Looking into yesterday can be painful but productive. At least my youngest two children will have a mom who can parent from wisdom instead of through fear.
Twenty-five years ago, I was a young married woman having children every 2.5 years. I had no idea the intricate fear structure in my soul that influenced my parenting.
As I look back, I see myself – picking up my kids from the rare occasion of having a babysitter, quizzing them and analyzing their body language for the first five minutes to try to discern if something bad happened. Subconsciously, I micromanaged their childhood moments so that they’d never, ever experience sadness or pain.
My concerns were legitimate. I clearly remembered many of my childhood experiences and was in the process of cleaning myself from the unhealthy residue of those experiences. Statistics show that bullying and peer-to-peer sexual abuse is increasing. But there is a difference between parenting from peace-filled wisdom and fear-based projection.
I’m a bit in shock as I sit a few months from turning fifty, and realize that no matter how successful my four young adults are today, that success is a product of the gracious and healing hand of God. Although most people would have never known it, and my husband and I certainly didn’t at the time, but one child dealt with suicidal thoughts as a nine-year-old, another experienced tormenting dreams that paralyzed them physically while they slept, and another dealt with a huge amount of self-rejection at age five.
But I get it. I’ve read online articles, books and blogs about everything from epigenetics to early child development and I know now that my own early trauma was not only passed down to my children, but that it caused a bent in my God-focused journey. A bent inward, like an arrow jabbing at the deep wounds in my soul. Each child’s birth was an unconscious trigger. I didn’t realize that my motherly effort to “save” them from pain was a symptom of my own need to be healed.
We live in a broken world. We have to face the reality of the war zone we were born into. One way that Jesus destroys the works of the devil is through us overcoming struggle and hurts and wounds with His help, not in our own strength. I can’t keep my kids from every situation that will make them cry, but I can weep with them. I can’t monitor every friendship, but I can teach them how to choose wisely and pray for them. I can teach them about the world-brutal but beautiful, hate-filled and divisive, yet filled with people who will genuinely accept them for the content of their character.
Most of all I can point them to Jesus. He fills. He restores. He heals and teaches anyone who comes to Him.
Psalm 91: 14-16 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in [e]trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. “With [f]a long life I will satisfy him And [g]let him see My salvation.”
In another post, I will discuss why the Bible calls children, His “arrows”. What a mighty purpose they have!
Anger is in style. For so long the urge to rigorously emote an often justifiable yet violent sense of injustice has been suppressed in human souls. We are seeing the eruption and the ash falling on all of us.
Perhaps it was that the hurting never felt like they were sincerely heard and understood. At the same time maybe the gates of hell have opened allowing demons to sniff out these wounds like rats sniff out garbage.
The violence and chaos that that has presented itself ever since 2001 seems new, but it’s not. It’s been here all the time. It was muzzled but the muzzles have been chewed off. Forgiveness and mercy is passé.
I believe the problem was one of suppression. Social etiquette taught us to smile but hide behind our manners. The hurt and anger was always there, popping up in jokes and funny jabs, caricatures and stereotypes. Comedians gave us permission to laugh when we wanted to cry or yell. No one is laughing now. Hate has come out of hiding.
Some whites sincerely didn’t like the end of slavery, go figure. They really believe that they are being taken over by other ethnic groups. I don’t get it, but it’s true. They’ve suppressed their anger and fear until now. Likewise some black and other minorities are tired of not only systematic and institutional racism, but also of individual encounters with these white people. Some of these white and black Americans, have stayed segregated and have no one of another race to call friend. Some don’t want that blessing. They just want to unleash their suppressed anger.
1 John 2:11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
If we truly believe that humanity is a band of brothers of every tribe and tongue, then there is a disconnect between our belief and reality. While there are those in our present day who would say that some humans are genetically inferior than others, most of us shake our heads and ignore their utter stupidity and warped need for self-adulation.
The problem is that most of us, as a band of human brothers have forgotten what it means to acknowledge the harsh truth of sin and the valid yet difficult answer of forgiveness. We’ve also forgotten that in our hearts all of us have hated at one time or another and that in truth, we are no better than our filial enemies.
Sin is also passé but there is no other reason that a darkened heart will stomp into a city, full of hate and vengeance, bringing fear and disarray to the residents. There is no other reason for people to loot and destroy their own communities or kill another person because they look or believe differently. Sin. Sin is evil.
