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Beware Cheap Grace

The thing about debtors is, they owe you.

Debtors aren’t debtors because of misunderstandings.  (Or oversights, inconsideration, or failed communications.)   Debtors are the people to whom you could say, “You abused me.  You took advantage of me.  You injured me.  You were wrong.  You owe me.”

Debtors didn’t offend us;  debtors owe us.

If, when you consider where you should extend forgiveness, you think first of workplace foibles – of excusing tardiness, dismissing gossip, and generally tolerating annoyingness – then your struggle isn’t unforgiveness.  Your struggle is being too easily offended.

If it’s lack of common courtesy (or sense) that burns you up, you don’t need to forgive as much as you need to get over it.

I am wary of extending cheap grace and calling it forgiveness.  I’m afraid that, when challenged by the doctrine of forgiveness, we choose to forgive foolishness, because it’s too hard to forgive debts.

Cheap grace is:

“She took my baby name even though she knew I wanted to use it, but I forgive her.”

“He clocks out early every day and I have to clean up alone, but I forgive him.”

“She didn’t text me back, but I forgive her.”

Of course these offenses should be resolved, lest bitterness take root and brotherly love erode over time.  But if these are the sorts of things you pride yourself in forgiving?  Well, that forgiveness didn’t cost you much.  Your personal preference if anything.  It’s cheap grace.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could politely tolerate annoyances or learn to let go of frustrations.  Frustrations don’t require the shedding of blood to be set right.  Nobody ever had to die to make up for being kind of a jerk.

But the debt we owed to the God who requires justice?  That debt had to be paid in blood.  For generations God’s people slayed a million lambs on a million alters, sin offerings, blood in their place.  They did it right up until Jesus put an end to it.  He was the spotless animal, the sacrifice – the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  When Jesus died in your place, He didn’t do it because he was frustrated with you.  He did it because you owed a debt you could not pay and live.

He demonstrated radical, scandalous, unthinkable, could-only-be-divine grace.  And it cost Him.

The gospel is not a story of cheap grace.

So as I live out the gospel, I dare not cheapen it.

“But where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.”  The bigger the offense, the bigger the forgiveness.  That’s how it works in God’s economy.

To forgive our debtors will cost us.  If it doesn’t cost us, they weren’t debtors.  Real grace is anything but cheap.

//

I had this post half-written, waiting in my drafts, when I saw this article from the New York Times called “Portraits of Reconciliation.”  I saw the first image and my heart broke and leapt at the same time.  I knew, “It’s time.

The piece is a collection of portraits of victims of the Rwandan genocide with their perpetrators.  The perpetrators that killed their husbands and fathers and children.  The perpetrators that burned their houses down.  The perpetrators THEY FORGAVE.

This is not cheap grace.  This is huge, agonizing, torturous loss, and huge, lavish, unimaginable mercy.  It was difficult for me to read, because my insides ache to think what this kind of forgiveness costs.  But it challenged me.  It forced me to consider my own ugliness – that I am first a sinner, and only then sinned against.  It reminded me that people can do hard things – and God can do impossible things.  It reminded me not to settle for cheap grace.  I hope it reminds you, too.

Dominique Ndahimana
Perpetrator (left)

Cansilde Munganyinka
Survivor

NDAHIMANA: “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

MUNGANYINKA: “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide. There were more than 50 of them, and they built my family a house. Ever since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbors.”

You can read the whole New York Times Article, and see more photos, here.  I recommend it.

 

Wherein Henry Ford is a Smart Guy


Intentions are good.  More than good, they’re great.  They indicate consideration and thoughtfulness and all the good your heart longs to do, and would, if you had unlimited time…and money…and energy.

But intentions always beg the question – “Now what?”

This morning I was all caffeinated and feeling sunshine-y and optimistic and generous.  I thought about all the people I could pop in and say hello to (via text or email or something, because, 2014).  I thought about encouraging my friends, making lemonade for the roofing crew, buying extra classroom supplies for Madeline’s teachers, baking with the kids for our neighbors.  I was driving along, feeling very pleased with myself for being so virtuous and kind, when Bob Goff popped into my head.

