“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.”-Proverbs 19:20
Yes, hearing those around us speak and sometimes not speak; sometimes the latter being louder than the former.
This past week there were stories so tragic, so heart wrenching that they brought tears to my eyes as my brethren shared them with me. More than once I found myself biting my lower lip in order to retain my composure, often failing to do so in the end. Each one imprinting upon my soul another unforgettable memory; an indelible mark upon my soul.
As we listen, we allow those who are suffering and mourning to share and heal. Yet, sometimes the empathy we want to evoke is more painful that even our own mental capacities can bear. A young mother of two losing her husband, a firefighter, was just one instance. The incomprehensible phone call at one in the morning describing the name of your son having died in a wreck yet another. Wiping away the horror of the reality of the tragic news not being a dream and then realizing there was more than one person by that name in your family, then being unsure, having to ask the question again and again, “Which one, which one?” Then the unexplainable and unbearably painful task of telling a loved one of their precious loss; to a mother, a daughter and her children.
There are days in my life that I wonder why God puts the best people in what seems to be harm’s way. Why do the good die young? Why does God allow evil to remain?
I recalled my grandmother’s words at the wake of my dear cousin Michael, only 21 years of age when he died the horrific death of electrocution. As we sat around her kitchen table, somber, mourning and heartbroken, she sat a single flower in a glass of water in the middle of the table. We watched, not knowing, just looking at an action that seemed methodical in nature not realizing there was a purpose. She looked at the flower a moment and then looked up and then at each of us young children and said these words, “Sometimes God has to pick the prettiest flower in the meadow to use in the master’s bouquet.” Somewhere from above, we could feel Michael smiling down upon us at that moment. Suddenly, we felt a little better.
And still, I continued to listen.
There were stories of tragedies so painful that they haunt their keepers years later. A mother recalled how they had rushed to the scene of the incident to find their son passed. The mystery still surrounding the death, the uncertainty and the cause wrapping themselves around the pain until they are nearly impossible to separate. The brother whose soul is tormented by questioning himself, “If only I had been there with him, if only.” The dreams and visions that followed were almost as difficult to hear as the initial loss. With time, one would think the memories would fade, but when the edge of the sword is sharpened through the pain, the lessons learned are not soon forgotten. With each miraculous tale, there was another thread of hope beginning to emerge, as if a light burning from the darkest recesses of our minds.
And still I listened more.
Through one tale after another, I keep an ear open and want to so badly lift the burden from their shoulders, the darkness from their hearts and the despair from their souls. Yet, to try to do it alone is impossible, for there is only One who is capable and to Him we must call in these times of utter anguish and pain. There is only one that is the light unto men, for we were all once darkness, but now we are light.
Time and time again, I hear good people being dragged through the hell of this world until there seems no hope, no reason to carry on. Yet, I try to remind them, the sword cannot be folded on the Master’s anvil without the heat of the forge, burning, searing the metal of our beings until we can withstand the pounding of His hammer as he reshapes us into the new persons we must become. When we give our lives over to Christ, we must die to our former selves and allow ourselves to be remolded, remade in His image. It is never easy, and it will take everything you have within you to make the transformation.
Imagine as Christ died on the cross, the ultimate physical ravages his body underwent before death welcomed Him into the grave. Yes, death was only temporary, for He was lifted up again in resurrection and now sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, unto which we all may seek if we only accept Him into our lives and confess with our mouths and believe with our hearts that He died for our sins.
If we knock, the door shall open.
If we listen, He shall speak.
Listening with an open heart and mind.
This is what I seek to do.