Please note: Chris (aka my editor) likened this blog to a slice of Maggiano’s Zucatta cake. It is deep and rich and should be eaten with slow bites. It is the kind of thing that should possibly be shared, and should not be rushed unless one wants to end up with a stomach ache!
When we spend time with people we pick up their “isms.” “The struggle is real,” is a phrase I have adopted from our newest intern at Restoration Gateway. Most often when using this phrase, she will find an ironic twist to a first world problem and playfully quip, “the struggle is real.” After yesterday’s killer workout, she exclaimed, “the struggle is real!” The next day, (bless her) she admitted, “the toilet struggle is real!” (One too many pistol squats I believe!)
Never have I found more appropriate words to describe this beloved place. In Uganda the struggle is real.
I met a super cool chick in Uganda last spring who endured a devastating adoption story. Her story ended unexpectedly and tragically: She lost the opportunity to move forward with the adoption of her son after a few shorts weeks of knowing him. Today, a bright-eyed, boisterous Ugandan toddler inhabits her home. Another son. Another part of their story.
Five hours north, I visited the grave site of a tiny one month old girl. Her precious family lived two houses down, and were dear friends. No strangers to heartache, they provided strength and understanding after we moved to Restoration Gateway and quickly lost our two children within weeks of arriving. Just one week ago–this same family welcomed a tiny precious infant girl in to their home: Cherish Truly.
The super cool chick and the family from RG no doubt believe the struggle is real. Yet recently, both had especially happy events transpire in their homes.
I thought about all of the Happily Ever After stories that we are told should happen. I started thinking about how TRULY happy I was for the adorable brown-eyed boy…and for the tiny little pink princess born in Canada on Valentine’s day. My next thought was, man, we want and believe we deserve a Happily Ever After story. We might even say these words in response to their hardship: “Wow, God redeemed their broken story!”
But the more I started to think about the word redemption, and the more I started thinking about their stories I thought…nope. That is just not it at all. We want to pretend we know the heart and mind of God. We want to have a happily ever after feel good story, because somehow it makes the pain less painful.
If someone broke in to my home and gutted the place and left me only a broom to clean up the mess they had made; and the next day a brand new fridge and couch arrived at my door step, I would still have experienced a serious violation and loss. One does not REDEEM the other. Simply because something good happens (within the same genre) of the bad we experienced, doesn’t make it a redemptive story.
Wait, doesn’t the good REDEEM the bad? There is good, but it doesn’t negate the bad. Both serve purposes in our lives. Actually I would say, quite inexplicably, God does not apologize for hardship or suffering. He certainly does not say, “sorry about the heartache, here is something good.”
Job lost everything. He is KNOWN for his loss. At the very end of his story it is explained that he remarried and had many sons and daughters and lived an abundant life blessed with good things. Does his prosperity negate the first half of his story? The devastation? The pain? Fourty-two chapters covered the painful story he is known for–it is doubtful he forgot. As a matter of fact I am betting this experience shaped him. He was never the same.
Very often the bad makes US good. We find redemptive PURPOSE in the pain.
There is something about those people that endure the inexplicable. Their journey is almost unfathomable–and yet they still end up choosing the side of God despite the heartache? Those people inspire us. They are authentic in their doubt and pain–which allows us to feel more sane when we have the same doubts and fears. There is something about them…something edgy but irresistible. They bring something to the table of faith that few offer. They make us wonder about our own faith journey. Our guides, if you will, give credence and hope to our own struggle.
I had begun to believe, I must put the pencil down. I needed to stop depressing those around me with another exhausting, heart-breaking story shared along our journey. I have GOT to find at least a small battered bow to put on top. Some strand of happy strung up in twinkling lights. Some sort of silly story providing a smile; anything to prevent you from slamming your computer shut and refusing to have another cup of coffee with me! I want to find happy for fear that my friends, family, and those who bop over to my blog, will lose faith in the God I serve. Cause honestly, the struggle is real.
But friends, the stories of the super cool chick and the Canadians from RG remind me: by telling our stories, we give courage to others. It is our stories and how we respond to hardship in life that draws others in…and points them to a Hope that is beyond our understanding. It is our transformation (the never the sameness) that occurs following our hardship that gives our struggle worth and value. We are not the same. Others are not the same.
Redemption by definition is something reserved for the eternal. But our job is to continue to struggle. In the struggle we find purpose and personal transformation.
In this world…the struggle is real…but take heart, He has overcome the world. John 16:33–JenniEllisCockerhamVersion
I hope to leave you feeling full and satisfied with a bit of a sugar high. Cause everyone needs to enjoy the richness of “blog zucatta cake” every once in a while!
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,