“Love does, Kate.”

Sure, love thinks, love plans, love intends – but then love does.

There are too many days that I allow myself to feel like a good person because I know what a good person would do.  I think, “You know, it would be really nice to invite that refugee family over to dinner.  That would be a loving thing to do.”  And I pat myself on the back for it!  Is that not the most insane thing you’ve ever heard?   I think, “A good person would do this.”  And then I don’t do it.  And I STILL FEEL PLEASED WITH MYSELF.

But I don’t think I’m alone.  I think intentions are deceitful and our hearts are prideful – and I think that’s a recipe for apathy and selfish inaction.

So as I drove home this morning, I resolved to DO something.  To do at least one loving thing.   Because I want to be a loving person, and love does.

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”  And when I die, whenever that may be, I want to leave a legacy of love.  The fragrance of Christ, following me wherever I go.

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-16, The Message

 

But God

God is surprising.

Which is strange, since He’s also the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I think the reason that God is so surprising to me is because a creature as flighty and unfaithful as myself cannot comprehend that kind of constancy.

At my very best – my most gracious, magnanimous, disciplined, and most faithful, I still find the persisting goodness of God INCOMPREHENSIBLE.  How could anything be so unyielding?  Everything bends under the right conditions: granite, titanium, diamonds.

But not God.

This is why, no matter how many times I hear it, the gospel still makes my heart beat fast.  My breath still catches in my chest.  I still cry all the time.

Because, really?  Still?

It’s too sweet.  Too much love, too much mercy – it’s too good to be true – except it’s not.

And peppered throughout scripture are two little words that that point to this astonishing constancy of God – to His, as Sally Loyd-Jones writes, never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.

These two words make me lean forward in my seat –into the story.  They make me whisper, “Oh! This is the good part.”


They are the surprise I know is coming.  Like the flips inside your belly when you free-fall on a roller coaster:  you know it, you’ve felt it, you see it coming.  But then IT IS, and it thrills you again, anew, every time.

“They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.” Nehemiah 9:17

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8]

 These words are carried through scripture, from start to finish, on the river of God’s mercy.  They speak to both his immovability and to his great compassion.  How improbable that those two qualities would coexist.  But they do.  But God.  He is immovably compassionate.

“But God” means who He is and how He is is completely independent of who we are or how we are.  Oh, you are a traitor?  Adulterer?  Murderer?  Zealot?  Racist?  Christian-killer?  BUT GOD.

God is the independent variable.  You can change, tweak, and alter everything else – but not God.  He is out of your league, literally.  You can do or be whatever, fill-in-the-blank, but God.

“But God” means He can give grace lavishly because He gives it on His own terms.  He loves us because He is loving, not because we are loveable.  He loves us in spite of ourselves.  I love the despite-ness of God.

Oh, we are rotten?  But God.
Oh, we were dead in our sins?  But God.
Oh, we are unfaithful?  But God.
Oh, we deserve death?  But God.

“But God’s” punctuate my own life, marks of His hand, evidence of his care.  My whole existence is a series of “This happened to me, but God.  This is what I feared, but God.  This is where I hurt, but God.  This is what I did, but God.”  I can’t imagine two more hope-filled words.  They are full of promise.  Because, no matter what horror or chaos or evil you are surviving, “BUT GOD.”

God is supreme and above and immovable.  He is gracious and merciful and lavishly loving.  Nothing is impossible for Him; nothing is too hard.  He makes streams in the desert; He makes ways where there are no ways.

 ”All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  [Ephesians 2:3-5]

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20]

“Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.”  [Acts 10:28]

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”  [Luke 18:15-16]

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” [Psalm 73:26]

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  [Matthew 19:26]

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  [Romans 6:23]

It should not surprise me, but it does.
Every time.
BUT GOD.

 

Relax Your Butt

Sam fell asleep in the car this afternoon, and I opted to try to transfer him to his bed instead of following my traditional course of action, which is to listen to music and text and generally avoid responsibilities in my car until he wakes up.

