swirl of hair on the back of your head to the minute part of you that doesn’t produce a particular enzyme quite right.  I was not in control all the 30 plus years that my immune system appeared to be working perfectly until it didn’t and attacked its own flesh.  When you realize that you are not in control, you may find yourself thrashing about as though you feel you are drowning in a stormy sea, trying to keep your head above water and reaching out for something to hold onto.  Here is the beautiful truth:  there is only one thing permanent, only one thing secure, and only one thing in control – it is the Lord our God, Ancient of Days.  The beauty is that God has always been in control and always will be – there is no lapse in His perfect love and power.  We do not need to be in control because God is and we are invited to rest in Him.

            We humans despise neediness and brokenness.  We put forth every effort to run from it and show ourselves able.  I suppose it is because we sense in the deepest part of ourselves that things are not as they should be.  Brokenness feels wretched because it is.  Brokenness brings pain and inherent loss.  It is real and it hurts.  The world became broken when sin entered in – it is true.  But now, this very brokenness that is the consequence for our sin has become the means of our salvation.  It is our brokenness, our inabilities that show us our need for God.  He binds up our wounds by binding us to Himself.  The ultimate brokenness in the garden was broken fellowship with God.  This is still our truest brokenness and God is pleased to bless us by providing brokenness that we can see, feel and touch to drive us to Himself where we can receive ultimate healing.  I know my words are utterly insufficient, but I reach for them to put some form to this mystery the Lord is slowly revealing to me.

            Elijah Daniel, the brokenness in your body, that will always be with you, is a gift from the Lord to point you sooner than most to your great need for the One True God who loves you dearly and wants unbroken fellowship with you.  There is a savior who was broken for you, that you might be made whole by being found in Him.

 “The Lord you God is with you,

            He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

            He will quiet you with His love,

            He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

 Blessings on your head little Elijah,

Aunt Jai

 Here’s one more related thought, while we often fear lack of permanence and security because of the ways we believe it will bring loss, the other side of that is that when we live in a world where permanence is not certain, we dwell in a world that also has potential for new and potential for gain.  This means that “impossible” is an invalidated word – it has no use in our world because it is not real, it is not true.  What seems immoveable is actually moveable.  What seems impossible is actually possible, not because statistics say so but because there is a God who is Able!  Today in my life there a lot of “impossibles.”  I seem to be surrounded by looming walls I can’t see over, much less imagine how they could be overcome.  So here I find myself, surrounded.  This beautiful Psalm comes to mind:

 Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2
 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6
 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8
 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

I always assumed one looked up to the mountains to be reminded of who God is and how great and mighty He is.  I heard it explained however, that for those in Israel, the mountains were the places where robbers hid to come down and do travelers harm.  They were looking up and around them in fear and asking the most important question, “where does my help come from?”  So I stand here surrounded with no seeming way out.  But just as my three favorite guys in the Bible found themselves when they were thrown into a furnace, here I am with the very Lord of heaven and earth beside me.  What wonder!  What incomprehensibly glorious truth!!!  This calls to mind this statement from Psalms 16, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”  We hate to be confined, to be constrained.  Our brokenness highlights our weakness.  We buck against it with all our might.  We want to be able to do what we want without limitation.  And yet, as I found myself in this enwalled place in my life, I am finding delight and joy and peace.  My boundary lines are feeling more and more like a gift because they are constraining me to the Lord.  Instead of spending all my energies in trying to break down the walls, I am asking the Lord to help me know more and more what it is to rest in this place – this cleft in the rock, that is my very Lord Himself.  So I am less and less absorbed with looking at the walls and worrying over them, and instead seeking to fix my eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith.  In my life now, these walls at times also take on the sensation of being great crevasses where I am constantly in fear of falling.  I can become consumed with imagining the potential for loss in addition to the already present loss.  But there is something else here that I am only beginning to see the very edge of – it’s dimmest outline – with loss, that is real and painful and often full of sorrow, comes gain, comes provision, comes new.  It is a strange truth the Bible tells over and over, how out of death God can bring life.  He is the God of Resurrection, of Redemption.  The seed must fall to the earth and die in order for the plant to grow up.  The plant lives in direct consequence to the necessary death of the seed. (John 12:24)  I put forth all my great and mighty strength to attempt control, to dominate and reign over particular areas in my life to make them look like I want them to.  I am terrified to imagine what life would look like should they slip from my grasp.  I fear what loss my come.  The problem is not only that my strength is much, much too weak to control, but I am grossly lacking in wisdom and knowledge.  I have no way of seeing over the wall and knowing what blessedness might come with loss – what new thing the Lord might grow up in its place.  I was created in God’s image.  God created the world in seven days but He goes on creating endlessly.  Any creative person knows that creativity breeds desire to create more.  God is not done creating in His image – not in my image.  And thanks be to God for that because the image that I can imagine is distorted and small and much less lovely than the image God has in mind.  I want to rest in the Lord and be witness to His creation – to the wonders of the stars thick in the night sky, the looming mass of Mt. Rainier, the fuzzy unfurling of ferns and of my own life, of your life Elijah.

3 responses »

  1. Thanks so much for sharing… truly a blessing to read. I can seem so complicated and yet so simple… that we cling to the Lord for all that we’re worth. I love all of those verses! Such good reminders… thanks:)

  2. Jai,
    I don’t know you and you don’t me ;), but I do know your precious mom-in-law JoMarie. Your posts have challenged and encouraged my heart so very much. I find so true how you observe that as humans we try to avoid brokenness, pain, and heartache at all cost, yet it is most often in those places that God reveals Himself to us in the greatest ways. I was reading this post to my husband and commenting on how much I relate to that feeling of being weary of being broken and needy and just wanting Jesus to fix me to stand on my own two feet! Sometimes it overwhelms me to think of all that the future could hold and how I can possibly keep feeling so helpless for so long! I was really struck by your evaluation of your own heart of making “being fixed” an idol that replaced knowing and being satisfied in God himself. Thank you for that – I am guilty of the same thing and long to simply desire Him in all His fullness. I can’t imagine that pain that you have experienced in the past couple of months and I’m sure if you had seen this in your future a year ago, you probably would have though that you couldn’t handle it. That’s why God is so magnificently put on display in your lives…His all sufficient grace in weakness…even over a blog to people who don’t even know you. I stand in awe of His tender sovereign hand. Thank you for being a such a beacon to declare His glory!

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