Category: Suffering

N is for Not My Fault

Their deaths were not your fault.

The Voice pulled me from sleep. “Not my fault?” I sleepily mumbled. I reached for my glasses from the night table. The scratching sound as I slid them into place roused my mind from fogginess. My head turned towards the clock radio. 3:00 a.m. glowed red in the dark room.

Their deaths were not your fault.

The Voice, the Voice that had told me I was going to New York, that I had been happy once and would be happy again, resounded within me.

“God?” it was a small, high pitched plea.

Listen and write.

I switched on the lamp and took up my journal and pen that had become tangled in my bed clothes.

Your parents’ deaths were not your fault. You are seeing what happened with the eyes of a child.

I wrote: Their deaths are not my fault?

No. They’re not. Do you remember when your father got you back? Where was your nurse?

I don’t know. She wasn’t there. Marmar was there; she made me chicken soup from a foil packet. I sat on Papa’s lap. Siobhan was there. The cook was there. But the iron-faced woman was gone.

Do you remember what your father said?

My lips spoke the words as I wrote them, “He was angry because she hadn’t watched me.” The words echoed through the room, bounced off the walls until they hit and pierced my heart. “She didn’t watch me.” I wrote and repeated the words to the Voice in wondered puzzlement.

That was her job, to care for you, to watch you. You were a little child in her care. She hurt you and neglected you. She was angry with you.

I know. I’ve never understood that. She choked me with the tie of my sailor dress and when I cried out, she told Marmar that I was misbehaving. I think she hated me.

Your parents never knew. And you didn’t know how to tell them. You were four. And you had already had such painful experiences. You had already learned to hide your head in your mother’s lap and push the pain away.

Was it the iron-faced woman’s fault?

It was not your fault. You were not much more than a toddler. You hid from the person who hurt you. That’s what children do. That’s what you did when you were older and you often escaped.

It was really not my fault?

No, it was not your fault.

A tear trickled down my cheek. A pregnant silence filled the room.

Child, their deaths were not your fault.

My lips trembled as I wrote and whispered the words, “But I thought they were.”

You were wrong.

“I was wrong?” I asked aloud with a sniff and then quickly wrote the words in my journal.

You were wrong. Their deaths were not your fault.

Their deaths were not my fault.

I stared at the last words on the page, whispered them again and again. Tears coursed down my cheeks, dampened my pillowcase after I switched off the light, as I fell asleep.

not my faultBeep! Beep! Beep! The bright morning blur resolved into a red 7:00 a.m. once I had pulled my glasses on. A fresh fragrance filled the room. I leaped out of bed and went to look at my face in the mirror. My eyes did not appear ravaged by late-night tears. I seemed younger somehow. My heart longed to leap and sing.

“It was not my fault,” I firmly repeated to my reflection. “I was wrong.” My lip twisted in relieved pain. I smiled though tears, “Beloved, I was wrong! I was wrong!”

K is for Kern

His plane is landing soon. I rush to the airport; I must see him. When I arrive the gate has been changed. I run to the new gate. Now, the terminal has also been changed. I run through the airport to the new terminal. Each time I arrive, there is a change. I’ll never find him, I mutely tell my Friend as I continue running. Finally, I see him: salt and pepper hair, heavy on the salt, tall, tanned, ice blue eyes. He is dressed in a tan safari jacket and khaki cargo pants; he’s been traveling a lot.

I approach him, reach out a hand, and touch his arm, “Are you…?” He turns. My heart leaps. He pulls me into a strong hug that lasts and lasts and is still too brief. We sit in the waiting area and talk. “I have been looking for you for a long time,” he tells me. “Where have you been,” I want to know. He is about to answer. A voice announces his connecting flight, “I must go.” “But… at least tell me my name!” tears steam down my face. A huge hole has opened in my heart. He taps his index finger against the center of my chest as he slowly pronounces each word, “You are Kern.” The morning sun awakens me: “Kern?” I ask my Friend. “Is my name Kern?” I sat up and looked at the old chair with its faded slipcover. “Who was he?”