Bringing a sleeping child inside is a risk – the parental version of Russian Roulette.  There are so many factors working against you:

-Seat belt maneuvering
-Car door noises
-Cold
-Wind
-The darn birds

Each obstacle that doesn’t yield a screaming baby is a Russian-Roulette-caliber sigh of relief; it is hope and life and an hour of nap time to accomplish things.

I lifted Sam onto my shoulder without incident; he was exhausted, and all 30 lbs of his two year old self pressed heavy into my chest.  I laid his blanket over his back to shield him from the elements – one of my hands tenderly, protectively on the back of his head, and the other bearing his weight under his thighs.

Halfway between the car and the house, I felt Sam stir.  I felt him flexing and releasing his legs, his butt, over and over, fighting for sleep.

Now here is the delicate balance, the dangerous dance:  You must get to the bed ASAP, but without increasing your heart rate enough for the child to sense it.  You have to move quickly, fluidly, and silently with a little bit of a waddle, so that your bent knees absorb all the bumps and jostles.

When Sam started to squirm, I picked up the pace and whispered, “Shh, shh, shh, don’t wiggle.”

He kept on flexing and squirming, trying to carve out a warm, safe space in the crook of my arm.  ”Shh, shh, shh.  Relax your little butt.  I’ve got you.”

Then I said, ” Trust my arms.  Trust my strength.  Trust my love.”

And I felt a familiar surge in my chest.  The God-speaking-surge.

How many times has He whispered those words to me TODAY?

“Kate, stop wiggling.  Relax your little butt.  (How glorious that in relation to all the cosmos in the hollow of His hand my butt is very, very small.)  Trust my arms.  Trust my strength.  Trust my love.”

I am a strategist and an energy-preserver and I work really well within structure and flounder outside of it – and that makes me a wiggler.  That makes me want to know what’s going on and why – not so that I can control it (I tell myself), but so that I can prepare for it.  I’m very flexible as long as I know exactly what is going on.  (So, about as flexible as an anvil.)  I say, “Jesus, your will be done.  But give me a heads up as to exactly what your will is, so that I can adjust my attitude and my expectations and generally get on board.”  I get agitated when God does not consult me about His plans, or at least update me.  A little common courtesy is all I ask.

But that’s not how faith works.  For who has known the mind of the Lord?  And who has been his counselor?  Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out.  (Romans 11:34 & 33)  Faith is not for the faint of heart.  And God tells me, every day, some days more patiently than others, every time I stop for long enough to listen:

 Stop wiggling.  Relax your butt.  Trust my arms.  Trust my strength.  Trust my love.  I can carry you.

 

The Good Stuff Sticks

In case you missed it, I wrote a post over at the walk in love. blog earlier this week.   It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and something for which I’m desperately grateful:  the good stuff sticks.

“The chancellor of the university I attended used to say, “You have more bad days than good ones.”

I love that.

Because, if not bad days, then at least blah days, right?   Or side-tracked days, or I Yelled At My Kids Again days.

But remarkably, even with all the blah, frustrating, and downright awful days, people keep on doing extraordinary things.  Dreams stay alive.  Hard work – creative work – keeps happening.  Marriages hold fast.

People keep climbing Everest and keep having babies EVEN AFTER THEY KNOW HOW HARD IT IS.  Like, they know about running out of oxygen, and excruciating cramps, and pushing bodies past their physical limits,  and wondering why they thought this was such a good idea in the first place – and I’ve heard Everest is tough too.

Last month I took my daughter to Snow Mountain for her birthday.  It was 58° outside.  Y’all, don’t hate, that fake snow was magical.  There was tubing and sledding and snowman-building.  There were Christmas tree s, lights, snowballs, train rides, and hot chocolate.  It was straight out of a freaking postcard …until…”

You can read the rest of the story here!

 

 

We Carry Each Other

This week I gave away my kids’ baby clothes.  12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and approximately 1 million memories worth of baby clothes.