Evil is really evil and surely, around us all lurch invisible creatures ready and willing to take advantage of our imperfect sense of humanity.
My mother answered a post that my husband wrote with these words: “Mostly what we see is “PREJUDICE” — something we all as humans have. We PRE-JUDGE PEOPLE. We connote things about people that we don’t know, from a distance. Prejudice in its highest levels dovetails into Racism. But for most of us, prejudging is part of life and is eradicated when we get to know people individually and see each person’s own uniqueness. Prejudice is in our DNA in order to maintain our safety until we know who the person is. It is Stranger Anxiety based on outside appearances. It is understandable. Prejudice can be defeated by conversation and community — by putting on someone else’s skin and walking around in it. (Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird.) Prejudice is solvable in communities, in families, and in the individual. Because Love never fails.”
So much truth exists in these statements. This past Sunday, I sat in a row with my husband, son and daughter, as well as two of my dearest friends. One is white the other is Latino. I am black. We get along great. I’m sure we get looks when we are in public. Three races. Three sisters in Christ. Love never fails. In the sermon, my pastor reminded us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This is a great truth to dwell on. The fact that He chose to put on human skin and live as a human should bring us all a sense of wonder and realization that God truly desires to understand and know us. He created us in his image. He made us breathing souls that need each other to prosper. When we see a stranger, we must struggle to remind ourselves, despite the normal sense of self-protection and subconscious pre-judging, to acknowledge that this stranger is also made in the image of God and therefore deserves respect and dignity.
The challenge comes when we are wronged. When I was young, my mother used to say, “The pot can’t call the kettle black”. If you are not familiar with this statement, let me explain: both the pot and the kettle are black; made from the same materials. When someone hates us and boosts in their hatred, should we feel the pain of the intentional wound. Yes! However, in our pain, we must find the courage to acknowledge our own past or present sinful attitudes and realize that these haters are trapped in the cell of sin. That’s all it is. It’s painful but it’s the treachery of living in the dark. They can’t see. They are blinded by their sin. We’ve all been blinded by sin before.
Forgiveness won’t put these brutal dogs back in their cages but it will certainly keep us from being caught in their traps. In our nation, people have the right to speak whatever they want. I honor that right. It allows me to write a public post and mention the Christian term “sin.” However, when violence ensues, then justice must happen. When a hater becomes a shooter or when a protester becomes a looter, they’ve crossed the line and punishment is their just reward. But you and I, can stay free from their jail cell by not suppressing… but acknowledging our own pain and anger, and then forgiving them for their evil intents. Forgiveness is not forgetting. The Bible says that we can be angry and not sin. There is an anger that is not sinful. I believe it’s undergirded by forgiveness. Forgiveness unleashes us from the demonic traps of the haters. Forgiveness is accepting the reality of their blindness. Forgiveness cures. Forgiveness reminds us that we too, have needed to be forgiven.
The kids were naive. They didn’t understand how their joking could hurt my son. Calling him names that highlighted a post-surgery physical challenge had become a past time for them until he mentioned it to me. I addressed it immediately with their parents. The name-calling never happened again and thankfully my son’s physical challenge resolved after five months, after the healing of the surgery was complete.
Lots of hugs and prayers helped him acknowledge the hurt but not be overtaken by it. My husband and I embraced the opportunity to instruct our son how to forgive and not identify with “labels”. That was only part of the work. We also needed to forgive these kids, who would continue to be a regular part of our lives. My son’s experience made me reflect on my own childhood and being called names like “Oreo girl” by my black friends or having a white teacher ask me if I put toothpaste in my hair to make it so shiny. Unfortunately, a few times I used my hurt to wound others. Calling them names made me feel strong. Whether we have been the victim or we are the reformed bully, God has healing and restoration for each of us.
Honestly and vulnerability can heal families and communities. We should acknowledge how our own opinions, habits, and words have hurt someone but we realized it and changed; how a challenge suppressed us but we rose up and out from it; how life tested us, but we overcame. We must find moments of victory or overcoming that can be used to encourage someone else. We must humbly acknowledge a time or an instance where “we were the problem” and consider the process through which we became so self-aware, that we allowed someone else or divine power to change our hearts and minds.