“My dream…” my vice trailed off into soft breathiness. I cleared my throat and began again, “I told you about the dream of meeting my father at the airport, and him telling me, ‘You are Kern.'” I swallowed and took in a sighing breath. “I’d asked Professor Cumberlan to help me look into names. She didn’t think Kern was viable but she helped me anyway. I’ve completed the research and she checked my findings. Kern isn’t my family name. I’m beginning the research Professor Cumberlan advised me to do before I suggested Kern.”

I sighed. A tear threatened to fall from the corner of my left eye. I quickly brushed it away. “If Kern isn’t my name…” More tears welled up and spilled over than I could hold back. I sniffed, “If Kern is not my name,” I began again in a small, breathy voice that then descended to a whisper, “what did the dream mean?”

“Do you know what kern means?” my therapist asked.

Wiping away tears with a shredded tissue, I nodded slightly and answered in a small voice, “It’s German. It means heart.”

“Yes. It’s the center, the kernel or seed, the heart of something.” He stopped speaking for a moment until I looked up into his eyes. Then, “I think your dream is telling you that you were the heart, the center of your family.”

“But how can that be,” my lower lip curled; I tried to sniff and blink away the tears. I failed. My voice was a shrill whisper, “How can that be when they sent me away?”

Dr. Vogwall spoke softly and precisely, “I think they sent you away because you were the heart.”

I bowed my head and looked at my hands resting on the chambray blue skirt of my dress. Sniff. Sniff. The tears left stinging salt tracks on my cheeks.

He spoke again with the same soft, preciseness, “They loved you so much, you were so important to them…” My lower lip curled of its own accord. My shoulders began to tremble. “They wanted you to be safe. And they did the best they could do to make certain you were safe.” I took in a moist, snuffly breath. My eyes would not look up at him. “It’s what I would do if my children were threatened. And I’d do it because they are my heart.”

A choking sound forced it’s way from my throat, “Unh. Unh. Unh. Unh.” I blotted the river of tears with a handful of shredded tissues. After a time, my shoulders stilled, my head lifted. Dr. Vogwall’s impassive eyes gazed into mine. I took in several moist breaths and sniffed twice. “It’s what I’d do too-oo,” the words were a moist wail; they shocked me as I spoke them. “It’s just so hard,” I pleaded.

“I know,” he replied. “There was no easy answer. Maybe not even a right answer. Except you are alive. You’ve been hurt but you are alive.”

My head nodded as my mouth twisted with pain. Tears coursed down my cheeks. Dr. Vogwall placed the box of tissues in my lap and waited.

H is for Hair

“He lied!” I insisted. Helena quickly raised her eyes from the scarf she was knitting. “A-a-at least…” I sputtered, “he didn’t tell me the whole truth.” I took a breath and continued, “The first question I asked when he recommended chemo was, ‘Will my hair fall out?’ He told me it wouldn’t. But so much of it has. My hair is so much thinner and finer too. And it’s white! I went from twenty-something to old overnight.”

“You don’t look old,” Helena assured me.

0 h is for hair 5“That’s only because I colour my hair,” I snorted. “If I stop, in three weeks, I’ll have white roots. And my hair used to be so wonderful, salt and pepper, mostly pepper. People thought I had a great hair stylist who added teensy little highlights. And it was thick. The cut only makes it look thick now.” I felt my mouth puff into a pout as the last words sounded in the air.

“I remember,” Helena smiled, then peered at her work. “Dang! I missed a stitch.” I mutely fumed as she corrected the mistake.

“I want my old hair back,” I told her wistfully.

“You look amazing,” she replied. “You always look amazing.”

One corner of my mouth lifted in a rueful smile. When you receive a compliment, say, ‘Thank you.’ Oh yes, I mutely told my Friend, I practiced that one. Thanks for reminding me. “Thanks,” I softly responded. My mouth widened into a smile, “I suppose he didn’t intend to mislead me. Only some of my hair fell out and I never asked about colour or texture changes. He was thinking about my health not my vanity.”

“Still,” Helena looked up, her face serious. “An experienced oncologist ought to know what chemo will do, especially several high-dose rounds like you had.” She added definitively, “He should’ve told you.”

