Lesson from Nature: Moving On


“Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites…This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:5-7,24)

I don’t know what each person intended by stacking his or her cairn on the beach. Some might have simply thought it looked fun or challenging. Others might have done so in remembrance of something or someone. Each stone, each stack was different. But to me, they meant something. Despite not knowing the motivation behind each and every one, they were a reminder of the lesson God taught me about setting standing stones for Him. Not literal stones, but certainly spiritual stones. As I wrote in Pure Emotion. It started with a painful experience, signified by a large, unavoidable stone…

I dealt with it the best I could (which looking back, seems like not dealing with it at all), and I moved on. A few years later, I could feel it poking at me again. I felt like I was right back at the rock even though time had passed. I felt as if I hadn’t grown or healed with the passing time. So I worked it out again, a little differently, hopefully a little more deeply…and I moved on. Again.

A few years passed and it started sticking out again. I trudged back to the rock. Repeated coping and healing. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. It was an exhausting process. I didn’t think about it much in the “in between” times, but each time I trudged back, the effort and pain caught up with me. Each time I thought I was ready to move on. Each time I was caught off guard with the pull back to the rock.

And then, several years ago, I’d had enough. I felt the sharp poking, and I knew what was coming. The exhaustion set in, and I wasn’t happy about it. I was downright angry and said, “God. Why do you keep pulling me back to that place? I thought we’d dealt with this!” I clearly heard his answer in the depth of my soul: “Susan. I’m not taking you back there. You’re trudging back there on your own.”

What?! Why would I put myself through the agony? Yet I wanted to learn and grow, and I was tired of the weariness, so I listened. And God taught.

Consider the trauma like a burn. I’ve never experienced a severe burn, but I understand it’s excruciating. When someone suffers a severe burn, the focus isn’t on reconstruction. It’s on easing the trauma and stopping the burn. No reconstruction can immediately take place. The swelling has to subside. Tissue has to heal. And then reconstruction can take place…after some time.

From what I understand, the reconstruction can be more painful than the original burn. I’m sure there are some similarities. Just as I felt the pull back to the original pain and trudged back to it, a burn victim might feel that initial trauma. Similar pain, but different. The healing that’s taking place couldn’t have taken place at the time of the trauma. But it feels similar enough – and might even feel more painful – and it brings up all kinds of excruciating pain.

After the reconstruction, time must pass in order for the swelling to subside and tissue to heal…in preparation for yet another reconstructive procedure, at which time the process cycles yet again. Feels like the same pain as the trauma. Perhaps worse. But it’s another stage of healing.

And the process repeats itself. Perhaps a little different each time but part of the same journey.

I thought God was pulling me back to the original trauma. But he was healing me a little more along the way. He knew I needed rest in between. He knew it was best for the healing process – and still is. My journey of healing isn’t over, but now it looks like a series of standing stones. You see, each time God worked on me, there’s a monument to commemorate it. I move on from the stone. If I were to camp under it, I wouldn’t need the monument to remind me of the journey. Instead, the stone reminds me of the relationship I have with God. He works on me, and I set a stone of remembrance. And another and another. I keep journeying. Instead of trudging back to an earlier place along the journey, I can stand right where I am, turn my head, and see a line of standing stones as a testament of the dependability of God. I can see and declare, “God was there for me. And there and there and there. He brought me here. And He is here with me, too. I can depend on Him for everything at every place along the journey.” Praise God!

Emotions are moments, not monuments.

We can be pulled back to monuments we’ve erected when we’re experiencing emotional responses. Current pain reminds us of past pain, and we return to the monument. Current frustration reminds us of a pattern of frustration, and we return to the monument. Current fear reminds us of past fears, and we run to hide behind the monument.

But today’s emotion isn’t yesterday’s emotion. Similar? Yes. But if you’re growing in your relationship with God…if you’re asking him to reveal His godly emotions to you and reveal the discrepancies between Himself and you…if you’re drawing closer to the center of His will, your emotions of today only have hints of yesterday’s emotions – an aftertaste. And today’s emotions are a mere appetizer of tomorrow’s emotions. God has a feast planned for you!

Are you ready to move forward, assured in His presence and provision, and savor what He has for you, right now?

The UnBirthday Party

Some of the Church Ladies recently visited Mabel. The Church Ladies are a group of women who serve and support women in need – usually women who are going through medical treatments, bedrest, surgery recovery, etc., but we also help community ministries organizations as well as women we can encourage by cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening…or listening.

Mabel is one of those one-in-a-million ladies. She has poured into people for years. My family sat in front of her the first Sunday we visited the church we now attend, and Mabel took a sincere interest in our young girls. Her genuine attention made a lasting impression on us.

Mabel has lived with pain for many years, but she’s rarely let it slow her down, either physically or emotionally. However, lately she’s been able to leave her house less and less. So a group of us decided we’d plan a party-on-the-go for her. Her birthday isn’t close, but we decided we could celebrate her life any day of the year. Happy UnBirthday, Mabel!

We met after church and packed our cars with a variety of items for a lunch smorgasbord. We tried to keep it simple, so we could pack up the leftovers and leave them for Mabel’s meals for the week. We took paper products, so there was no need to dirty any dishes. And who wouldn’t want fresh flowers? So, we included those as well. We wore our Church Ladies shirts as we traipsed into the house. We’d asked her ahead of time if we could visit, but I think she was still surprised to see the extent of what we had planned.

Mabel said she wasn’t hungry…but she ate a full plate. We visited for over an hour, answering questions to keep her updated on church happenings and listening to stories about her family and recent visitors. We shared memories and laughter…and planted seeds for helping in other ways.

But no matter how much effort we put into encouraging Mabel, at the end of our time together, we felt we received more encouragement than we poured out. As usual, Mabel opened her heart and shared her life in an offering that God accepted, multiplied and showered onto those around her.

Every year, we celebrate birthdays. Living another year is cause for celebration, but each day in between our birthdays are equally worthy of celebration. It’s in the moments of those unbirthdays that we have the opportunity to share laughter and lives with others, and when we do, something wonderful happens. We feel a weight is lifted, nearly as if minutes and days rewind and help us experience a renewal. We’re refreshed and rejuvenated.

As we sang Happy UnBirthday to Mabel, her eyes twinkled, and she proclaimed, “You just made my day!” Perhaps, Mabel…but you made ours as well.

Already, the one who harvests is being paid and is gathering crops for eternal life. So the one who plants and the one who harvests celebrate at the same time. John 4:36

Who will you encourage today? Many people have unbirthdays today. Celebrate with someone!