Several years ago, I had a conversation with a friend about what we each prefer to read. I love a lot of different types of books, but I do have a special place in my heart for biographies and memoirs. I told my friend, and gave some examples of the stories that have most touched me — like Gracia Burnham’s story of losing her husband while being rescued from Filipino terrorists and Immaculee Ilibagiza’s harrowing but triumphant testimony of surviving the 1994 Rwandan genocide. But my friend was taken aback, saying she didn’t know how I could read “that stuff.”
It’s simple, really.
I need to read real stories like these to remind me that even when the worst happens, with God, we can overcome.
I don’t really know what made me click a link on Twitter that brought me to Christa Black Gifford’s website. To her blog post about the recent release of her book, Heart Made Whole. On the outside, I’m not a lot like Christa. I don’t look like her. We’re not from similar places. I’m single. I don’t have kids. And reading the description of the book, I wondered how I could relate to Christa or identify with her story. But it drew me in, and wouldn’t let me go. And God’s using her words to change me. And hopefully not just me.
Christa went through one of the most painful experiences I can imagine — having her newborn daughter die in her arms. I’ve certainly never been through that. But as Christa described the emotional place she was in as she went through that physical experience, I recognized that emotional place…
“In this moment — the worst moment of my life — I could allow the inferno of pain to burn at my heart, destroying my soul with bitterness, rage, and distrust.” (Gifford, 19)
I’ve felt flames… Abuse. Rape. Abandonment. Disillusionment. Betrayal. We’ve all felt flames. Mine are different than Christa’s. Yours are different than mine. But we’ve all been singed. I just wish I had known at 8 and 18 and 22 that I could choose what scars to walk away with…
“But I had learned from years of dealing with heart-pain incorrectly — through trying to hide it, numb it, or avoid it — that pain never goes away on its own. It must be embraced, and brought to a Healer….I knew that in these seconds of extreme torture, the choices I made would affect my heart, my relationships, and the rest of my days on planet earth….Inside my broken heart, I made the choice that changed my life. I chose to take my pain to Jesus.” (Gifford, 20)
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, God shows us ourselves most clearly through other people?
Recently, I heard that an acquaintance — someone I think a lot of, but don’t know very well — attempted suicide. During her subsequent hospitalization, she told her family that one of the reasons she attempted suicide was that she didn’t want to burden her loved ones with her problems. My heart breaks for her, but in that, I also saw myself — how I try to protect others around me from the worst of my moods and problems and worries. I don’t want to be an inconvenience. I don’t want to be a burden.
When I look at myself, it’s hard to see this truth. But looking at others’ circumstances, it becomes very clear that when you love someone, you want to share their troubles. You want to help them carry their burden. And even if it’s seemingly inconvenient, it’s not truly inconvenient because the love you have for that person gives you the grace to help them shoulder the load.
If that’s true with the people in our lives, how much more true is that with our Creator? This God that sketched us out in the Heavens and painstakingly formed us in the dust? This Father who breathed life into our lungs and squeezed our hearts to make them beat? This Loving One who waits for us to finish this part of our journey so that He can walk us home when He determines it’s time?
Today, the greatest truth that I carry with me from Christa’s lesson, throughout the rest of my journey, is that I don’t have to walk through the painful parts — the briers and thorns, the storms and the suffering — alone. I can chose to let Jesus help me through it.
This post is a discussion on the first chapter of our book discussion of Christa Black Gifford’s book, Heart Made Whole. You’re welcome to stay and chat whether you’ve read the book or not. Your thoughts and words are always welcome here! If you did write a response to the chapter, you can link your blog post over at my co-facilitator Jason’s site, Connecting to Impact. We’d love to read it!