My smile widened, “Yeah. Then I could have chosen whether to be further debilitated by rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s or have great hair. I guess there’s no real choice, is there.”

Smiling, Helena shook her head and returned to her knitting.

G is for God Meant It For Good

Beloved,

Lent has been brutal. I cried every single day. It’s a liquid Lent. Sharon was so concerned but she laughed every time I said it was just dross removal; I have so much dross to be removed. The tears seem to be abating; the sun shines sometimes.

The soldiers, the man who raped me, the ministers, the cruel children in that house, even the minister’s wife, all those who did horrible things to me, though some of them would say they were helping me, they all meant to hurt me. Some of them weren’t even singling me out. I just happened to be easy prey.

But I was right when I told that therapist that people hurt me, You didn’t. But You didn’t protect me from people and that hurt so much; I’ve been so angry. But the liquid Lent showed me a different perspective.

I’ve begged You to pull a Deus ex machina, to undo my suffering and loss, to exempt me from the consequences of the sins committed against me. You don’t. To do so would have been to give me my fantasy world. That would be truly cruel. My fantasies aren’t real even if they’re prettier than reality. Reality has real people and real consequences. The bullets that killed Grandpère and the rest of my family did have to be real. If not, life would not be real.

God meant it for goodBut the liquid Lent has been showing me that Grandpère’s body slamming against the wall, his blood smeared on the white paint and pouring out over his immaculate, pale blue shirt need not be the end. While You won’t exempt me from what it means to live in a world we broke but don’t know how to fix, You will let me be like Joseph telling his brothers, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”

You will use our suffering for good, if we choose. You do that with for me.

You know how much I can talk, mostly to fill the space. But when I visit Andrew, I become silent. I wait. I watch intently and let him communicate in his own time. It takes all my energy and more. But I believe we can communicate and we do.

I know that’s You. People terrify me. But somehow, Andrew, and AIDS patients, the sick and hurting, and little children call from me the ability to listen and love. I no longer stand on the sidelines waiting to be invited. Their pain calls to me and I find myself just loving them. From my suffering, You’ve created the ability for me to do for others what wasn’t done for me. I never asked for it. I thought I was content just to hang out with You; You’ve got other plans.

Today, I’m like Joseph. Today, I can say, ‘God meant it for good.” Today, I know that You intend to use evil others have committed against me to do very good things in and for me. But on some tomorrow, I will forget. I’m not as smart as I think. Something will hurt or frighten me and I will forget. Please remind me. Please help me continue to see the truth: God meant it for good. Yes! You did.

D is for Designer Noose

I just can’t take it any more, though I was alone in my room, alone in the house, the words were barely a thought, certainly not enough to be uttered into the silence of the room. Plopping down on my bed, I took up my Letters to God notebook and began writing:

Dear God,

It hurts and hurts and hurts. I hurt. No one even knows how badly I hurt. That guy at work told me I should just get over it. But it’s only been a week? How can I get over learning my parents are dead in a week?

Even my “best” friends don’t really know how I hurt. Sinead offers to “do a reading.” I don’t believe in that crap! She knows I’m a Christian. I’ve told her I don’t believe in “messages” from the spirits. I wish she’d just stop that new age stuff. Those spirits might be evil. Certainly, if You don’t send them, why would I seek them out? Why wouldn’t I just come to You?

I shuddered at the thought of seeking out the spirits.

I’m sorry, but can’t do this any longer. It hurts too much. No one has ever loved me except my parents. But they’re dead and I’m alone. The best I get is people who have strong, positive feelings for me, people who don’t know me. Whenever I try to tell them who I am, they’re offended or think I’m weird.

Why won’t You just let me die? I could use that black silk. I could make a noose and go far away from New York, leave all my ID behind so no one would know me, and then hang myself in a park. Everyone here would think I had disappeared; they wouldn’t know I was dead; I don’t want to hurt them. I just want… You know what I want but I can’t have that.

Ring! Ring! Ring!

I reached for the telephone. “Hello?” I failed to muffle my snuffly inhale. At least no one can see my tears, I angrily mused to God.

“It’s Sinead,” a perky voice sounded in my ear. “Are you alright?” concern replaced her usual perkiness as I snuffled again.