We must believe that God is good and wants good for all people, even those that we call evil. He doesn’t want to bless their evil intentions and works, but he wants to endow them with the ability to know right from wrong and to discern light from darkness. He ultimately wants them to have a story to share that will bring life to those around them. This is why Jesus told his disciples to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Sometimes conflict with someone continues so long that we believe God doesn’t hear us or can’t change our oppressors. Maybe we are hurting so much that we just don’t have the compassion to pray for them. If we can envision Him hugging us or weeping with us and if we recall our own failures, our graciousness will arise.
Robert Frost wrote these words in the poem “The Star Splitter”, “If one by one we counted people out For the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long To get so we had no one left to live with. For to be social is to be forgiving.’
“Lord, we try to escape pain, but we can’t. We hope that those who love us will never wound us, but they will. Unfortunately, at some time we will also hurt someone willfully or by mistake. Have your Spirit tend to our wounds and humble our hearts. Move us to forgive our adversaries and ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
My fingers ran clumsily over the white keys of my mother’s piano. I was lost in a childish reverie of imagination. One minute I was a concert pianist and the next, I was a daughter whose silly playing was lulling her dad to sleep.
My dad sat behind me in my mother’s rocking chair, rocking and dosing, in no rush to leave, which surprised me but warmed my heart. My daddy was content to hear me play on the piano even though I’d taken lessons for a short time.
“Oh, play that again, that was nice!”
This memory is etched in my soul. I treasure it since so many memories of my childhood years had to be healed by God’s compassion. As a child, I didn’t see my dad relaxed and content very often; his time was usually spent on projects or sports or shouting and it’s the latter that makes this single moment a gift from God.
As children, it is appropriate to want a parent, a favorite teacher or any regular caregiver to be our greatest fan. We are born needing affirming words. Studies have been done showing that babies respond differently whether they see a frown or a smile.
There are times when the people most vital to our care cannot give us what we need. It’s a painful reality that often shapes our emotional development and taints our self-image. My gift, this memory that God brought forth during a season of emotional healing, showed me that my dad had a tender place in his heart for me. Some people don’t have a memory like this to hold on to and for years they scratch their hearts wondering, “What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t be loved or wanted?”
For many people, over time the mystery unravels and family secrets are brought to light and the scratching of the head becomes a nod of understanding that heals the ache a little. Understanding can help begin to close the door of pain, but the void remains. We need to be affirmed and encouraged. We need someone who takes pleasure in our existence.
For me, the road of healing opened my eyes to a screen that exists between my tangible temporal reality and the unseen eternal reality. I needed to see the unseen. Though the screen I saw the fears and insecurities behind the shouting. I saw parental heartache when material displays of love went unreceived by a bitter and hurting teenage girl. What brought the most healing was when my eyes saw a figure reaching his arms to the little girl within my soul, urging me to come to him and be held so that his divine love could make every bad memory fade away. I saw scenes from my childhood home where this figure stood in a corner of a room, weeping and praying and agonizing over the pain felt by the humans in the room. His nail-scarred hands were chained – human pride and resistance had shackled his ability to deliver and rescue. I also recognized this figure as the man hanging on a cross in a book in one of my grandmother’s bedrooms. For years, my spiritual eyes would look behind the screen and see the figure with the outstretched arms encouraging me to come to him.
Finally, one day I saw behind the screen again and the little girl that was me crawled up onto his giant lap and buried my aching head into his bosom. My tangible pain was washed away by my new eternal reality. Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…
Psalm 28:6-7Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.
Jesus is our biggest cheerleader but most of us don’t know it. He’s there in the darkest scenes of our lives, trying to show us that he is not the author of those scenes but the desperate rescuer trying to break through the darkness. He’s the one that brushes the dirt off of our knees when we fall and when we fail he reminds us to come to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help when we are in need. When we long for affirmation and encouragement, we have to ignore the silence of our parent, the teacher or the caregiver and hear him say, “That’s great son!” or “That’s great, daughter!”
Psalm 27: 10-14 When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me… I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12
So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress…Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father… 1 Samuel 2:23-5
Eli was a priest. How in the world did the sons of a priest become corrupt and unrighteous? It was their dad’s fault. When it came to raising his kids, Eli had areas of emotional immaturity. Emotional immaturity and a weak will kept Eil from applying his knowledge of God’s ways to his parenting style. In verse 27, God speaks to Eli through a prophet and later through a young boy named Samuel (1 Sam 3:13). Both tell him the harsh reality about the way he raised his sons and the forthcoming consequences to his lineage.
For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.