I used to dream about MAKING BANK at a yard sale.  My little first-born, type-A heart wanted to WIN at yard-saling.  I wanted to plan and organize to infinity and beyond: outfits washed and pressed and hanging by size.  Or folded neatly into Zip-Lock bags, labeled and organized by season.  The cutest clothes, the best prices, the best signage.  Lord knows that between Madeline’s wardrobe and our Thomas the Train collection we could fund our retirement.

But then I remembered what it felt like to be twenty-two with a surprise baby and no money and a tiny apartment states away from every single person I knew except for my husband.

What it felt like was numb everywhere, all the time, with a heaping side of Crippling Fear and a tall glass of If I Stop Moving I Will Die.  I remembered the faces of the people who gave me storage tubs and trash bags full of little girl clothes, and of how many seasons I didn’t have to buy winter coats.  I remembered how it felt to be carried along.

It felt like a sisterhood, like hope.

Suddenly making bank at a yard sale didn’t sound so rewarding.

Last month I began to pray for a family.  I asked God to send me a family to bless, to whom I could say, “Here.  You don’t have to buy winter coats this year – or next year – or the year after that.”

Through my friends and some of you lovely readers I found a 16-year-old expecting a baby girl this December.  I found an adoptive mother of 2 baby girls, one of whom is in chemotherapy.  I found a Ukrainian couple, too far from family, expecting a little boy in November.   I found a single mom, a brand new mom in grad school, and a mother of 5 under 7.

I folded and packed 12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and 1 million memories worth of baby clothes, and I shipped off every last onesie – every last dress and little pair of moccasins.

I believe that it is more  blessed to give than to receive.
I also believe that giving hurts sometimes, and I think it’s glorious how often blessing and hurt coexist.  That the things that hurt you can bless your socks off.

Giving away my babies’ clothes didn’t sting, like I was losing something I needed, but it ached, like I was losing something I loved.

The evening after I shipped the first box, I was sitting on the couch feeling achy and nostalgic when I got a message from a blog reader titled “ONH.”

Mercy.  These are my favorite emails, even though they are always fraught with fear and sadness.  This reader told me about her baby, eight months old, who doesn’t see like other babies see.  She asked me about crawling and about introducing solid foods and about how we made it – how we are making it.

I wrote answers that seemed to come from a lifetime ago – things I would have forgotten had I not taken the time and discipline to remember.

I wrote about physical therapy and introducing textures and early intervention.  I remembered how it felt to be twenty-two and to learn that my surprise baby had a surprise diagnosis - how it felt to go from knowing precious little about mothering to knowing Absolutely Nothing.

I remembered the faces of the people that told me they were sorry.  The people that told me I was brave, and that everything was going to be okay.  I remember the people who introduced me to their surprise babies with surprise diagnoses, and the people who carried us.

Friends, we carry each other.  People carried me.  People carry me still.  I carry people, too, which makes my heart feel fuller than about anything else I do on the earth.  (Except for maybe kissing my kids’ dimples and stroking their cornsilky blonde hair.)   I could have consigned all those Ralph Lauren rompers for money, but I would have been poorer for it.

What I’m saying is this: if you have tubs of clothes sitting in your attic or your basement or in the tops of all your closets waiting for an eventual yard sale, maybe start praying for a family to carry.  Then just ask – the need is everywhere and it is great.

If you have a story, tell it.
If you have wisdom, share it.
If you have experience, lend it.
We carry each other along.

On How Discipline Is Saving Me

I’m blogging over at Middle Places today, about wishing I had a reset button, and how exactly one goes about recalibrating her life.

“I wish I had a reset button, like those microscopic rubber buttons on the backs of alarm clocks and internet routers.  I wish my belly button worked that way, that someone could poke me with a toothpick or the end of a bobby pin that’s missing the plastic bubble that keeps it from drawing blood on your scalp, and I’d default back to ground zero, fresh and shiny.

