Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

The last few weeks have been difficult.  Last October was a bad-health-month (like a bad-hair-day, only like 1000 times worse), and it seems that this October followed suit.  Maybe my illnesses have least favorite seasons.  Being sick feels manageable some fraction of the time, but over the past month, it has NOT felt do-able.  Yesterday was particularly bad, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I felt poured out, wrung out, and blown-dry with a hair dryer.  I had what felt like nothing left.  My husband was shivering in bed with 102-degree fever, sputtering, “Is this what chills feel like?” My children were acting like the three-year-old and two-year-old that they are, and I was dancing on the impatient side of parenting.  I was not savoring each moment with them, that’s for sure.

Bed time is sacred time at our house.  We read, rock, and sing about Jesus. The kids have special song requests, each one gets his and her own time in the rocking chair with mom, and I get to sniff their sweet little babyish heads before bed (I think that baby head-sniffing works better at calming my adrenaline rushes than any medication that I have found).  In between Jesus songs, my daughter usually comes up with deep questions that I am not prepared for, like, “Mommy, what is death?”, or like, “How is Jesus going to come out of my heart so that I can sit on His lap and rub His beard like I rub daddy’s beard?”. I stutter and stammer for a few minutes, and then God in His wisdom usually helps me communicate some little nugget of truth that hopefully her three-year-old mind can comprehend.  She deems my response acceptable, closes her eyes, and settles her fair curly head into the bend of my arm, safe and comforted, trusting that she knows enough now to rest for the night.

Bedtime last night did not feel sacred. I was an unholy terror, and I hurried and scolded my kids, stretched too thin in all angles.  I just wanted to go to bed and have the day over. I was hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I was done fighting.  Rocking a child, however, seems to be the antithesis of hurry.  The act of sitting in glider with my son and singing a JJ Heller lullaby was enough to snap me out of my impatient self-centered focus. I pleaded with God to help me to be present with my children, at least for the final few minutes of their day. I sniffed his freshly washed hair for a couple seconds longer, and laid him in his crib with his blessing: “May the Lord bless you and keep you…”.

My daughter met me at the chair, and asked for the Jesus song. Which Jesus song?  You know, mom, the one where Jesus is REALLY BIG.  Where His face shines.  I sing the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, and she sings the chorus with me word-for-word.  After the song, my big-hearted prophetess child says with the concern and agony of a 25-year-old, “Mom, why does it feel like Jesus isn’t here?  If it is so dark in this world, and Jesus is light, He can’t be here, can He?  And Jesus is too big to be in my heart.  He’s not in my heart.  He’s too big.  He would break my heart.  Is Jesus not here?”

On this night, October 31st, a night of darkness, when barely three-year-old daughter questions the existence of her Savior, my throat swelled, and my eyes filled, and I said, “Baby, I know how you feel. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like Jesus is here, but He is.  I promise. He promises.  And it is dark, but His light is here.”  I said a few more things.  I felt a lot more things. She asked a few more despairing questions, and she finally settled into the tension of not seeing yet believing.  She was okay.  Jesus was with Her.  She could rest.

I laid her down, tucked her princess comforter around her tiny body, blessed her, prayed over her and her brother, closed the door, and sobbed.  OH, I know how she feels, but I never imagined that she would feel this so soon.  But God met me in her questioning.  In this dark night, full of pain in all forms, God met me through the need of my darling daughter. He answered my despairing questions through my own mouth as  I answered her despairing questions.  We will keep trusting.  He is present. He is good. He loves us.  He is sovereign.  My sweet dreamers will learn to trust and hope, as I am learning to trust and hope, in the One who is present, gentle, and faithful. We can’t always see, but we know because we have seen undeniable manifestations of His goodness.  We therefore

Turn our eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  (Helen H. Limmel, 1922).

The Music Teacher

You were the music teacher at a private, Christian, upper-class school.  I am sure that you weren’t on the lookout for signs of abuse and neglect in your students.  You met the rush of children ages five through thirteen with grace, enthusiasm, compassion, and a love that cannot be forced.  You were nurturing and committed to your students. You kindled the sparks of talent and love for music and birthed flames that grew into wildfires in the children that you cared for so gracefully.  You probably weren’t too concerned for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and which children were unsafe in their homes.  You were focused on breaking through the exteriors and hitting that chord in each heart that the Spirit created for music.

I don’t know if you ever think of that girl from the mid-nineties, the one with frizzy hair, unable to look you in the eye.  She was slightly overweight, but in her appraisal, she was obese.  She was the one who just didn’t fit in with many of the other kids, but she kept her head down and didn’t try too hard to be known.  Being known carried with it its own set of risks. I wonder if you noticed that she was the first to show up and that she lingered extra long, waiting to be the last to leave your once-a-week music class, hoping for one last encouraging smile.  Or if you caught a glimmer of the deep, desperate longing in her eyes as she silently pleaded with you to rescue her.  Or if you saw the deep shadow of shame that fell over her as she warred within herself over the need for connection and the belief that she was not allowed to reach out to adults.