Eli preferred his children more than he revered God. How would this have looked? It may have meant that when his sons were mischievous boys, he did not discipline them. He let them get away with more than he should have. Maybe he catered to their whines and false apologies and never helped them see the sin in their hearts through gentle and honest conversation. As a priest, he did not teach them to honor the systems of offerings and sacrifice and he greedily took the best of what the people brought for their offerings. The fact that he preferred his children more than God was idolatry. At the stage where we meet Eli, he was a priest who did not revere God enough, did not revere the system of repentance that God set up, hadn’t acknowledged his own issues, and was confronted with the scandal of his sons. Propitiation of their sinful behavior was available through the Hebrew practice of blood sacrifice, which foreshadowed Jesus’ bodily sacrifice, but the sons scoffed at offerings and sacrifices. Now grown men, they were promiscuous and defiant adults. When Eli tried to reason with them, it was too late. He missed the opportunity to guide and train them during their formative years.
Now Eli wasn’t a total screw up. Despite being faced with his fatherly failures, God allowed him to mentor the young Samuel, who was called from an early age to be a prophet. Eli affirmed Samuel as he learned to hear and obey God even when the boy was tasked with telling Eli his forthcoming demise. Because of Samuel’s success story, Eli became one of the most important prophets in Jewish history. He was a man who eventually recognized his issues, addressed them and became a different man. This was the man that Samuel was trained by.
When we are confronted with our issues we must remind ourselves that we have the opportunity to change. We must be quick to close the door to self-condemnation and guilt. When we humbly acknowledge areas of immaturity, God steps in and begins the unseen and somewhat mysterious process of changing our hearts and minds.
The truth is that we are fallible adults who still need guidance and help. We are not all bad and we are not all good. Better than those two subjective measuring sticks is this truth: we are treasured! In Christ, we are forgiven! We are desired by a perfect God! Worth cannot be based on how well we do, but on the fact that our very existence is significant. The Old Testament did not offer the option for redemption, but the New Testament does through the blood sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. This redemption is so amazing, that today’s parents who may have been “Eli’s” at one time and whose adult children are now prodigals, whose hearts and minds are far from God’s best, enjoy the possibility of these adult children can be wooed by the Spirit of God. The course of a lineage can be altered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
I believe in a Creator who imagined each of us out of the goodness of his nature. We have to keep our eyes on the process of change, not the goal. God is in charge of the finish line; we just need to yield to the journey.
…being confident of this very thing, He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6
Oceans lovers like myself know what it is like to feel wet sand being displaced under your feet as the underwater current urges waves forward. We continually have to lift our feet and reset them for firmer footing, lift them, reset them, lift them and reset them.
Such are the seasons of our lives.
This last day of August 2018 offers both a “finally” and a “beginning”, a lifting and a resetting. School started a few days ago and since after 20 years, I am no longer a home educator, I find myself settling into another season journeying with the precious parents at our small Christian private school. I must say, parental involvement in this top-notch school is noteworthy — here are working and stay-at-home parents that give their time to help the teachers, encourage the administrative staff and join hands with each other in friendship. God will bless this, indeed.
For most US communities, personal lives are dictated by academic schedules. So like millions of other parents I now exhale summer activity, spontaneity and Southern humidity, and inhale reflection, coffee shops, after-school schedules and vocational duties.
I’ll be honest, August has been tough until today.
I exhale loss and sadness and inhale hope and promise. The stain of death and two older kids leaving home for higher education made sleep difficult. My dad died in August 2017. Another friend died in August 2015. Two families I know had sons killed in August 2018. (sigh)
I inhale God’s comfort and I exhale the difficulty of shifting sand under my feet that makes me lift and reset, lift; reset. Underneath this metaphorical sand is a very real rock: God’s Truth which is my foundation.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8)
August was ironic. I drove to some of the highest peaks of my life….traveling across the nation to luxurious and amazing destinations like the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe. My heart soared and my eyes absorbed the beauty of God’s creation. God kissed me through this trip. I remember driving through Kansas on I-70. It’s not the most scenic route and I kept watch of the dark clouds to the north, but for a few moments, I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. I teared up. This bucket-list trip had happened! Joy in the midst of a challenging month.
Beauty in the midst of pain. Hardship in the midst of hope. Newness in familiarity. I encourage anyone who, like me, is experiencing a shift in their lives to imagine your hand reaching and holding the Divine hand. My personal picture is me grabbing God’s hand with all of the strength that I have! He holds on just as intensely.
