GIVE IT UP

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Lent. That time of year you give something up with the purpose of drawing nearer to God. In the past it's been chocolate or coffee, media or shopping... This year feels different. It is not physical comfort that is distracting me from God. It is something more subtle. All those weeks in Congo tilled the soil of my soul- for good things to be planted, but also for a stray seed of bitterness.

I watched people take their kids home, I watched them leave together. I heard stories of them walking through the security gates and flying off into freedom. I saw their Facebook photos pop up into my feed, little African faces frolicking in the snow and visiting the dentist. Families that came into the country after me, families that got visas after my son. Families that made special connections to powerful people that I didn't make. And to be honest, people who got letters for no rhyme or reason when we didn't.

These thoughts, these images, this knowledge water the seeds of bitterness that were planted as I boarded that jet alone. As I sat in the quiet, drifting in and out of sleep I fully expected to awake to the soft velcro of Jephte's fresh haircut rubbing against my cheek. But it never happened. Instead, I pushed into the developed world of America feeling lost and numb.

I've settled back into normalcy, whatever that is. But there's this empty space, an unexpected gasp every few moments where I forget to breathe and the world stands still. In those moments, Jephté's absence overwhelms me and bitterness grasps at my heart. Thoughts that I would be a better mother than some of the others who were able to bring their kids home. Thoughts that I can give Jephté a better home, a better life, better opportunities, a better family. Thoughts that I complained less or endured well or sacrificed so much… The list goes on, its ugly and embarrassing. Even as I write, I have to catch myself. So I guess that's what I'm giving up for Lent. I don't think God wants us to give something up to make us suffer. I think He wants us to give something up so that we can draw closer to Him and become more like him. This year I'm not just giving something up, I'm giving it away. Dozens of times each day, I'm snatching up my ugly and misplaced thoughts and hurtling them at God. I'm uprooting the seedlings of resentment, tossing them into His hands. I cannot allow my soul to cultivate these seeds, and so I'm asking God to take them from me.

Today is Sunday. During Lent, Sunday is considered a feast day- a day of reprieve from the fasting to remember that the story ends with the great victory of Easter. That one day fasting will end forever and we will live in an eternal state of celebration and feast with God. So while I'm not gorging on bitterness and anger, I am reflecting on the truth that someday bitterness and anger will disappear. This the story of Easter, these are the reasons Jesus went to the cross. The weight of my sin and bitterness is more than I can bear, but it is not too much for him. I know it sounds crazy to choose to believe that this is real, that its not just an installment of my parent's faith or a part of my culture or a coping mechanism for a ridiculous situation. But it is real. I can't quite explain how Jesus has walked this journey with us, but He has. I feel His sadness in this separation, I sense His anger at the injustice, I hear His call to respond to poverty and suffering, I see evidence of His presence all around me.

On Friday we were given an update by the US Embassy that we should not expect to bring our children home before September. One more vice- pressing, pushing, squeezing my heart as it threatens to explode. One more opportunity for bitterness to root itself. For anger to control, for envy to invade, for desperation to take up residence. Likewise, one more opportunity to offer to God what I cannot carry or control. And so I make that choice once again as this day comes to a close, Lord Jesus, remove this burden that I may be closer to You.



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