Too Long

March 8, 2015

I had a dream last night. I don’t remember much of it. In fact, I don’t remember any of it except one part, one piece, that stayed with me after I woke, annoying me like a cat weaving between unstable legs, demanding my careful attention.

The part of the dream I remember is this: A farmer and me. On a small hill, looking over the vast fields in front of us. The air was thick and heavy like the Nebraska stillness that comes right before a storm. It was hard to breathe. But this farmer and I stood, shoulder to shoulder, looking over the land. I don’t know why we were there. I don’t know what we were discussing. But I remember these words I said to the farmer: “The time from planting to harvest, the time it takes for this to grow, can seem like forever. It seems to take too long. From seed to harvest is way too long.” I looked at the farmer after speaking these words to see a far off look in his eyes and he simply said:

 “Yep. But that’s the only way it works.” 

And then I woke up.

Today after I preached, I spent time visiting with people and spoke openly of the length of this path we have been forced to walk. Of the way the path seems endless and goes in circles and we rarely see results given how much we have invested. I don’t have good language for the ache… the tender place in my soul that functions without words for the pain of watching a child struggle. MY child struggle. People say that we should live in the moment, but sometimes the moment is to heart rending. Of course my brain naturally thinks of a terrible future as well. It’s hard be balanced some days.

I think about my worst fears sometimes. The fear that our son will never recover. The fear that we will go bankrupt looking for a recovery that will elude us. The fear that this only child I will ever have will never be able to fully be in the world in any way that speaks meaning. When the days feel like groundhog day, it can be hard to believe anything else.

Except…

Except that somewhere deep inside me, and yet utterly apart from me too, whenever I near the brink of despair, I find something that speaks a different word. A better word. A small hope that flickers in the dark of discouragement. That maybe, just maybe, this is not the end. That this current circumstance is only part of a story and there are many more pages ahead. It can be hard to believe that when each day looks like the last and tomorrow will look the same. Living on prayer is the only thing that gets us through. And even our prayers are sometimes wordless moans and cries and shaking in fear.

The way is long. Too long. We end our 17th month of this battle this March. And there is no ending to the battle in sight. And I am impatient. Very.

I think it’s easy to talk about having patience. We tend to talk about our impatience when we have to wait in line or we run into traffic when in a hurry or when we want Christmas to come. We laugh embarrassed that we got so worked up and vow to do better at having patience. But those instances hold nothing compared to circumstances of suffering. Suddenly the sermons about having patience in those everyday encounters seem trivial. The guts of suffering draws out the truth about patience.

That it’s hard. Harder than we dare to even imagine. It can feel hopeless and dark. It can feel like God has decided he’s run out faithfulness for the time being and we are on our own. It can feel excruciatingly painful. It’s strange to me how I can know in my head that God is faithful but my experience of life in the moment screams otherwise. It’s a good thing faith is not based on emotions or we would all be lost.

The Scripture says that suffering produces perseverance. That perseverance produces character. That character produces hope. I like how the Message puts it:

             There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even              when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how

troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that

patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue,

keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.

In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left

feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—

we can’t round up enough containers to hold

everything God generously pours into our lives through

the Holy Spirit!

We want to think that endurance and character are forged in easier times. But they are not. They are forged in the wait. They are forged in the crucible of pain. In the times when waiting for the outcome, for the harvest, for the change, for the results, is long and hard. Suffering has this amazing capacity to stretch us open and wide and ready for what is next or to shrinking us in bitterness, anger and cynicism. I probably experience both on a regular basis. But I want know that this season has good in it. I want to know that this season has meaning to it. Almost as much as I want to know that this season has an end to it.

And if you were to press me, I would tell you that the farmer is right. In order for new things to grow, in order to reap what has been sowed, it takes time. It takes as long as it takes. That’s the only way it works.

When I am most scared, I remember this. That the only way through this is through it. That all seasons end. And the question is: when this season ends for us, however that will be, who will I be? Who will you be? Who will we be? And who will God prove to be?

So I suppose, if I must be here, then I want here to count. I want here to matter. I want here to grow something. I want here to be where I run into the wilds of a God who is constantly growing something new. I suppose, if I must be here, then we might as well plant good things. If we must be here, then we must learn to wait for the harvest. And dream about what goodness God will make to be.

***

We have been pledged $200 by the end of the month which means we are less than $1500 away from our goal for our son’s medical costs. If you have been touched by our story, please feel free to walk with us by giving to our fundraising account. Regardless we welcome your company and prayers, your thoughts and love in whatever form they take.

 http://www.gofundme.com/iansmedicaljourney

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