“I’m tired,” I sighed out. “I’m just so tired. It’s too much.”

“I’d be happy to do a reading,” she pleaded.

“I was just thinking…” I began.

“Thinking what?”

My tears splashed on the blue handset. I inhaled another snuffly breath. “I have a piece of black silk. I could make a noose and go away and hang myself some place where no one knows me. The fabric is soft and if I’m careful, my neck would break and then the pain would…”

Her sudden laughter startled me. “Only you would think of a designer noose!” She laughed again, “Only you could imagine such a thing.”

D is for Designer Noose

I sniffed, “I guess so.” My forehead crinkled as the words “designer noose” splashed across the screen of my mind. Suddenly, laughter spilled from my throat. “You’re right! It would be a designer noose.” A giggle frothed out. “I didn’t think of that. Gosh, I’m silly.” A small ray of sunshine brightened my heart.

“You’re just in pain,” she told me.

“I’m glad you called.” Tears started in my eyes again, “You don’t know how badly I needed a laugh.”

Leviathan Flees

For six weeks, Spring had been bringing fresh, mild days to New York but my body was hunched in the chair, my arms wrapped tightly around me as if to ward off a winter that refused to relinquish it’s hold; the warm sun had not penetrated the thick, chill fog that hung about me. My eyes had been red and swollen for several days… Ever since I’d written the letter to God… Ever since the words had spilled from my pen: ‘They lied to me.’

best woman crying sad sketchThe letter ended there. Its preamble had merely been an ineffective delaying tactic. And before the ink seeped into the paper, misery unleashed its power, left me with little except wet, salt-stung cheeks and eyes gritty with sand. Warmth fled. Laughter was unthinkable. Only fog remained. It penetrated to my depths, filled every empty space; I was a heavy blob of tears.

“How are you?” my therapist inquired after my hand reached for a wad of tissues to dab at dripping eyes and nose.

My lower lip trembled. The tissues made a quick swipe at my nose. My head shook. My nose sniffed damply and loudly. “I know what it is,” I whimpered. My face screwed itself up. The stream of tears burst its banks. Two more damp quick sniffs and then, “I know what I’m so afraid of.” My throat swallowed, my chest heaved up and down. “They lied to me,” my voice was a hoarse whisper.

My therapist leaned forward, “What do you mean?”

“When they sent me away,” more swallowing, more damp sniffs. Pained composure descended for a moment. “Papa sat me on his desk. I’d drawn some maraschino cherries for him. He took the drawing, told me it was beautiful, tacked it to the cork board above his desk,” the sniffing came again in short, sharp, moist bursts. My chest heaved out clicking breaths: huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh!. The wet, shredded tissues scrubbed at my eyes and nose.

“He told me they were sending me away.” My face scrunched up as the words left my mouth. “He said they wanted me to be safe while they found the bad man, the man who hurt me.” My hand raised itself up to wipe at the liquid running from my nose. “I told him, ‘But I will never see you again.’ Papa pulled me against him and said, ‘Of course you will. You will be home before you know it.’ I shook my head against his chest and cried. My tears soaked through his sweater. I can feel the wool against my cheek. The warm, wet, woolly scent is in my nose,” my hand stroked my cheek where it had pressed against Papa’s chest.

After another loud sniff, I continued, “I told him I needed him. That I really would never see him again. He said, ‘You must be my brave little girl. And I will be right here if you need me.’ He held me away and looked into my face, ‘If you need me, draw maraschino cherries for me and ask Siobhan to send them. I’ll come right away.’ He held me close again, ‘We must make sure you’re safe. And as soon as the bad man is found, you will come right home.'”

My body shook. My hand reached for a wad of dry tissues. My chest tried to pull air into my blocked nose. My arms hugged my body tighter as it rocked to and fro.

“But what do you mean that they lied?”

My forehead scrunched. Why didn’t he understand? I took a deep breath, “He sent me away from the danger but they stayed and the danger killed them. He knew he was staying with the danger. He knew they would be killed. But he lied and said I’d be home before I knew it. He told me to send the maraschino cherries but he was dead and there wasn’t anybody to receive them. He’d never be able to come,” my voice tried to scream through the dampening tears.