But I don’t have a reset button, so I’m going to have to do this the old fashioned way…

This year I tried to tweak my habits, adjust my schedule, to function in this new life, but what I know is that you can’t build a brand new picture with the same old pieces.  Tweaking and adding and shifting gave me juggling, balancing, and multi-tasking.  And while juggling, balancing, and multi-tasking is a great way to survive, it’s no way to live.  I am crafting a brand new picture that includes a beautiful, surprise baby and a beautiful, surprise writing career; I need new pieces.  I need a reset button.

A vacation won’t do.  Neither will new apps, a new deadline, or more coffee.  Those are tweaks; I need a fundamental change, a shift in the tectonic plates.  

And the ancient secret to shifting one’s tectonic plates is radical self-discipline…”

You can read the rest here!  

Do For One

Trying to be a moral person feels like a minefield some days – there are just so many things one is supposed to care about.  And not just care about – pray about.  And not just pray about, but mobilize for or against.

For starters, I am supposed to care about, pray about, give to, and advocate (passionately) for or against the following:

Tornado/Tsunami/Earthquake victims
The homeless
Communities with no access to clean water
Communities with no access to basic health care
Communities with no access to life-saving vaccinations
Every child within 6 degrees of separation of me that has a chronic or terminal illness
Third world poverty
Global hunger
Hunger in America
Sex trafficking victims
Orphans
Children in the foster care system
My own children
My marriage
Genetically altered foods
People that have never heard the gospel (every people group individually)
Global warming
Puppy mills
The police department, fire department, and our troops overseas.
All children with special needs
At risk children and the failing education system
The drug epidemic
Cancer research
AIDS research
The crisis in Syria
The conflict in the Middle East
The crisis in Uganda
Persecution
Marriage Equality
Abortion

The truth is, I do care about these things, about the people involved and the implications.  I’ve prayed about them too – mostly (I can’t say that I’ve stormed the gates of heaven over puppy mills or genetically altered food).  But let’s be realistic: if I tried to pray for all the things that I’m supposed to care about every day (or even every week) I wouldn’t have any emotional energy left to, I don’t know, BREATHE.

I suspect that we could fill the state of Texas with well-meaning people who are paralyzed in their compassion because it’s just too much.  If they opened their hearts up, opened their schedules or their wallets up to every need, they would not survive it. In the Cinderella movie, Ever After, Prince Henry says, “I used to think that if I– if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I’d go stark raving mad.”  I’ve felt this tension so acutely, haven’t you?

The liberating truth is that you don’t have to care about everything, at least not in equal measure.  You are not a pie chart that has to be divided equally among the needs of this world.  The truth is that it’s okay to have a focus, a purpose – in fact, you were created for one.

The following concept unparalyzed me.  It returned unto me my compassion and generosity, and it freed me from indecision and guilt.  This concept helped me to reconcile my inexhaustible feelings with my very-exhaustible resources.  The secret is this:

“Do for one person what you wish you could do for everyone.”
[Andy Stanley]

I cannot donate to the victims of every natural disaster – so I will do for one precious family what I wish I could do for everyone.
I cannot support every missionary – so I will do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.
I cannot mother every orphan; I cannot love every child that hurts – so I will do for one what I wish I could do for everyone.  God, how I wish it.

I can’t send every greeting card.  
I can’t attend every wedding.
I can’t take every flight or visit every friend.
I can’t devote fervent prayer to every lost soul or every suffering saint.
I can’t buy pants for every homeless person.

I could never advocate for every cause that touches my heart, because they all touch my heart.  But I can do for one person what I wish I could do for everyone.  I can do the next right thing.   The fact that I can’t buy groceries for all the single moms should not dissuade me from buying them one time – for one mom.  It is foolish, if not cruel, to withhold goodness simply because we cannot give the same goodness to everyone.

One of the beautiful things about the body of Christ is that it functions as a body.  Each soul a cell.  Each with a different purpose, a different burden, a different area of passion and concern.  And when every soul does the next right thing, when every soul is free to do for one person what they wish they could do for everyone, the world gets loved well.

