Today marks the second anniversary of our house fire. The first question most people ask us when they hear we had a total loss house fire is, “how do you survive such a tragic event?” The first answer in the forefront of my mind is, “do I have a choice? What else can I do?” The truth of the matter is I only have a choice in how I handle the situation. My choices are 1) I can get bitter about it or 2) determine to become better through my circumstances.
Truly, the real answer of how to survive ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ is my faith in God. Ah, the old adage ‘my belief in God gets me through it’. Truthfully, it’s not saying those words but actually believing them by acting on them with my whole heart and soul, that determines how true my belief is. This means my actions follow suit with what my mouth says.
I have been pondering what that means. What does my faith in action look like? How do I get my actions to reflect what my mouth is saying?
One way I am able to put my faith in action is to tell myself the truth. How many times have you heard someone say ‘if God is a good God, why do bad things happen to good people?’ Theologians have argued that very thing for centuries. I had always asked myself the same question. It was one reason I went to #phoenixseminary which was to get answers to my questions. Quite honestly, when I left Seminary I had more questions than answers. I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that God is a loving father. When my head starts to think ‘you’re being punished because …’ I immediately stop and tell myself the truth. As a parent, I would never ever want tragedy for my children. I am sure God is weeping with us as we navigate this journey in life. Shit happens. If God intervened in every situation we wouldn’t be humans with free will. We would be puppets with a master puppeteer. Through this trying time God is showing me the light on my pathway to the future. God is a good good father. When questions come to you that make you question that- stop and think about how much you love your own child. (Or if you don’t have kids- how about a pet?). Would you ever want harm to come to them? Our love is imperfect and we love that deeply. How much more does He love me?
Another way I am able to put my faith into action is to focus on what I have gained and not on what I have lost. Yes, we lost our home- but we have been able to build a new beautiful home that we will hopefully be moving into in a few weeks. Yes, we lost our beloved pets, Esther and Ella – but now we have the opportunity to enjoy and love our new fur babies, Millie and Lulu. Yes, our marriage was strong but now our marriage is stronger because we chose to fight the battle of tragedy together.
What do I do when I am weak and I don’t feel like putting my faith into action? I take time to rest, rejuvenate and focus on the truth. I have discovered that for me rejuvenation means creating something. Art, quilts, recovering a chair, making anything old useful again… We are all created in God’s image. Stop and take a moment to look around you at His creation. Giraffes, zebras, frogs, butterflies, trees, cactus… I could go on and on. What thing do you do that gives you energy and when you’re done it feels like no time has passed at all? Take time to do THAT thing more. Especially when you’re feeling defeated.
Finally, putting my faith in action means remembering I am who I am today because of the journey I have been on. Every painful event, every momentous occasion, every nitty gritty thing in my life has molded me into the person I am today. I like who I am today I wouldn’t go back and change a thing because if I did, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. Sure, there’s a lot of room for improvement but progress is the goal, not perfection. Embrace who you are today because of all of your yesterdays.
When you find yourself in the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ stop and ask yourself
- Am I telling myself the truth? The truth about God and who He is, the truth about my circumstances or the truth about myself? Are you focusing on what you have lost or what you have gained? When I lost my brother when he was 25 all I could focus on was the time we weren’t going to have together rather than the time we did have together.
- Are you taking time to rest, rejuvenate and focus on the truth? What is it that God has created you to do that brings you joy?’ Are you able to stop what you are doing and do that thing to help stop that overwhelming shadow. Then ask, -‘what is causing me to be overwhelmed? What about the big picture am I missing right now?’ Then, I remind myself that God wants what is best for me- sometimes circumstances of life aren’t what I want but I know there’s always a learning opportunity through it all. Losing every physical thing we owned was not a circumstance I wanted in my life-but I will tell you this, I have learned more in the last two years than I have in the last 20 years of my life. I loved our home and how I had family heirlooms around to create a safe space for my family. If I focus on all the things we lost, I miss the big picture that because we lost everything we are in a place to build a house that we’ve always dreamed of having. I can buy furniture of my choosing, not furniture handed down to me.
- Are you remembering ‘I am who I am today because of all my yesterdays’? Life’s experience is our teacher. We reflect what we have learned through the years and what life has brought us. Embrace who you are today because of the journey you have traversed.
Grief and tragedy are arduous. It makes you weary and exhausted. If we can focus on telling ourselves the truth, resting and rejuvenating and then focus with anticipation on coming out stronger on the other side of the journey, the road may be a tad bit less bumpy. It is a bitter-sweet place to be…but remember, I don’t want to be bitter, I want to get better.