When my breath eased “And Marmar knew too. She cried when I left. I can see her there. She cried so hard, Papa was supporting her. I had told her that I would never see her again just like I told Papa. But she said, ‘Don’t worry, my Lyssa. God will take good care of you. You’ll be home soon.’ But when I left, her heart was being ripped away and she knew it.”

My chest shook out breaths in short clicks: huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh, huhnh! Except for the wet, clicking noise, the room remained silent.

Finally, my therapist asked, “Did Professor Cumberlan learn when they died?”

The tears, though suspended, waited just within my eyes to burst forth again. With a loud sniff, my nose attempted to pull a breath past the congestion, “About three weeks after they sent me away. Probably a little less. They were walking in the park near our home. Someone shot them.” My forehead scrunched itself, “It’s as if I can feel what happened to them. Papa was shot in the neck. My head wants to snap to the side the way his must have. Marmar was shot in the abdomen. I can feel a big wound in my body.” Leaking tears quickly reverted to a torrent that weighed my head down and pulled me into a deeper slump.

“Small children often have a close connection with their parents,” he told the top of my head. “It’s not unusual that you would feel your parent’s deaths. But I think you’re wrong. I don’t think they lied to you.”

My head raised itself. My eyes examined his face. Another loud, wet sniff brought in enough air to whisper, “What do you mean?” Tears spilled over leaving salt tracks on my dark cotton skirt.

“You’re looking at it from a child’s perspective. You were afraid you’d never see them again. Somehow, you may have had a strong sense that you would never see them again. But they didn’t know. Three weeks isn’t a very long time. If your father knew they were in danger, he would have left just as he left South America.” My therapist took a breath and shaped each word clearly and precisely, “Your father loved you. He wanted you to be safe.” My mouth shaped itself into a small O as my head nodded slightly in agreement; the tears had subsided once again. “He didn’t set you up to be disappointed. He did what I would have done. He made sure you were safe and that you had a way to contact him.” My mouth widened itself to a pained pout. “He didn’t know. Neither did your mother. They believed you were in danger. But there was no reason for them to believe that they were also in danger.”

A hoarse squeak left my mouth, “Really?”

He leaned forward and looked directly in my eyes, “Do you believe your father deliberately set you up?”

Several moist sniffs pulled in air and pushed back tears. “No,” it came out in an almost voiceless whisper. My eyes widened. A pout pulled my lips out. Another sniff came. A few tears tumbled down. My voice sounded high and breathy, “But… I thought… I thought they lied.”

“You were wrong,” my therapist told me.

My mouth twisted itself into a confusion. Tears brimmed my lower lids.

“You were wrong,” he repeated.

My eyes narrowed, my neck twisted my head to one side as if my ears had caught a sound that was nearly, but not quite, audible. The almost sound coursed into my heart. “I was wrong,” I whispered. My barely audible voice released more tears, different tears, tears that washed long-caked debris from my heart.

After repairing my skirt and rinsing my face in the bathroom, I stepped out into the warmth of the Spring afternoon. There was a delicious, green scent in the air. The growing leaves seemed newly cut — laser cut — sharp, clear, in shades of green richer than I had seen before. The late afternoon sky had been washed with clear, soft blueness. Puffy white clouds, tinged with pinks lounged about. My body wanted to float alongside them. My legs, longing to dance, rejoiced in the swishing fabric of my long cotton skirt. My feet raise my ballet black flats in little sweeping kicks. “Is it always this beautiful?” I softly asked my Friend. “Why have I never seen it before?” I breathed in another draught of the sweet air. Hailing a taxi, I settled myself in the back and pressed my forehead against the cracked the window. The taxi’s wheels against the asphalt sang to me with each revolution, They didn’t lie.

* Image source.

Facing Down Leviathan

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (1)

In studying Scripture, I keep coming upon Nachash (Nahash). “Serpent” is one translation. Leviathan is another.