I wonder what you thought when you, in the midst of packing up your bag at the end of the day, found that same frizzy-haired, awkward eleven-year-old girl shuffling into your always-open door for no apparent reason. You probably had better things to do and places to be.  You were incredibly busy. Did you read between the lines at all?  Did you hear the words that were unspoken?  That her home was unsafe, that she prayed every night that Jesus would make you her mom, and then repent for praying such a horrendous prayer that dishonored her own mother?  Did you know that the love that you showed this girl in that one hour a week plus some after-school chats was about the extent of the love that she knew in the entirety of her life? Did you know that you were her life-line?  That without you, she might have just drowned in the stormy sea of her tortured existence?

Did you know that you were Jesus to this girl?  Did you know that you saved this little girl’s life?  She may have seemed inconvenient or difficult to love.  But you cherished her in a way that she had never before been cherished.  You saw her when she thought that she really wanted to be invisible.  You were a nurturer when those who were supposed to nurture were in the business of torture.

It has been 22 years since you entered that private school to teach music, and it has been that long since this lonely broken girl showed up in your classroom.  There is so much that you don’t know about her.  But you didn’t have to know it.  You were the heart of Jesus for her, and she cannot and will not ever forget you.

 

Remember Your Hope

Child, beloved, remember your hope.

There was life before the hell, and there is life beyond it.

It swallowed you whole, because you were so tiny. You had yet to learn words, trust, attachment.  Thus, your words, trust, and attachment developed twisted, intertwined with death and torture.  It is woven into your personality, into who you believe that you are.

But you are not death. Remember your hope.

The darkness wrapped it’s shadowy arms around you, seeping into your brain, intertwining into your neuropathways, tying knots around the wires, threatening to rip out your very existence if removed.

But you’re of the light.  Do you recall the hope?

There was light before the darkness.  There was pure love before the perverted love. There was hope before the despair.  There was good before the evil.  You belong to the light.  You are a child of the light.  The darkness kidnapped you, ripped you from the womb, and claimed you as its own.  But the Light has sought you out.  He is your true Father.

The darkness wrote EVIL over your heart, but within your heart is written the code of GOODNESS. Remember your hope.

Do you remember the melodies of your heart?  The deepest ones that the darkness could not deprogram? The ancient songs that the evil ones could not touch? Do you remember the rhythms that pulsed within the womb that beat with truth, beauty, light, and love? Do you remember the chords of His love?  Your heart, created for song, throbbed with life which was never quenched, could not be quenched, by the unspeakable evils.  The silencing powers of darkness failed.  Your song still pulses with every beat of your unbroken heart.

Sing your song of life.  The silencers are silenced at His music.  And His music is yours.

This is your hope, beloved.

God is the Ruler Yet

As a child, I clung to music as my lifeline in the midst of unlivable situations.  My family had two lives.  One was Satanic.  The other was Christian.  I find this incredibly difficult to reconcile.  I assume that the church-going, Bible-thumping lifestyle was a mask for the dark nightlife for my parents. For me, however, Christ held me together.  Hymns and worship songs were my mind and soul glue for as far back as I can remember.  I was driving to therapy this morning, listening to a Pandora station, when an old hymn popped up. It was re-written with a more contemporary flare, but it whisked me straight back to age four or five.  I remember, as a child, weeping when I listened to this song on my children’s worship cassette tape.

The soul houses a language that goes oh so much deeper than mere human words can extend, and I believe that music reaches just a little bit deeper into our hearts.  There are ancient harmonies that, I believe, predate the creation of this planet, that our immortal souls ache for.   This is only a theory that I have, though I probably derived it in part from the great Madeline L’Engle.

Nevertheless, while listening to my Pandora station, “This is My Father’s World” began to play.  In my heart, a cacophony of grief, joy, comfort, agony, anger, and gratitude erupted.  How could all of this be sparked by one simple hymn? I tried desperately in that moment to figure out how as I child I could have experienced such heights of spiritual rapture and depths of demonic torment even within the same 24-hour period.  As I was wondering this, I heard the line, “This is my Father’s world, oh let me never forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

The wrong was strong.  It was so strong.  It almost killed me.  It tried to steal my soul and rip apart my brain, but God is the Ruler yet.  Still.  Even in the face of crazy terrible evil.  Somehow, He is still good.  He still loves me.  He is still all-powerful.  One day, I will understand.  One day, I will see it clearly.  One day, light will destroy the dark.  One day, right will un-do wrong.  One day, death will be no more.  Somehow, in the midst of all of this, God is the Ruler yet.  I don’t get it, not it all.  But I know.  I know that He is the Ruler because the ancient harmonies are still being sung. I could hear them when evil people were trying to destroy me, and I can still hear them.

“This Is My Father’s World”

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. 

This is my  Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rock and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning bright, the Lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world.  He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world; Oh let me never forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. 

This is my Father’s world;  Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King, let the heavens ring! God reigns, let earth be glad!