Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

I woke up this morning realizing that it is Easter Sunday and this year we have no plans for a special dinner, no youngster to dispense chocolate bunnies to, nor lilies to view. Dispite the lack of the trappings of the day that we so often mistakenly think of this day the one thing that always resides is memories to reflect back on. Those days of long ago when mom made us girls Easter bonnets (yes they did wear those back when), when we'd all go to church and hear those Easter hymns...

"I know that my Redeemer lives ! What comfort this sweet sentence gives..." The tune has been on my mind since last night ...

How ironic perhaps, that those words that everyone associates with Easter Sunday, the resurection of Our Lord and Savior and rejoicing the victory from bondage always makes me think about Job.

I think many of us who are this ill identify with Job. Poor Job. He watched everything he had be ripped away from him. This children, his material things... all but his nagging wife. What we think about most however is how he lost his health and sat suffering with terrible boils.

It wasn't enough that Job was in agony from pain and suffering. Instead of comfort and encouragement his wife keep coaching him to curse God and die, get it over with. I can't help but wonder if she was an ancestor of Kavorkian or Shavio, those who figure it's better to pull the plug or deny nourishment than to leave it in God's hands. How many have told us they hate seeing us suffer so... or more abstractly hating seeing the ambiguous sufferers out there adding that it would be better to put them out of their misery? As if life itself isn't important enough, only perfection and 'happiness' is.

We also identify with having Job's friends, you know the ones that come along and ask you an assortment of questions thinking they're 'helping' you? "Haven't you seen a Dr yet? Surely he would fix you up if only you'd ---". "Are you following your Dr.'s instructions properly?" "Are you eating right? Sleeping right? Living right? blah blah" Or having some other philosophy they're sure is right like "You're depressed! If you'd just ___" or "You gotta have a positive attitude". "Just ignore it! You focus on the symptoms too much." "You'll never get better until you (fill in the blank) _____ -start doing something, get out of the house more, do some gardening, make new friends, see yourself as well, blah blah". And then there are those who scold you for whining as if you're making too much out of it. And so on. Job's friends offered all kinds of advice, all of it wrong. They prodded and pushed him, coaxed him and scolded him. We all seem to have friends like Job's.

And so we sit here feeling a lot like old Job. Most of our friends don't understand and some family members don't have a clue. They all have this goal of getting us well but too often it's as much that they don't want to see our lives dominated by illness rather than actually stopping to ponder what it must be like to live with these DD's (dumb diseases). They mean well - some of them, but they're not much help. Sometimes they're a detriment. Sometimes a major pain --that straw that broke the camel's back.

Job had all those friends too. But one day another fella came along with a different message. He said "Who are you?" "Did you make the mountains? The whales? The sunsets?...." And so he sets out demonstrating the magnificence of the Lord.

I wonder if Job's world had become like ours? We've rating by how tall our pile of wealth is, how much we own. We've valued by our title, and not really by who we are. We judge by extent of happiness, which we define as how much fun we have, how much we entertain and are entertained. We have so many things that we have come to define as 'life" and "living". Is it any wonder then that some would think that a life without those things would not be a life worth living? When we use that cup to measure our life we always focus on how empty it is, not by how full it is.

You see Satan had come along and complained to the Lord that he couldn't touch Job because God had surrounded him with a hedge of protection and foolish Satan must have figured that part of that thing that kept him from getting Job to turn from the Lord was those things Job was blessed with, his wealth, his relationships and his health. So he stripped all those things away from Job. Yet Job didn't curse God...

