The fall of 2012 will always remain in my memory as a season of tragic loss for me. I don’t recall another time where I felt so stripped down, empty, and so utterly alone. Despite the beautiful colors of fall, signifying that year’s harvest coming to a close, I was not willing to take in the spiritual meaning behind God’s unbelievable creation.
Instead, my heart was overcome by the reality that life as I knew it would never be the same. Becoming the guardian of my nephew, my divorce, and the death of my sister all happened within the two short months of August and September of that year. There were probably beautiful moments that occurred during those months as well, but the pain of loss overpowered any fingerprint of grace that God had laid before me.
Love — the very thing that keeps all our hearts beating and the reason why we all exist — took on a deeper meaning for me. I saw the chapters to my life story being rewritten right before my eyes. I always had dreamed of the happily-ever-after kind of life, but now what lay before me was everything but that. Instead, love seemed to be walking away. I could not understand why God would allow my sister to struggle with addictions that ultimately resulted in her losing her son, my marriage of 24 years becoming another statistic, or the death of my other sister at the hands of another. How could all this loss be an indication of God’s redeeming love?
Ironically, each moment that I grieved and struggled through the healing process of each of these events, I could hear God whispering to me: Will you trust me? Even in this? Phew, trust him! I felt as though I had nothing to stand on. Not only had I lost my identity as a wife, but my family now became more fractured than ever. How do I comfort my nephew in the midst of my own suffering? Or my children, who lost the only security they had ever known? Or my other nieces and nephew, who lost their mother so tragically? As a child, you seek to find comfort in the arms of your parents when you are in pain. What does that look like for them now? What does it look like for me? I knew deep down in my heart that my heavenly father never allows suffering to exist without replacing it with gifts of love. But how could I take what I know to be true and embrace it?
Romans 8:38-39 states: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NLT).
The love revealed in Christ Jesus required sacrifice. Sacrifice of his very life on a cross. Not because of anything he had done but because of what we had done.
When I picture Jesus up on the cross, I am reminded and humbled by his words moments before his death: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24 NIV).
Jesus shows us nothing but love, but in spite of that, we still choose to walk away sometimes.
Similarly, there is no guarantee that those we love today unconditionally will love us in return tomorrow. We all have the potential to be betrayed, hurt, or discarded as unworthy. Whether the pain we experience from love walking away is through our own choice or another’s choice, God can use it to create a beautiful picture of what it means to be redeemed. Webster’s Dictionary describes “redeemed” as meaning: “to buy back, to recover, to exchange, to make up for, or make amends for.” God exchanged his life for yours and he will ultimately recover and make up for the love that walked away from you.
I challenge you not to focus on the love that may have walked out on you but to prepare yourself for the love that will walk in.
In the case of my nephew, love walked in when I surrendered to God calling me to be his legal guardian. I was fearful of the sacrifice it would require of me, an already single mom struggling to feel love myself. I was sure I did not have the strength for that kind of journey. Similarly, the loss of my marriage was redeemed through the love and support I received through the Divorce Care ministry at my church. As a participant, pouring out my shame and brokenness to others who understood was healing. As time went on, God allowed me to help lead the ministry and be the one pouring love into others. Many times, my heart is heavy as I share in the pain of those walking this journey, but the grace of God has blessed me by witnessing them not only find healing, but a relationship with him.
The sacrifice of my sister’s death resulted in four recipients being given the opportunity for a second chance at life through Lifesource, the organization responsible for arranging the harvesting and implantation of viable organs. We have received letters from the woman who was blessed with my sister’s heart. She was 64 at the time of her transplant and had been on a waiting list for two years. She had struggled with issues ever since she was a six-year-old girl when it was discovered she had a hole in her heart. Multiple surgeries, pacemakers, and other procedures helped prolong her life but left her with many physical limitations. She knew that eventually her time would run out. Since her transplant, this beautiful woman has been able to reclaim her life and work again to bless others through volunteering for organizations that she is passionate about. Because of the love that tragically left our lives, this woman is walking love into the lives of those she touches.
My life following the fall of 2012 has definitely been a time of deep trusting. Not just in my heavenly father for the plan he has for me, but also in others that I get close to. God has shown me a depth of his love I have never known before, for that I am grateful. I have learned to grieve all the loves that have walked away out of my life, but I also have been blessed to savor the beauty of all the loves that have walked in! God really does give us beauty for ashes.
Lisa is a single mother to six children, guardian to her nephew, and grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren. She is passionate about God, family, people, and music. She works for a local jeweler as a custom wax carver/designer. She enjoys creative endeavors, the outdoors, and staying fit as a group exercise instructor. Lisa believes it takes a certain amount of vulnerability for people to trust you. When you can share your dreams, fears, and scars, you share a piece of your heart.