Monday, March 13, 2017

Changing Perspectives - How's This for a Really Good Book?


"Hang onto your faith," Wendy said. "It's the only thing that will get you through."

These words still resonate in my heart. They were spoken long ago in the church parking lot by a friend with whom I confided about the sorrow I still carried with me, long after my brother's death.

And God Himself seemed to deliver that statement.

Back then, I only attended Mass when I felt like it, when it was convenient, when I wanted to get dressed up...I went out of habit, not devotion...After all, I'd been raised going to church every Sunday... 

But after Jim's death I began questioning my faith. Did God really exist? Was God a loving God? If so, then why did my beloved brother have to suffer and die so young? Was there really a heaven? Was Jim really in a better place? 

Despite my doubts, I began to notice something strange...Surprisingly, although I really did feel mad at God for the death of my brother, the only times I felt at peace was during Mass. 

So I kept going to church. I sensed that God was somehow the answer. Since I was unwilling to be miserable forever, I had to find this God.

My search was intentional. It was deliberate. It took effort, it was work. Just going to church wasn't enough. I needed to know this God. I needed answers. I needed peace. 

I'd visit Christian bookstores, scanning the shelves and choosing books that promised to help me find God.  At one point, I bought four small paperbacks containing the Gospels. It was my first jump into God's word.

Then, one desperate and grief-stricken day, I read two passages that changed everything for me. It was like flicking a switch in a dark room, flooding it with light.

The first confirmed I was on the right track, when, in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the disciples that in order to get to heaven you must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. Many followers left after hearing that and Jesus turns to the twelve disciples and asks if they are going to leave too.

“Master, to whom shall we go," Peter said. "You alone have the words that give eternal life.”  John 6:68

I leaned back in my chair and sighed.  I'm with you Peter, I thought. After all, I'd been grappling with this grief for too long. I had no answers. I wasn't happy. There was nowhere else for me to go.

The second story changed my perspective.

In the book of Matthew, I read how Jesus and the disciples were walking toward Jerusalem when he starts telling them that there, he would suffer, be killed and rise again. (Mt Chapter 16:21-23)

Peter pulls Jesus aside and says, “Heaven forbid, sir. This is not going to happen to you!”

Peter's response makes sense, I thought. That's exactly how I feel about what happened to my brother. It shouldn't have happened.

But Jesus' reaction shocked me. He turns to Peter and says: "Get away from me Satan. You are a dangerous trap to me. You are thinking merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s." (Matthew 16:23)

I stopped dead in my tracks. What? 

I re-read it. If Jesus saw something divine in his own suffering and death, could it be that maybe something good would come out of my brother’s suffering and death...something I, like Peter, couldn’t see at the moment? 

The thought was liberating.

Maybe life didn’t have to be according to my own agenda. Perhaps there was another perspective…a divine perspective…and maybe, just maybe, everything really was okay.... 

Wendy was right. I was just beginning this journey but God kept giving me something to hang onto...and I kept reaching for it...

** This image is a page I colored from the book Creative Quiet Time: A Coloring Book For Your Soul by Karisse Schilling. It's amazing fun.

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