Insightful Reading

We are back from a trip to the beach and although I was a little sad to say good-bye to the ocean, I am thrilled to be back home in "almost heaven...West Virginia."

While we were away I finished two books and started a third. All three of these books have impacted and inspired me, which is the kind of reading I love most. These are the books:

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of SortsA Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty   A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

You can click on the images for descriptions, so I won't give you a synopsis of each. And I have not finished Wade's book yet. But all three of these authors have amazing stories of triumph over adversity and heartbreak. I highly recommend them to anyone who has faced difficult challenges ... And who hasn't? These kinds of books put life in perspective and I don't know how anyone could not come away with greater insight, perspective and -- above all -- gratitude after reading them.

I finished Jesus, My Father, the CIA on the drive home yesterday. And I was so moved by several passages that I had to read them out loud to John. Ian Cron (the author) grew up with an alcoholic father with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (full blown). Ian began life loving Jesus. And over the course of his life, he felt abandoned by Jesus as well as his father. The book takes you through his whole life and his own alcoholism.

At a pivotal point in his life, he had an experience that he didn't completely understand and wrestled with for some time. He had a curious vision (completely sober) and heard a voice asking his forgiveness. He didn't know what to make of the voice or who was telling him they were sorry. He wondered if it was Jesus speaking to him, but could not imagine why Jesus would apologize to him. That seemed unrealistic. After all, Jesus is perfect and sinless. Why would He ask forgiveness. He wondered if it was somehow himself asking himself for forgiveness. Or maybe it was that he needed to forgive his father. But he kept wondering if it could possibly have been the voice of Jesus. He asked different people for their insight and got a variety of opinions. But it was this conversation that turned the lights on for him ... and moved me to tears as I read it.

Miss Annie was an elderly black woman we'd met at a church we attended in Denver, where I was in seminary ... Miss Annie and I were standing at a grill, flipping burgers and cooking chicken at an all-church barbecue, when I told her about that night at St. Paul's.

"Miss Annie, is it wrong for me to believe it was Jesus who asked my forgiveness?" I asked her.

She frowned and shook her head, "Lord, what do they teach you at that school?" she said. Then she faced me head-on. "Did God humble himself by becoming a man?" she asked, every word spoken more loudly than the one before.

"Yes, ma'am," I said. I'd never used the word ma'am before, but it seemed an excellent time to start.

"Did he humble himself by dying on the cross to show us how much he loved us?" she asked, waving her spatula at me.

My eyes widened and I nodded, yes.

Miss Annie's body relaxed, and she put her hand on her hip. "So why wouldn't Jesus humble himself and tell a boy he was sorry for letting him down if he knew it would heal his heart?" she asked.

Miss Annie ambled the five or six feet that separated us and took my hand. "Son," she said, rubbing my knuckles with her thumb, "love always stoops."

Let me tell you why reading this impacted me so profoundly. I have never felt like I needed to forgive Jesus for letting me down. It isn't that I related to the abandonment this author felt. For some reason, since my mid-twenties at least, I have believed that if God allowed me to go through something hard, there was a bigger picture and a purpose in it that I would understand later. Even if I understood it much, much later. Or even if I never understood it in this life. I have to say that I do remember feeling like God was unfair sometimes prior to my mid-twenties and that I could never please Him no matter what I did. But I grew out of that early in my life and began to look at life's challenges differently. I can't explain how or why that happened. I just attribute it to God's grace. He knew I needed that grace and that outlook to rise above my own challenges, perhaps. But there is a completely different reason I was so moved by this passage in the book.

Not too long ago, I had a difficult conversation with someone close to me. In that conversation, some statements were made that hurt me deeply. I did not want to be defensive or hurt the person who was hurting me. So I was extremely careful with my words. I was so careful that after I hung up, I got mad. I shared my hurt, frustration and my anger with my husband, my pastor, and one close friend. They each seemed to understand why I felt disrespected and hurt. In all honesty, this conversation left me feeling emotionally manipulated and very much like I used to feel in my abusive marriage. In order to deal with my emotions, I wrote an outline of points I would later address with this person in a subsequent conversation. But I made no effort to pursue a conversation. And I prayed that God would just take care of it because it wasn't a conversation I really wanted to have. But I did want a healthy relationship. And above all else, I wanted to show unconditional love rather than make my feelings the priority.

Sometimes it's hard for a person like me to know when I'm loving unconditionally and when I'm being codependent. But this wasn't one of those times. I wasn't feeling the need to have this person's approval or soothing words. I just wanted to handle it right in the interest of the other person.

I have gone back and forth since that conversation, wondering if I handled it well -- or if I fumbled the ball. Was there a healthier way to respond than the way I responded? Were there things I should have said and didn't? But when I read that passage, I knew the answer was: No. Humility was the right response.

I realize I have grown as a person in that I didn't have to make all my feelings known. It was enough to say I didn't agree with all the conclusions. Beyond that, I just needed to listen and ask forgiveness ... and take my wounds out of it for the sake of the other person. And when I read those words, "love always stoops," I had the confirmation I have been looking for.

I read the passage to John and had to blink away the tears so I could reread the words. I choked up and my voice cracked as I read it to him. I told him, "There is my answer. I was supposed to read this."

You never know what answers you will find in a book. I find puzzle pieces to my own life in nearly every book I read.


Peggy Kitchens said…
Love are too sweet Shari. And as you know me as the sarcastic one that I am... "I thought all of these years I just had bad posture!" LOL Daddy always told us to take the low road. I often wondered why he said that, but I did it because he was my daddy, I learned what he meant. A smile and soft answer turns away wrath.(I added "smile" and that scripture is in Proverbs). It is incredible to me just in the couple of years we have reconnected how much you have grown spiritually. I stand in awe and am truly amazed! Your mother would be so proud of you!! But we both know she knows that already! YOU GO GIRL!