Thursday, October 29, 2009

Symbols of Suffering, Marks of Grace and a Book Review

Melodie Sankey recently posted this picture on her Facebook. The chunk of asphalt that very nearly robbed her of her husband, Marc. I´m pretty sure that Marc´s blood is visible in this picture- it takes my breath away. I´ve heard a lot of talk and thought a lot of thoughts about the great and mysterious theology of suffering in the last week since the accident. These are familiar thoughts for me. I´ve been in my own valley of questions. With my own trauma- one that seems a bit like a friendly toasting-marshmallow flame against his roaring bonfire (although on principle I refuse to compare trials with others- as each is specifically our own). My symbol of suffering is below:

I´m hearing the same questions I asked myself five years ago. At the risk of sounding heretical, I didn´t like God very much after my little experience. Oh, I knew He was all-powerful, sovereign. That wasn´t very soothing at the moment. I just wanted to know if He was good. I wouldn´t feed one of my children to dogs, or allow a rock to crush their forehead. I read a lot of Job, since I related to the feeling of meaningless, senseless suffering. I was afraid to pray to this Person I thought I knew, so I read instead. After living in Job for those pain-filled weeks, I stumbled across a secondary resource: When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty by Joni Eareckson Tada. I don´t know about you, but "Just trust the Lord" sounds different coming from a person who hasn´t been in pain. Joni speaks the truth of God from a living hell (in my opinion). Let me say in all caps: GET THIS BOOK IF YOU WANT TO ENCOUNTER A LIFE-CHANGING THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING!!!! If you don´t want to pay the two bucks for a used version on Amazon, check it out at your library.

I don´t want to risk being the blade that opens the can of worms, so I´m not going to go into my personal theology of suffering overmuch. I would like to share two thoughts, though. The first is that after Job and Joni´s book, I walked away (literally) from my own experience with a motto for life: "There are no lapses in the goodness of God." I know this heart, soul and mind. Really know it. Number two is from Romans 12:1. You know, the whole "presenting your body a living sacrifice" passage. How many, many times have we heard that in a sermon on consecration, sanctification? I´ve presented myself for His service, "anything you want, I´ll do, Father." I´m sure many of you have been at that same altar in your life. But what about our actual body? Can we come to the point of presenting our physical body, with all its sensitive nerve endings, its potential for suffering and pain, and say, "Here, do with it as it glorifies You most"? That´s a scary place to be when you´re Marc Sankey. Or when you´re anyone else.

I´ve come to see my skirt, tucked away in storage, as a mark of grace. I´m certain that with time, that piece of asphalt will similarly transformed. I´d like to share some lyrics with you from Point of Grace:

I used to wish that I could rewrite history
I used to dream that each mistake could be erased
Then I could just pretend
I never knew the me back then

I used to pray that You would take this shame away
Hide all the evidence of who I've been
But it's the memory of
The place You brought me from
That keeps me on my knees
And even though I'm free

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

I have not lived a life that boasts of anything
I don't take pride in what I bring
But I'll build an altar with
The rubble that You've found me in
And every stone will sing
Of what You can redeem

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar

Don't let me forget
Everything You've done for me
Don't let me forget
The beauty in the suffering

Heal the wound but leave the scar
A reminder of how merciful You are
I am broken, torn apart
Take the pieces of this heart
And heal the wound but leave the scar.

And the chorus I sang to myself over and over by Al Denson:
If you need a pillow for your sorrow
If you need a blanket for your soul
If you need a place your broken heart can be made whole
He'll be your strength to face tomorrow
And when the night seems dark and cold
Fall into the arms that won't let go
Fall in to the arms that won't let go


Juwah said...


I enjoyed your post so much. My view of suffering was transformed after reading "The Problem of Pain" by Lewis. I'm going to look for the Tada book you mentioned. Thanks for the suggestion.

Hearing or even saying the word "trust" is a totally different thing than actually acting on it. Even in suffering. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Liz said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I really appreciate your perspective. And I love that song - I need to find it on-line - it speaks to me where I am right now.

Kimberly said...

i appreciate your honest thoughts, Charity...and i am so sorry for the terrible experience you went through.

i have many thoughts myself on this subject, some of which do not "fit in" with much of what i hear about the "sovereignty of God". I am mostly learning that maybe i don't need answers and that maybe there are no good answers.

i too LOVE that song...and yes, Joni certainly knows of what she speaks on this subject....she is a blessing.

a cousin recently shared this quote with was good for my questioning mind:"Leave the past to the mercy of God, the present to the love of God, and the future to the benevolence of God". (From the novel, The Water is Wide, written by Elizabeth Gibson.)

Tara said...

Beautifully written, Charity. And ministered to my spirit this afternoon. No, my current "suffering" is not to be compared to what the Sankeys and others are experiencing. But sometimes just the weariness of life's circumstances wear us down...when we need God most and find Him rather far away.
Good, good post.