Friends, we are loved by a faithful and devoted God, who created us with good reason and profound intent. Yesterday I heard a pastor say this (my summary) “Our heavenly Father is SO good at taking tragic situations and events inspired by pure evil; reworking their consequences for our good….(in order that we grow through them), that we often begin to believe that he actually authored the events.”
The Lord says of us: “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)
My soul rests while I regain my footing because I am loved by God who takes challenging events and uses them to cause me to seek his comfort. He teaches me how to get through earth’s journey triumphant rather than beat up and disillusioned. He wants to do this for all of us.
Do you need to exhale your yesterday so that you can inhale your present and your future? As you lift your feet under the ocean water of your life, remember that the current of God always has new sand for you to reset your feet on. Lift, reset. Lift and reset.
Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; (Joel 2:15-16)
I had not heard a pastor tell a congregation that children should be expected to learn the Word of God like they are expected to learn math and grammar. This well-known leader in North Carolina smashed my paradigm that children were too young to understand the same lessons that their parents learn in adult services. Adult services. That too is a misnomer when it comes to the intent of God for each generation of his people.
I understand the point of the typical children’s ministry. Introduce the kids to salvation, the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and concepts like the fruit of the Spirit in a fun-filled way. That’s great. However, the ministries that I’ve come to respect teach children deeper truths that some adults never even get in “adult services”. When God called for a general assembly in Joel 2, he meant for all to hear the sound of his voice.
My sheep hear my voice. (John 10:27)
Samuel was a child who heard the voice of God.
David was a teenager who sensed the call of God to be a warrior-intercessor.
Jesus was twelve and taught in the temple.
The unborn John the Baptist leaped at the presence of His unborn Savior.
Later in verse 28 of Joel, God says that he intends to pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. Not just humans above the age of eighteen or who have divinity degrees. All flesh. What does this look like? The prophet Joel goes on to tell what God speaks to him: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.”
God is still speaking, confirming his Word to individual hearts in a variety of communicative ways. Whether visual, a gut impression or a still, small voice, God leads and guides all of his children into all truth.
My eight-year-old son woke up this morning ready to share an array of dramatic dreams. One, in particular, caught my attention. He was walking around someone’s house, telling the enemy to get out. What was remarkable was that he knew that the enemies weren’t people, but spiritual forces that the people who lived in the house couldn’t see.
I told him that I believed God was letting him know that even though he is young, God’s authority is with him because he believes in Jesus and Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). I told him that evil spirits want to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Lastly, I was able to share with him that God has given him compassion. Jesus cared so much about people that he was compelled to free them from the things that harmed their lives. My son was able to make the connection between his dream and those scriptures. This is a child who dealt for a long time with fear. I know that God wants him to know and be confident in divine power and the force of faith and compassion and what a way to do it….a dream!
Whether a church encourages children to attend the general service or not is irrelevant. What is crucial is that ministries and parents understand that a child doesn’t have to be only given the milk of the Word until high school. While I’ve focused on the topic of hearing God’s voice, there are many other meaty subjects in the Word of God that children can be taught.
Jesus wants the children to know Him. Not just a portion, but the whole of Him. Not just his character, but his power and authority. Jesus is the Word. The Word declared from the mouth of a worshipping child carries power.
My backyard provides God such a wonderful backdrop for my education. Gardening teaches me that many of nature’s processes mirror our struggles. Take weeds for instance. What a wonderful metaphor for life’s yucky stuff that embeds in our souls when we are not paying attention.
I hate weeding. Our backyard contains mulch beds for my herbs, lilies, azaleas, chrysanthemums and an array of other perennials. Not only is weeding physically tiring—hours of squats, tugging and pulling, but it’s also messy. The weed in this picture didn’t look like a weed at first glance. I figured that it was grass that had grown from the clippings that sprayed the mulch beds. So for a few weeks, I ignored the spot.
No big deal. Yes, the grass was growing in my mulch bed, but grass killer would take care of it when I got around to it. How many times do we assume that a behavior or a habit isn’t a big deal? Or we know it could develop into a problem, but there is no urgency in our minds. We’ll get around to it before it gets too bad.
Cozy cardigan over a cotton tunic, skinny jeans and name brand running shoes. Hair combed just enough for the messy look to be fashionable. Just enough makeup to not feel insecure in the morning drop-off line at her kids’ school.
