Sunday, April 20, 2014

A time to mourn and a time to dance

Today marks 15 years since the Columbine tragedy.

I have to sit and re-read that sentence a few times to really understand it. Fifteen years. I know I am not alone in feeling that, because I have no physical scars, Columbine's place in my life is somehow less. A phrase from The Holiday keeps running through my mind: "the walking wounded." That is how I felt for a long time. But not this year. This year I started listening to that frightened 17-year old Carey. Fifteen years ago I was locked in a room with 60 others waiting for someone to find us. This year I have not only remembered, I have been allowing myself to feel, to mourn, to recognize that no matter how many years pass, April 20, 1999 is a day that will live forever in my life. However it is not a day that should define who I am. (I am working on a piece that will go further into the details of this process. It has been liberating in many ways.)

Quote from the wall of the Columbine Memorial

April acutely affects me. This month I've been short-tempered, more tired than usual, struggling between the feelings that have run me for 15 years and the feelings I know should be in control. But this April has been different than past years and it isn't just because of the healing that has begun. It is because of April 20, 2014.

Today is Resurrection Sunday. Today we celebrate the day that Christ Jesus defied death. He bore our iniquities, died, and then rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Every time April 20 crossed my mind this year I thought "it's Easter." It's Resurrection Sunday. I know the end of the story! The Lamb wins.

Shouldn't that be our focus in the midst of any sorrow or struggle in our lives: the resurrection? We have a Savior who knows our pain, our sorrow, can "sympathize with our weaknesses" (Hebrews 4:15). He was "obedient to the point of death" (Philippians 2:8) and died as "propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10) and then rose again from the dead to live and intercede for us from the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). The sorrows that affect us in this world are real and we must acknowledge them, grieve for them, and heal and grow but not outside of the reality of the resurrection. Christ's suffering, death, and triumph over both should frame our experiences. His truth, grace, love, mercy should motivate our actions and reactions.

So today I mourn a day - an act of man - that forever changed my life and how I interact with the world.

Today I celebrate a day - an act of God - that forever changed history - the future - and affects every aspect of life - yours and mine - for all of eternity. My God lives. No matter what happens to me in this life, that truth outweighs it all.

"I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard."

Psalm 22:22-24

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Clear skies ahead

I cry when I watch Frozen. Not during the scenes you'd expect. It has little to do with loss or joy or any of those other reasons. I don't cry because of the weak plot devices. I cry because I relate. To Elsa. In the Ice Palace right after Anna has informed her sister that their home is cursed by an eternal winter, Elsa sings "Oh I am such a fool! I can't be free! No escape from the storm inside of me." And the tears just come. I can't stop them. Because I know that storm. The storm of fear that rages in me and keeps me from my full potential.

Elsa fears herself, her powers, and hurting those she loves. But what she can't see is that her fear makes her powers dangerous. It controls them. When she runs away from everything, further isolating herself, she thinks she is free. Suddenly her full potential is clear to her because she isn't afraid of hurting anyone. But this is a false sense of security created by running from her fear and consequently her responsibility. She realizes her mistake when Anna finds her. While she begins to rage against herself once again, her sister is telling her they can face everything together. She sings, "we can work this out together. We'll reverse the storm you've made." Though Anna is speaking of the literal snowstorm, the parallel to the "raging storm inside" Elsa, a storm she created through her isolation and fear, is profound. This storm, too, can be reversed when they work together - through love.

Can't we all relate to Elsa? Any sin that entangles us we can get rid of them in artificial, ineffective ways. Then we realize it didn't actually work. It is only when we turn to Love - God - to save us that we become truly free. Men and women weighed down by illness or depression have days when the ice palace is being built and the storm seems to have some purpose and then they realize they aren't truly free from it and the storm rages again.

Like Elsa we keep things cooped up inside because we are afraid of breaking that "perfect" persona that we feel we are supposed to communicate to others. The temptation is to run from responsibility, not face our fears. We are powerful beyond belief, but we allow our fears and our insecurities to keep us from fully reaching that potential. The answer is not running, but rather facing and conquering. We can only do that with God.

Fear is my greatest enemy. I had a friend ask me last week what holds me back from writing. I think there are two things. One is the fear of admitting truth about myself I don't like - will I be understood? will anyone care? Reject? etc. Sometimes I even wonder if I can handle the truth about myself. The second is the feeling that I have nothing to share that anyone would care to read. I may think it's profound or a big deal, but they will all shrug their shoulders and think "What's the big deal?"

Without trust there is isolation. We have to trust others with our stories. We have to trust ourselves. We need people we can trust to help us understand our own potential. Just because we make a mistake doesn't mean we have to quit or despair. We learn, we grow, we change. We need others to help us see clearly. We all need someone else to live for.

Love. Trust. Live. For the good of others. To the glory of God.

This post is a part of a One Word 365 community, Trusting Tuesdays! Have your own One Word? Link up to your most recent post every third Tuesday of the month!