The Best of 2010: Return to Center
Maybe you missed this post the first time around. Maybe you’d like to see it again.
Welcome to The Best of 2010.
Welcome to The Best of 2010.
Original run date: January 13, 2010
In the fall of 1998, I knelt in front of my blue denim couch in the family room of my Florida home, and I prayed. I don’t remember the time of day or anything else about that day, except I was on my knees begging God for clarity. After months of barely existing following the death of my son, I was on the brink of a new phase of healing. I had no idea how this prayer and the answer I received would shape the rest of my life.
Losing Noah broke me in places I didn’t know could break. My child’s absence left me questioning every single thing I previously knew about faith in God and His goodness toward His own children. The ache of this loss surpassed anything I had ever experienced—before or since—in both intensity and duration.
I’m not sure how true this is, but I had always heard that God will have us repeat certain circumstances until we learn the designated life lesson of that circumstance. For me, that was frightening news.
And so, partly out of desperation and partly out of fear of future pain, I knelt in front of my blue denim couch and asked God—a God I wasn’t entirely sure had my best interest in mind—to answer one simple question:
“What do you want me to ‘get’ from this trial so I won’t need to repeat this life lesson ever again? Please tell me. Say it clearly. I’m listening.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting to hear. But I can tell you, after what seemed like a lot of silence from the mouth of God regarding the death of my baby, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. If He did say something to me that day, I was expecting maybe something about changing my stubborn will or fixing my rotten attitude. Or perhaps something about shutting my big mouth or keeping control over my bad temper. There was so much in me to fix, I was sure God had a nice long laundry list of things He wanted me go “get.”
Immediately after I cried out this sincere prayer to God, I heard an answer so clear, it may as well have been audible. In the depths of my heart, I heard God say,
“Love God and love other people.”
Now, for most of you, this may be a no-brainer—the whole love God, love other people thing. But for me, I wasn’t even sure it was scriptural.
I’m not sure where I had been the previous 12 years of serving in church, but it wasn’t there. Whereas most believers center their lives on loving God and serving others, I had gotten entangled in a lot of doctrinal debates over proper methods of water baptism and whether believers in different denominations were truly “saved” if they didn’t interpret certain passages exactly like my church did. In fact, I had spent countless hours (years, even) in one chapter of scripture trying to figure out if it was OK for women to cut their hair.
I’m not kidding even a little bit.
And so…needless to say…I sort of missed the whole point of Christianity. And in the aftermath of the worst life storm known to a mother’s heart, God wanted to make sure I understood what really mattered to Him more than anything else. More than baptismal formulas or denominational barriers or lengths of hair. More than my stubborn will or my rotten attitude or my big mouth or my temper. What mattered to God more than anything else was simply that I loved Him and loved others.
I immediately opened my Bible and searched for something that confirmed what I thought God said to me.
I’m still not kidding. I honestly didn’t know if it was scriptural.
Imagine my shock when I found this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Well there it was…right there in black and white. (okay, red) Plain as day. How I missed that, I have no clue. But miss it, I did.
I realize my experience is extreme and unfortunate—on so many levels. Trust me, I get that. But I also realize that while you may not be spending your time debating hair length or grieving the death of your child, you may be walking around in a spiritual fog because you don’t understand what really matters to God. In all your attempts to know Him and serve Him and hear Him, you somehow get sidetracked with religion or with life or personal preferences or busyness and miss the point completely: That everything God requires of you flows from first loving Him with your whole heart, soul and mind, and second, from loving other people.
If we aren’t beginning there, everything else we do matters very little. If we aren’t starting there, everything else we do makes very little sense. If we aren’t LIVING there, we may be begging God to speak to us about one thing when all the while He’s trying to bring us back to center. Back to the thing that matters more to Him than anything else. Back to simply loving Him and loving others in the purest sense.
I was "around" during that time and I really don't remember if I was "around" for you as much as I might consider being today. We were a few houses down and I felt your pain. I felt Jon's pain. I can't believe you could attend my son Davis' 1st b'day party holding your head up after you had just lost your Noah. I didn't want you to feel not included, but honestly can't say that I would have been able to do that myself. You have ALWAYS been a SuperSandy in my eyes.
Seeking, almost begging, for God's guidance is an amazing message and I appreciate you sharing that with us today.
Love you all very much!
Your willingness to be transparent and share the "good, bad, and ugly" with all of us is a testimony to the fact that you "GOT" the message of loving God and other people. Your life is a testimony of God's redemptive power and His desire and ability to give "beauty for ashes!" You, my precious Sandy, are a blessing!
You are beautiful, and so is your heart. Love you, Sandy! Love this post.
Great post and your sharing it so honestly with us shows your trust and love for God. Thank you. This is the first time I have come to your blog and will return. Thanks for the reminder in how we are to act and treat others.