My image of the serpent in Genesis came straight from the pictures in the big, family Bible I first read when I was five. They were supplemented by others from Sunday school books and various paintings. All of them pretty much depicted a big snake with or without appendages. I had only a hazy image of Leviathan. The priest who confirmed me said, in response to my queries, “It’s a primordial hippopotamus.” I was unconvinced. Leviathan was a sea creature and hippos aren’t known for their ocean-going tendencies. Over the past few years, I’ve learned Leviathan, in size, is a more like Jörmungandr, the giant Midgard Serpent. He’s also utterly terrifying. God tells Job:

Orange-Leviathan_smallLay hands on him;
think of the battle;
you will not do it again!
Behold,
the hope of a man is disappointed;
he is laid low even at the sight of him.
No one is so fierce
that he dares to stir him up. (2)

The serpent in the Garden (Nachash in the original Hebrew) is Leviathan (also Nachash in the original Hebrew) in Job and Ezekiel and in many other places throughout the Bible.

But wait! This all actually has a point that is central to Loved As If in which I dive into theodicy and hope I don’t drown.

In a recently published article, my friend, Dr. Randall Smith, following St. Augustine, writes, “the really crucial moment in the story—the actual fall—occurs when Adam ‘deliberately decides—despite not being deceived—to disfigure by sin the spousal fellowship he and Eve had already been given by God.'”

How often have I passed over “Adam was not deceived” (3) because I was bristling about Paul saying woman would be saved through child birth. As I read Dr. Smith’s article, those four words finally resounded through me stirring up immense horror: “Adam was not deceived.” He knew better.

When God places Adam in the garden, He instructs him to “till it and keep it.” What isn’t readily apparent is that God gives Adam the same priestly charge He will later give the Levites who are to tend the Ark of the Covenant:

[B]ut appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it; they are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall tend it, and shall encamp around the tabernacle. (4)

I’ve seen many depictions of the Israelites in battle with the Ark of the Covenant. Usually the Ark is surrounded by a few Levites vested as per God’s instructions to Moses. But in reality, the Ark would have been surrounded by all the sons of Kohath (5), more than 8,00 men, ready to cut down anyone who came near. And the Kohathites set out in the midst of the hosts of Israel; the Ark is surrounded by warriors. It was just that precious. And so was the garden before it.

But Adam threatens not even the most minimal battle to protect it. So the serpent, Nachash, Leviathan, gets into the garden — as if Adam isn’t there. Nachash questions Eve — as if Adam isn’t there. Nachash beguiles Eve — as if Adam isn’t there. But he is there all the time.

Modern English doesn’t use a plural form of the pronoun “you” so we aren’t aware that in Hebrew, Nachash is speaking to both Adam and Eve when he asks: “Did God say, `[You both] shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And Adam is there when Nachash says: “[You both] will not die. For God knows that when [you both] eat of it your eyes will be opened, and [you both] will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (6) The English translation is painfully haunting when one realizes Adam might have pulled Eve away and whispered to her, ‘God will be along at the breezy time of the day. Let’s ask Him then.’ Instead, Adam remains silent and eats the fruit even though he knows Nachash is lying.

The fall involved neither sex nor eating an apple. The fall actually occurred because Adam decides he’s not facing down Leviathan. Adam balks at suffering and sacrifice. (So does Eve but I’m not telling that story here.) He knowingly chooses himself over God, his bride, and his priestly charge.

For long, I thought suffering came as a result of the fall. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love God. And I knew (because I had tried) that I couldn’t just will myself to stop loving Him. But I was appalled that God would allow suffering in my life. Suffering came as a result of sin. Why should I suffer for the sins of others? In my mind, suffering was a linear equation: my sin equals my suffering, the only variables were the sins I might commit. I truly felt that I and other innocent people ought to be exempt or at least ought to be given a pass after a certain amount of suffering. I was woefully ignorant.

Suffering was built in from the beginning. It was never something from which I or anyone else could be exempt. The original, deluxe, Imago Dei operating system that was the very life God breathed into Adam could not be fully actualized unless Adam laid down his life for the sake God, Eve, and the garden.

