Reflecting on this blog post today…
You all know that poem, Footprints in the Sand? If you don’t, here’s a link just in case: http://www.poetseers.org/the-great-poets/misc-2/footprints-in-the-sand/
There are so many links! I tried to find one that doesn’t have background music for you 🙂
So, you know the poem, right? Reading it always gives me an opportunity to reflect back. And what better night to reflect than New Year’s Eve?
I’ve had some lows. We all have! Life, even and especially as a Christian, is far from easy, far from perfect, far from what we even hope or dream. And that’s ok.
It took me a long time to learn that last part: That’s ok. My sister taught me that. But she taught it to me in the most unexpected way.
Fourteen years ago this past November, I left for a missions trip. One week later, I returned home to my father cradling me in his arms (I was 19 at the time), telling me my 17 year old sister had chosen to end her life.
That’s when my world fell apart.
I can live as a type 1 diabetic (and have, since May 19, 1986). I can live single, in a relationship, with groups of people, or on my own. I can survive final exams. I can serve in the mission field. See that: I CAN.
It’s not about me. It is all about HIM. And I couldn’t see that until my sister showed me the way to humility, to grief, to ROCK BOTTOM.
So many things, emotions, feelings, questions, doubts, what ifs just FLOODED my mind, my soul. Before the words even left my father’s mouth, “She’s gone, Kara,” I felt myself falling to the floor of the minivan, that space between the two front bucket seats. I knew. God told me what to expect, and I knew. I collapsed. I wept. I BROKE. Life would never be the same. “Why, God?!?! Why didn’t you SAVE her?” All that week I had been praying for her. The day before I left for my trip, her good friend (and as we found out later, he was her boyfriend), had passed away in a car accident. “God, BE with her,” is what I prayed throughout the day, each day I was gone. All that I could think in the moments that followed was, “God, why weren’t you WITH her? Why did you not answer my prayer? Do you even HEAR my prayers?” And thus my faith began to crumble. Doubt set in. What ifs took over my emotional state of mind. I feel rapidly into a cycle of depression, doubt, isolation, sleep, and no self-care. Four weeks later, I went back to college in that same state of mind. My poor roommates…one of them told me that over winter break she had a dream that I was Job and she was Jonah, and our dorm room was Ninevah. Truly! But she came to Ninevah. God bless her for that!
So my cycle of depression deepened. I struggled with suicide ideation, and even had different plans of how I would do it. Most of my ideas had to do with cars. See, her boyfriend died in a car. My sister died in a car. I was trapped.
At the prompting of my roommates (through actions such as spraying me down nightly with Febreeze, tossing me into the shower, clothes and all, at least once if not 5 times, dragging me to the dining hall, and encouraging the chaplain on campus to check in on me weekly), I finally started counseling. Took me a few different counselors before I got comfortable and was able to open up. Getting help is hard work! No, I should say getting the RIGHT help is essential. And it takes a few tries to find the right help.
Ah, I always lose my train of thought when I tell this part of my life. There are so many facets! Oh yes, my faith was crumbling, and fast. I quickly came to the point where I was only going through the motions. Prayers were rote, if I even prayed at all. Sam called me out on that. “When was the last time you actually PRAYED, Kara?” she asked me one night when I couldn’t sleep. I broke down. It had been months. I finally confessed to her the doubt on my heart. “Does he even hear me when I pray, Sam?”
She assured me. To the best of her ability, she assured me. I wept. I wanted to believe. Truly I did. And I did pray that night, but the doubt still lingered.
It took a conversation with my dad to wake my slumbering faith. Dad and I were grieving together. He is the one who found my sister. And he described to me what he saw as he approached her car that night. “I pulled up, and saw her car. Next to her car I saw a man, cradling her in his arms. It was Jesus. Just holding her. And I knew.” He still ran to the car, still flung open her car door, still pulled her out and gave her CPR after ripping his vocal cords calling out to God above and anyone else who could hear, “Help her! God, No!” Jesus held her. He was WITH her. He WAS and IS with her.
In that moment, in that realization, my doubt flew away. Hope and faith were replanted, and growth began. It wasn’t instantaneous by any means, but I FELT it. I felt HIM, whisper to me, “I am here, I was there, and I always will be. I hear you, my daughter. And I always will.” That night, I learned a lot about perspective. MY perspective is NOT God’s perspective. Far from it! God sees ALL. He hears and answers every prayer. We just don’t always SEE or HEAR the answer. What we desire and expect will differ from His will. His answers will be revealed when we can see from a different perspective. His answers are not always, “No” or “of course!” Sometimes, His answers are in a dream of a man walking on the beach reflecting on footprints in the sand. Sometimes they are roommates tossing you in the shower and waiting until you agree to actually bathe. Sometimes, they are through the visions and answers He gives to others. That night, and many nights since, God has shown me when He carries me, when he cradles me, and when he flat out drags me through the darkest and toughest of moments.
I am a survivor. God’s strength and providence have equipped me to be a survivor. It is surely not any strength of my own! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
As I enter 2014, may God continue to equip me. May I lean on His understandings, and not my own. Lord, teach me. I am your servant. In 2014, may my family and I bring glory to You alone!