Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Traversing the Valley

Life's journey.  It might be nice if it was like a plateau - flat and predictable.  But even in the landscape and topography of our world, areas of relatively level ground are surrounded by those that are not.  And so it is with life.  There may be portions that can seem level or even predictable but there is plenty of ground that is rough, slippery, possibly uncharted - and it all needs to be crossed.  What if you fall?  What if you get hurt or broken?  These are very real things.

The Lord is my shepherd.  He leads me perfectly.

It's not easy being a parent.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is a fool.  Like anything that is worth something, it takes work.

I know there have been plenty of times where I would have liked to smooth out the terrain that my child is crossing.  Take out the bumps.  Ensure their footing keeps them from a fall.  But it's not really possible.  And it's not healthy for them either.  They need to learn how to handle the bumps.  How to steady themselves before and even after a fall.  They even need to learn what to do when something "breaks" - how to mend, how to heal, etc.

I've called these times life lessons and have often kept my eyes fixed beyond the current circumstance that one of my boys is going through.  That doesn't mean I devalue what they're facing and the impact it is having on their young lives.  That is very, very real.  Rather, it gives me focus as to the why I desire them to learn how to navigate this rough terrain - so when they come upon it again in their future (college, job, real life experiences and interactions) they are better equipped to get through it with fewer bumps and bruises.

I'm on the cusp of another birthday.  It is quite clear that at almost 43, I still haven't arrived.  There are still lessons to be learned.  Maybe that's the real meaning of one who is a life learner.

As I look over the landscape I've traversed these past 42ish years, I can clearly note moments - some more difficult than others - and the lesson(s) that I learned as a result.  Those lessons have resulted in treasures - core beliefs that I have held onto.  They have even shaped who I am - my character.  As a teenager, the truth of my identity, who I am in Christ, was etched into my heart. When my mother-in-love was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer two days after the birth of our oldest son, the first grandchild, I felt the terrain under my feet change.  This was uncharted territory.  Multiple things were added to my life and heart as we paralleled her 15 month battle.  One of the greatest treasures that resulted for me is the truth regarding trust and placing it in God.  Simply stated, it's a choice.  If it's based on circumstances, it will waver, ebb and flow.  This truth reminds me of the lyrics On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is shifting sand. 

My latest life lesson has resulted from our parallel walk with my Dad who battled cancer for 15 years in total - metastatic prostate cancer since 2006. Unconditional trust in God helped to keep my feet sure but my heart...oh, that's another story entirely.

A month or so ago, as I was talking with God specifically about Dad, I heard Him ask "What if my healing doesn't happen the way you want it?  Will you still love me?"

My eyes filled with fresh tears, overflowing and trickling down my cheeks as I responded "Yes.  Yes, I will still love you.  I will always love you."

And I do.  My love for Him is unconditional.  Even when I do not understand.  Even when I entertain the thought of what could have been better if...

Once again, I find myself navigating through terrain that is uncomfortable and even painful at times.  H.Norman Wright says, "Grief is a journey that moves across unknown terrain that includes valleys and mountains, the arid desert with an occasional oasis." and later notes "When you enter into grief, you enter into the valley of shadows."

When I read that, Psalm 23 immediately came to mind:

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. NLT


The valley experiences they sing about are not identical to the one I'm traversing right now, but the truth of who is with me is the same.  It is real.  And I will not be broken.  It will not break me.

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