 

 

Grace Gift

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.” 
[Psalm 16:6]

Some of the best gifts in life are the gifts you didn’t think to ask for.

The thing about Henry is, I didn’t plan him.  I wanted a third child, definitely, but I didn’t want to find out I was pregnant on the day we told our church/town/family that we were moving states.  Or the month I accepted a 3-book offer from a publisher.  Or before Sam’s first birthday.

But the thing is, if I’d gotten pregnant a year from now, there is no guarantee that our chromosomes would have matched up in exactly the right way to bring me Henry.  I would have had another child, but he wouldn’t have been Henry.

Henry was chosen for me; he is my grace-gift.

And now, I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask for him.  He is my favorite thing.  Holding him on my chest and nuzzling his baby hair while he snores is my favorite thing.  Why did I not think to ask for this?  To beg for this?  If I had been in my right mind, I would have begged.

What I’ve found is that this grace-gift sucks every opportunity to whine right out from under me.  Because no matter how many children are crying all at the same time, I can never say, “Why did we think we could handle this!?!?”  Because we didn’t.  God did.

In my most blind, frustrated moments I still cannot say “We made a mistake with this three kids thing!”  Because we didn’t.  This was not shortsighted planning; this was in spite of our planning.  This was an “I know better than you do,” straight-from-God gift.  There is no room left for frustration – only gratitude.  Because what if we had not been given this gift?

Some might say “I can’t imagine my life without him,” but that’s not true for me.  I can imagine my life without Henry, and it makes me sick with anger.  It turns me inside out with ache and longing and loss.  That life would have less love in it, and how could anyone ever go back to less love once she’s tasted it?

Henry is the good thing that I did not deserve.  He is the good I did not foresee, the good I did not think to ask for, but was given because God has lavished sweetness on me.  Lavished.

He handpicked these babies for me:

Madeline, my wild little sparkle.

Sam, the baby I asked for.

Henry, my grace-gift.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Gotta Go Through It


We’re going on a Lion Hunt! (We’re going on a lion hunt!)

We’re not scared!  (We’re not scared!)
Look what’s up ahead!  Tall grass! 
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Gotta go through it.
Swish, swish, swish.

“Going on a Lion Hunt” is still a favorite story of mine; it’s rhythmic and suspenseful and fun.  But now, as an adult, it is also my mantra: what I whisper to myself when I feel the tendrils of despair start to curl around my heart.

All of my favorite people have been through some stuff – terrible, awful, heartbreaking stuff.  I’m proved right every time I meet a new person whom I instantly like; the more I get to know them, the more I learn about the stuff they’ve been through:  chronic illnesses, serious depression, betrayals, affairs, ugly divorces, deaths of children, addiction, cancer.

I like them,  I’ve learned, because those terrible circumstances create something beautiful inside of us.  Something  precious is forged in our hearts as we walk through the difficult, painful places.  The gauntlet strips off pretension, pride, insincerity, piousness, and anything false.  Underneath we find gentleness, humility, wisdom, compassion, bravery, and indomitable strength.  Refined by fire, the Bible calls it, burning off the dross, leaving the gold.

There are no shortcuts to that beautiful, beautiful countenance.  You have to go through some stuff to get there.

Just like there is no shortcut to a baby; you have to go through labor, and morning sickness.

Just like there is no shortcut to a Thanksgiving table full of well-adjusted grown-up children; you have to go through the Terrible 2′s.

There is no shortcut to seasoned love; you have to go through the fights – all of them – no giving up.

There is no shortcut to forgiveness; you have to feel the pain to get to the other side.

There is no shortcut to health; you have to trudge through the pain, the meds, the therapy.

There is no shortcut to healing, to moving on, after a catastrophic loss; you just have to keep walking through.

When it comes to the tough stuff of life, the best way out is always through.

So if this season of life seems so hard you can’t breathe, know that while you might come out weary, broken, a little worse for the wear, you’ll shine.  Refined, like gold.  Take a deep, raggedy breath, say a prayer, and steel yourself.  

Because you can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
You gotta go through it.
 

  

 (source)