Job did complain. He whined. He cried. He sought shoulders of comfort, ears of wife and friends just like we do. But these friends of his, they remind me of how easily we all get caught up in defining life with everything but what matters, our relationship with the Lord. Who God is.
What is a man's life? What is his value? Is it how many degrees he gets? Is it how much money he makes? How big a house he owns? Is it how good he looks? And even more pointedly, is it how perfect or stressless it is? We've come to believe that life shouldn't have any problems. We should never be depressed or unhappy. We shouldn't have struggles or hassles. Afterall man, using his mind and knowledge should be able to solve everything and avoid the pitfalls. If you don't think we've come to think this way look at our children and think about what things we all thought was normal life in our childhoods that they now can't fathom how to live with. We think we can legislate and regulate everything to protect everyone from everything from accidental injuries from sharp edged toys to spilling hot coffee in their lap while driving! We can't allow any boo-boos! And we surely don't want to have any owies. Grab the bottle of _____ , that will take away all your pain. Now it's psychotropic drugs that is suppose to fix us all. We'll never feel sad again!

But alas that is not life. As I tell my daughter, "God never promised you a rose garden, especially not one without thorns!". Having lost and mourned my mother how much more can I rejoice the birth of a new grandbaby? Having known the depths of misery how much more do I appreciate absence of pain? These are all "life" and "living" and yes, indeed, normal. Many times these days I think society has come to expect too much and because of that we are so disappointed when it's not all perfect. Not only do we expect it for ourselves we also expect it of others. The news is full of woes these days. It seems to be increasing. Ironically at the very same time we keep setting the bar of expectation even higher. No one should ever be hungry. No one should ever be poor. Everyone should own a ----, everyone is entitled, has 'rights' ... We all "deserve" blah blah...

Job had nothing left ... except his wife and a collection of 'friends' and one young wise man who pointed out something that lead Job to say ---:

"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

It may be bad with my physical body, but how is my soul? Can we say "It is well with my soul" in the midst of not being so well in body ? Can we step back and take another view of life and rethink our expectations and definitions of what is really important ? Can we stand firmly on our new found observations and conclusions having now, through terrible illness, discovered that yes indeed there truly are other things besides all those things we can no longer do that are still very valuable, worthy and important? (most with DD's do come to realize that so much of what we believed was so crucial to us really wasn't but things we took for granted like friendships and family, appreciation of beautiful sunsets, simple things are. We are not our job, our money, our title etc.)

Oh I wish I had the words and time to go on because there is much on this subject that I wish I could convey! ...but it's difficult to put in few words here... especially without sounding trite or condemning or trivializing... So many difficulties plague us, weigh on us alongside the physical issues.

And here I sit on Easter Sunday without ham or turkey or bunny shaped cake with coconut hair and jellybean eyes. Without the obvious - ability to attend Easter services at a church, the biggest missing thing today. Without laughing children with chocolate clown mouths. Without any visible indication that today is a day different than any other day this year... But in my heart a melody plays "Jesus Christ is risen today, Allelujah!" and "I know that my redeemer lives! What comfort that sweet sentence gives" because my comfort, my contentment can not come from a painless body, an easy life with no stress.

When I look around at the world today and see all the troubles brewing, the attack on families and liberty, threats of pandemics and wars and rumors of war and contemplate the devastation of hurricanes and earthquakes; I think about how much we still do have compared to how bad it could be and I wonder how society would handle more tribulation with our expectations. Will we be angry? Will we protest and demand? Will we shrink up in a ball and give up? By what measuring cup will we measure?

I hurt. There's a lot of things I can no longer do. I'm pretty much homebound. I have a lot of symptoms and no energy. I could make a long list of my woes that may cause you to think my glass is almost empty but oh how wonderful is the part that is filled! Some of my acquaintances are like Job's, but some friends and family are worth more than their weight in gold. That is only part of the contents of my glass ---

Today we celebrate finding that grave empty. He is risen! He is alive! Though the things of this world may confound us and weigh upon us we have a Lord who knows our sorrows, has felt our pain and who has sent a Comforter. One day all the things of this world will pass away. Things we thought mattered much. But even in that day we will say, "I know that my Redeemer lives! and nothing in this world can separate us from the love of the Lord."

In the end Job had double what he had in the beginning...but even more importantly, he understood that his happiness, security and salvation was not in those things but in the Lord.


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