What an odd title for a blog post?! Hopefully, it will make sense shortly. You see, my birthday is hours away and for several days, prior to today, all I have been able to think about is when my brother, Joe, called me a year ago to tell me that Dad had been involved in an accident–a very serious accident. Dad and I spent my birthday in the Duke University Medical Center Emergency Room and, after Dad was stable, I drove home in the early hours of February 5th to attend my husband’s retirement luncheon from the North Carolina Department of Corrections. Following the luncheon, Larry, Adam and I traveled immediately to Duke and in the midst of chaos and stress and frayed nerves and nervous minds, this happened with no prompting:
Don’t fret. Be still. Trust. Have faith. Stand by Me.
Dad amazed the doctors at Duke and was discharged four days later and came to live with us for several weeks, where his son-in-law and in-home physical therapist worked with Dad on building up his strength. It’s a good thing that Larry had experience with Adam’s physical therapy! Of course, those Loftis men are made of strong stock and just the right amount of stubborn genes! In record time–roughly five weeks–Dad made a decision to begin a new life at Stratford House Retirement Community and was settled in at his apartment, the Governor’s Suite, and loving it.
October 2016 brought pneumonia for Dad and a temporary goodbye from our family and we’re certain that on October 31st, he smiled when he saw Jesus and Jackie.
And, here I am, mere hours from re-living these events again and I see that God delivered a blog post to my inbox earlier this week that told me it was time to seal the deal–to put my feelings in black and white and to hit the “publish” button to share transparently that God, indeed, wants our sad.
Esther Fleece has written a book that has made its way onto my 2017 list of books to read entitled “No More Faking Fine.” Check out these gems:
“Not everyone experiences prosperity, but everyone we know will know loss and grief. Each and every one of us will experience setbacks, letdowns, failures, and betrayals. Every one of us will encounter change that is hard, lose loved ones before their time, and see relationships fail with people we counted on.”
“So what do we do when everything is not fine? Why are we shooting for the easy-street, pain-free life anyway? Where did we come up with the idea that we should be happy all the time? We all need do-over days, and sometimes we will wake up, eat a bowl of ice cream for breakfast, and head straight back to bed. This should not surprise us because Scripture tells us that we will go through different seasons—not all of them pleasant.”
“Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the only home they’d ever known. The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years before they entered the Promised Land. The prophets ripped their clothing, grieved in the streets, and warned God’s people to repent and return. Jesus died the most gruesome death the Romans could come up with. And the early church faced persecution of all kinds.”
“I don’t see many easy-street lives in the Bible. And I certainly don’t see God demanding that we keep a stiff upper lip through hard times.”
“In fact, D. A. Carson, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes, ‘There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.’”
“So where do all the clichés and false hopes we use to explain suffering come from? Not the Bible, and certainly not from God Himself. My insistence that I have a nice, easy, “fine” life was not only unbiblical; it was also an unrealistic expectation that ended up making me feel disengaged from God and disappointed in Him. I thought I was suffering because I had done something wrong. I had fallen for clichés, which only increased my pain.”
“For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength. But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it. We are robbing ourselves of a divine mystery and a divine intimacy when we pretend to have it all together. In fact, we lose an entire vocabulary from our prayers when we silence the reality of our pain. If questions and cries and laments are not cleaned up throughout Scripture, then why are we cleaning them up or removing them completely from our language?” (emphasis mine)
“Scripture doesn’t tell us to pretend we’re peaceful when we’re not, act like everything is fine when it’s not, and do everything we can to suppress our sorrow. God doesn’t insist that we go to our “happy place” and ignore our sad, yet so many of our churches preach that we will have peace and prosperity just by virtue of being Christians. Scripture, in contrast, tells us that as followers of Christ, we are called to serve a “man of sorrows” who died a gruesome death. Until we identify ourselves with our Savior and acknowledge, as He did, just how painful life can be, we won’t be able to lament or to overcome. And if we silence our own cries, then we will inevitably silence the cries of those around us. We cannot carefully address the wounds of others if we are carelessly addressing our own.” (emphasis mine)
“The fact is, God does not expect us to have it all together, so it is a real disservice when our Christian communities create this expectation. We will be unsuccessful at sitting with hurting people if we have not allowed ourselves to grieve and wail and mourn and go through the lament process ourselves. God understands that life is full of pressures, hurts, stings. He took on flesh so He could relate to us in both our joy and pain. He wants us to feel and express every emotion before Him and not minimize a thing. There is no “fake it till you make it” in Scripture. When we fake fine, we fake our way out of authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves.” (emphasis mine)
So I’m here to tell you that it’s okay–actually, it’s healing–to lament by laying my head down on my desk at 5:00 earlier this week and cry–no, sob–and then drive home to be greeted by that incredible in-home physical therapist–now full-time beekeeper–and realize that the best birthday gift I could ever receive greets me at the door every day. Thank you for always standing by me, Larry.
And, thank you, Dad and Mom, for being the instruments that gave me life and that taught me how to stand with courage, faith and a healthy dose of humor on this temporary journey. God wants my sad . . . God wants your sad . . . No more faking fine!
I’m celebrating this birthday weekend with cherished memories and a peaceful mind that 2017 will be another year where God continues to orchestrate events in my life and I hope to turn them into a song of growth on this audacious adventure.
Dad’s Retirement from the NC Department of Corrections