When was the last time you cried? Do you have to think back hard on that one, or has this question caught you with puffy eyes in the aftermath? Were your tears born of a broken, wounded heart or the overflow of pride and joy? I would have to admit I have recently had both – and they happened on the very same day.
Oh, summer… those three months of heat that warm my body and joints also warm my soul. All year, I look forward to rising temperatures. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s in those heat waves that my body finally releases some of it’s pain and some of it’s limitations, and I am free! I am free to can everything the garden supplies (plus some). I am free to be outside at fairs and tractor pulls and enjoy the warming rays of the sun. Most excitedly, I am free to leave my bed that, at times, feels so imprisoning.
Yet this summer, the pain hasn’t eased up and that freedom I long for hasn’t arrived. Frustration consumes my heart all too often and suddenly without warning, the tears flow freely. I cry for all I feel I have lost and for the disappointment of the unfulfilled expectations of the joys I have come to look forward to. Anxiety wells inside me, for the release in pain was also the release my heart needed to recoup it’s weary, burden-ladened pulse.
One morning, pain caused tears to come faster than I expected and disappointment consumed me. Yet, there was no time to settle into their release, so I quickly wiped them away and distracted my pain. After all, there were more important things going on that day. That morning was the first swimming lesson for our 13 year old son.
He and I were both nervous as we walked to that pool. My son didn’t want to take swimming lessons and he kept begging me to not make him go. I gently told him it was going to be easier than he thought and he is going to learn so much. After all, I wanted him to tackle his fear and settle into the water with joy and the satisfaction of conquering that overwhelming fear.
What followed was exactly what my heart needed to see. Our son, who has never even had his face in the water, was swimming under water within 10 minutes from the start of that lesson. And do you know why? He trusted the instructor and he listened and obeyed his every word. Even if he was scared, he took a breath and did it. Not one word of complaining or fear came out of his mouth. The sweet instructor just taught and my sweet son obeyed. I cried that day. I cried hard that day. Yes, because my son was tackling a deep rooted fear, yet also because I understood what God was whispering to my heart.
I love how God can use the very words out of our mouths to impact us in our own brokenness. The conversation my son and I had before his lesson rushed back to me as those flood gates released. I understood the fears and resistance my son felt, as I felt the weight of their overwhelming burden, too. I, too, found myself begging to not go through this. So the tears flowed all the more.
Yet scripture reminds me that Jesus was overwhelmed, too, in the garden of Gethsemane. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Matthew 26:38. Then Jesus, when facing a certain, horrific death, in his humanity, fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39. Jesus showed His readiness to bear that load of suffering, and submit to the will of God. And do you know why he was so ready to submit? Because He knew the bigger picture. He knew it was for our eternal redemption and salvation, which was so much larger than His momentary suffering. He did this out of obedience to His Father, not because He wanted to endure that pain, but because He knew it was needed to fulfill the will of God. I can’t imagine the strength that must have taken to submit to that cross, especially knowing the immense pain He was about to suffer. Yet His willingness to submit to God’s will overcame His human nature to bypass suffering.
None of us want to suffer, do we? Even swimming lessons to a scared teenager felt like suffering too intense to bear. Yet, in my own hurts, God was promising me that it’s not going to go in vain. He can see the bigger picture, as I could with my son’s fear. Though I may be scared and overwhelmed, I am going to learn so much, as my sweet boy did. Yet, the key is to obey and submit to his will, whatever that may look like. My son didn’t second guess or complain, he just complied. He didn’t freak out in that pool and say he didn’t want to do what was being asked of him, he just listened. He just trusted. He just obeyed.
My heart needed to slow down and receive this message. Submit, comply, trust and don’t complain. Is it really that simple? Yet, my heart was caught in a net of dissapointment and suspended in pain and I couldn’t seem to break through.
Have you ever caught fish with a long net stretched out across a river? Me neither, but I have watched it on one of our favorite shows. The part that looks the hardest is getting those fish untangled out of that net. Sometimes it takes them a while to get them free and sometimes it’s very easy. That seems to be true with our brokenness. Sometimes I find that my painful dissapointments are easily released back into the unknown (or into the frying pan), yet every once in a while, I have one get so tangled in my heart’s net that I can’t let it no go matter how hard I try.
But if swimming lessons taught me anything, it’s that it’s not up to me to get those tangled hurts free. It is God who I have to allow to untangle the pains hurled at my heart, whether that be physical pain, disappointment from unfulfilled expectations, or emotional hurts. And just like the fish in the nets, some are larger than others, yet the key is to hand them over to our Father and submit to His will – His perfect and peace-filled will. It’s only there that we find the peace our hearts so desperately seek.
I’m not a swimmer myself, yet as I submit and hand over my expectations to my Father, I imagine Him sitting in a lounge chair with those same tear-filled eyes I had with my son, watching as I navigate through the deep waters of my pain, fears and burdens. I imagine the smile on His face as I pop up, amidst the deep, to shout the same words my son exclaimed, “I didn’t know I could do this! I didn’t KNOW I could do THIS!”.
Sometimes I still cry over my unfulfilled expectations of summer and of life, yet now I can acknowledge the need to quickly allow my Savior to take hold of them and untangle the hurt they are causing. Yes, at times I still feel overwhelmed, yet held. I still feel broken, yet surrounded. For I know that although Christ suffered on this earth, He served a grand purpose made complete by submitting to the will of God. And that grand purpose saved me, it saved you, and it saved that beaming 13 year old boy in the pool. And if my suffering can bring God glory, then I will just grab my heating pad and my Excedrin and be content to submit to His will – His perfect and loving will. After all He’s done for me, I’m happy and honored to let His will be done.
My sweet Jesus, thank you for loving me so intensely and so personally that you could use everyday circumstances to speak to my heart. Thank you, Lord, for always making your voice clear, and your words piercing to the wounded heart this fallen world has created. As I crave your insight and your ways, please help me to not judge my own brokenness, but to simply hand it over to You. When I am overwhelmed, Comforter, help me to seek your guidance. When I am distraught, Savior, help me to seek your peace. When tears are all that will fall, my sweet Jesus, help me to surrender to your perfect will. Help me to rest in your grace-filled arms when this world seems too much to bear and the weight is too heavy. And the days I can happily shout “I didn’t know I could do this!” are days that taste the sweetest. Thank you for your unending lessons Lord, that may seem overwhelming and scary at the time, yet joyful as I am freed from the nets. In your precious and beautiful name I pray.
“Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5