And that’s why Christ is the new Adam. He doesn’t flee suffering. He faces down Leviathan though He doesn’t want to die. He goes to the cross and reboots humanity. His reboot isn’t an undoing of suffering and sacrifice. Instead, Christ restores us to our original factory settings so that we might operate from the Imago Dei, so that we might truly sacrifice and suffer instead of simply hurting in confusion, so that we too might face Leviathan and lay down our lives for our friends. Christians can now suffer as God had always intended, as Christ did, as Adam did not.

We won’t always see that our suffering accomplishes anything. When suffering includes a linear equation, that’s only a hint of its fullness. It makes sense that a father would sacrifice himself to save his child. But when we’re in pain or foregoing something we want or need for the sake of another, we don’t always know how God is working our suffering and sacrifice into the entire program. Then again, it’s difficult to understand how Adam’s actions can affect all of creation. But for many, it’s just as difficult to understand how a few lines of code can wreck a computer. Yet most of us know what a computer virus can do.

In the end, for all our babble about self-worth and self-esteem, we can’t really imagine our immense value. When Paul writes, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God,” (7) it’s hard to see how “the glorious liberty of the children of God” will restore creation. Just as it’s hard to accept that “creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope.” (8) Our brains are groggy from living in a world that only recognizes fairly simple mathematics. The immense creativity that allows creation to wait “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (9) demands well-developed imaginations and hearts.

Christians can catch a peek now and then. Some more, some less. We can trust that creation is waiting for the Adam Christ restored in all those who follow Him to do what the original Adam did not do in the garden. We’re not to chase suffering. Masochism is of Nachash and has no place in the Imago Dei operating system. For the same reason, we are not to sacrifice out of pride. But a lot hinges on us. The restoration of all of creation longs for our “glorious liberty.”

We obtain that liberty by following Christ, the new Adam. We obtain it by accepting the suffering and sacrifice God allows into our lives. We unleash it’s immense power when, through the grace of God, we say, ‘This time, I’m facing down Leviathan.’ I can’t yet say, with some of the saints, that I rejoice in suffering. But I know, when we suffer with Christ, the uncorrupted Imago Dei operating system becomes fully activated and finally, we begin to grow into what God created us to become from the beginning.

(1) Genesis 2:15 (RSV)

(2) Job 41:8-10 (RSV). Image source.

(3) 1 Timothy 2:14 (RSV)

(4) Numbers 1:50 (RSV)

(5) Numbers 3:29 (RSV)

(6) Michael Barber, Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today, Emmaus Road Publishing (January 1, 2006). Genesis 3:4-5 (RSV)

(7) Romans 8:21 (RSV)

(8) Romans 8:20 (RSV)

(9) Romans 8:19 (RSV)

Five Minute Friday: Open

Usually, the Five Minute Friday prompt segues into something I’ve been thinking or writing about. This week, I’m recovering from a sinus infection, my head feels soggy, and nothing comes to mind. when I feel this way I’d usually skip FMF. Not this week. Let’s see where this goes…

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Often, I’ve been admonished that I must have an “open mind.” Usually, I’m being told that my faith and morals are close-minded, old-fashioned. I’ll usually ask, ‘Open to what? Everything? Anything? Even those things that will destroy me and make me less the person I’m working to be?’ The answers I receive range from head shaking to ‘You’re weird.’

God has blessed me with an impish mind and I wonder, what if I asked, Are we open to suffering? Are we open to sacrifice? Are we open to asking God to take the things we really don’t want and use them for His glory even if it hurts?

19 stitchesWhen my god-daughter’s little sister stepped into broken glass, she would allow no one to pour peroxide over the bleeding mess. Her mother was unwilling to suffer the howls and tears. Fully dressed, I climbed into the tub held the child’s foot, said, “This will hurt,” and poured on the peroxide. It was apparent, hers wasn’t a shallow cut. We rushed her to the emergency room for stitches.

She wasn’t my child and that probably made it much easier. But I had to be open to suffering (and ruining my skirt) for the child’s good including her anger because I did hurt her. I know so many who are angry with God because he allows suffering. Often, I think we are closed to Him and closed to understanding that He will allow us to suffer because sometimes (perhaps often) suffering is the only way to determine if we’ve just got a shallow cut or need stitches.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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