But you really haven’t seen her. Because if you did your heart would break. Last night’s argument with her husband ended up in a sleepless night. A few hours later the toddler woke up crying. Another fever. That morning, her tween greeted her with silence, unfinished homework, and an unsigned permission slip for the field trip that day. The smelly sink disposal called for white vinegar and the main bathroom hamper overflowed with clothes. She forgot detergent during her last grocery trip.
She drove away from drop off with a beautiful smile and a wave to fellow parents while inside her soul was crushing her to death. With each heartbeat, the deep, torturing pain of hopelessness pounded against her dream of a life she would enjoy. A tear fought its way to the surface, only to be interrupted by the toddler’s feverish whimpers.
What would you say to her? What thoughts would you have when she is at the point where she whispers “I. Just. Can’t.” No religious verse can take away her present. A gentle squeeze of her hand may offer needed human touch, but still her present remains as it has for a few years.
The tragedy of emotional pain can happen to any of us. Unknowingly we have walked by the young woman whose boyfriend abruptly ended their relationship or the woman who finds herself in a place where her native tongue isn’t widely understand causing her to wander through her present all alone.
The dark night of the soul is an experience that lasts too long for most of us who’ve been in these shoes even for a moment. No matter what the status-single, married, with kids or yearning them, life can be difficult. When the fabric of our soul sheds, the danger signs appear but are unfortunately invisible unless we….unless she lets someone look deeply into her eyes.
How can we as a company of sisters help each other not fall into a living hell? Even the medical community recognizes that a prevention ethic is best. What can we do better so that one of our sisters knows that they don’t have to hide behind a smile and a wave?
Ruth 3:1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
The words “seek” and “security” give form to our compassion and empathy. Seeking involves deliberate action. I picture a person holding a telescope looking into the distance on behalf of someone else. The picture reminds me of Isaiah 21:6 which says: “Go, set a watchman, Let him declare what he sees.” Let’s discover the next steps of our sister’s life! Whether by prayer or research, we can find opportunities that our sister can take hold of to find or rediscover her value. She must realize that her present narrative is a roadblock versus a foreshadowing of her future.
Similarly we can carry vision for our sister’s life. This carrying is more than verbally affirming dreams lost by the wayside. It is stewarding her vision when she is down. The day she rises she will take it back. Ruth of this Old Testament story was a young widow. She was in a place of transition after the death of her husband, who was Naomi’s son. Ruth was personally aimless but relying on the strength and wisdom of her mother-in-law, who was also in a place of grief and transition. Age and experience is valuable. The years in which Naomi accumulated wisdom and understanding gave her the strength to carry vision for her daughter in law’s life. In current times, this means that older mothers should remember what life can be like for a younger mother. Altruism involves prevention. No woman ever has to get to the point of giving up. Ruth was childless and a widow. She had no acceptable status in her culture. We must be proactive with checking in with our sisters with words of encouragement and offers of practical help. If they can’t find a sitter, we can bring the coffee or tea to them. We need to discard pleasant surface conversations and sit in front of them at a function and say, “How are you doing with the things on your plate?” or “Is there anything that I can pray for you about?”.
Security is essential to wellness. We can guide our sisters to a secure place. Newness can make life topsy turvy for any human being. Is our sister newly married? What about in a new job or fresh out of college? Is she newly divorced? Let’s anticipate her struggle for this segment of her journey. I don’t mean suppressing her natural emotions or allowing her to become codependent on you. A listening ear is like a soft pillow to someone who feels like the foundation is shifting under her feet. Similarly, well-timed words are described in Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Every mother experiences something new every few years, a birth, entry to the school phase, puberty, leaving home. Too often, we, the sisters, wait for our churches, schools and community organizations to offer classes or events . We can be the class or event on cloudy afternoon if we shift our schedules and make space to serve and be what God envisioned for sisters to be. We must protest the dividing lines of economics,race and education and be a company of sisters. Even shared faith does not matter. Life challenges all people.
If we make this a part of our lifestyle, then we won’t see her, the one with the tear finally falling as they teeter on the brink of giving up everything on this side of heaven. Her pain and her woes don’t have to be medicated with the secret stash of liquor, drugs or the darkness of her bedroom. Sisterhood was created to keep our chins up when they begin cowering, our eyes fixed when they begin to wander and our hearts strong when weariness comes close. If you are Naomi, go find a Ruth and if you happen to be Ruth, don’t hide behind a smile and a wave. Let us see your eyes.