Day five. This morning I walked in the opposite direction from the previous two. The daily conversations with God – and the constant sensing of His presence – have been what I so desperately needed. Before this vacation I had come to a place in my life where, though knowing that He is always near, I felt as if I no longer sensed His presence – and rarely His pleasure. So far I had been assured by My Father that He is with me and that He holds my life in His hands. I had been reminded of His power and His faithfulness. I had been challenged to be patient – and to persevere in the times when it seemed as if an answer would never come.
This morning I had something else on my mind and heart. Something besides me. SomeONE besides myself. This particular morning I wanted to talk about my family. My broken and hurting family. So many things had been torn apart in the lives of those closest to me. Hearts had been shattered so many times that it often seemed they would never – could never – be mended. I wanted some answers as to why they weren’t being put back together and fixed, and I was ready to ask. Now.
I walked more swiftly than the previous days because my thoughts were quick and my questions many.
I reminded God of my son who has been damaged by churches and in the name of Christ. My son who doesn’t go to church, and is not sure that he ever will return. Recently he was, again, treated condescendingly by someone who had no idea whether Christopher had a relationship with God or not. Someone in a church. Afterwards, he reminded me that he isn’t sure he’s willing to go through it all again. I don’t know where he stands in his relationship with God any longer. There used to be an intimacy and desire there. The fact that those things were tarnished by church-goers and professing Christians breaks my heart. The thought of my son being far from God and broken makes me weep.
I asked My Father about my oldest daughter, Adria. She has such a tender and giving heart. But it is often hidden behind a guise of obstinance and willfullness – which is simply her defense mechanism that masks her insecurities. She feels as if her life is unmendable…that she is unloveable… that she is undesireable because she has 2 children. Her heart has been broken – and she thinks that her life is shattered as well. She wants things to be the way that they were. When things were simple and she could be herself and not have the weight of worrying about others all of the time. She knows that this is impossible – and ultimately doesn’t really want time to turn back. But she does want to feel whole again. Complete. Loved. Instead of unfixable. Hopeless. Lost.
Then there’s Ariel, the youngest. She’s 15. I really didn’t need to remind Him of anything else. Being 15 says it all. She’s dealing with finding her identity, hormones, mood swings, insecurity, shyness, and trying to find those right kinds of friends all while attempting to resolve where God is in her life. She doesn’t believe in herself – yet is at that age where everything is about herself. She often hides her tortured emotions and hurt feelings behind a cavalier, “I don’t care” attitude. So confusing and frustrating for teens these days. And she doesn’t quite know how to deal with the brokenness of her siblings. All she does know is that she wants them to be okay again… she’s not quite sure what to do when those things aren’t a reality.
I talked with Him about Jun-Jun. My new believer, disillusioned, not-sure-how-to-relate-to-God husband. His life so twisted in the past that it often seems as if his emotions – his anger and pain – will never be healed. He wrestles with forgiveness. Sometimes he doesn’t want to forgive. He has a right to be angry and a right to be hurt. Yet he doesn’t want to be who he is. He’s a broken man who struggles to be whole.
All the while that I’m talking with God about my broken family I am looking for olive shells. My eyes are darting to and fro searching for a reminder of His promises. The sands in this direction are littered with shell beds and sea waste. Paths of colors run parallel to my footprints. Row after row of tiny pieces of sea dwellers and mollusks. But no olive shells. As the day before, not one.
I don’t sense that this is about persevering and so I slow my pace and begin to take notice of what I am walking in and around. I still don’t find what I’m looking for. Instead I see hundreds of fragments of olive shells. All colors and sizes. Some broken at the top. Some shattered at the bottom. Some peppered with holes in their incompleteness. None whole, yet all identifiable as former olive shells. And then He speaks to my heart.
“I don’t take things that are broken and put them back together just as they were. They would be weaker at the mended places. Instead, I take the broken pieces and I put them together in a whole different way. I make something different and beautiful out of the fragments. I can make beauty out of brokenness.”
I rolled these words around in my mind over and over as I walked around those broken pieces. As I meditated on what He had spoken, I sensed a peace in my soul. A letting go – if you will.
I can’t fix the brokenness in my family. My tears and the cries of my heart – as many and frequent as they are – can only reach the heart of God, but the mending is in His hands. His desire is not to put the pieces back together and make things the same as they were prior to being shattered. He makes all things new. He takes the fragments of our lives, our experiences, our learnings, our pain, and yes – our forgiven sins, and He masterfully places each in such a way that our character is strengthened, our influence increased, our healing more wonderful, and our hearts enlarged. He puts us back together in such a way that our brokenness is evident, yet the “new” is beautiful. If only we allow Him to do so.
I walked back to the room without an olive shell that morning. Instead, I had peace and a promise that He is working on the mosaics of my family’s lives.