More Than Either Or

On this Easter weekend, I have naturally been thinking of Jesus’ last days.  The highs and lows of his time with his family and disciples.  The drama and horror of his trial and death.  The burial process.  And how his family and disciples must have felt in those last days.  They didn’t know how the story would play out, like we do.  They had expected an earthly political king, leading an earthly government in which all things would be set right over their civil and religious adversaries.  But instead of victory, they were given defeat.  Instead of dancing, they mourned and hid.  Historically, their possibilities were to either be a victorious nation under their new ruling king, or to lose their one chance to be free from the tyranny of worldly leaders.  They didn’t see any other possible conclusion – because they knew only what was happening in the moment, not what God had planned for Sunday morning.

When I think back to the last days of Michael’s life there are several things I recall.  Among them is the long night beforehand.  The night before he died I already knew of his decision to discontinue his medical treatment.  The kids had come and gone from the hospital, each one having a chance to speak to him and hear of his decision.  I stayed in his ICU room for the night.  There was no sleeping.  But as I laid there all night I prayed.  I prayed over and over again asking God for one of two things – that Michael would either change his mind, or that God would simply stop his beating heart (he had already agreed to a Do Not Resuscitate order days before).  I knew that if neither of these things happened during the night, in the morning I would have to tell the doctors of his wishes to discontinue all treatment and support.  And I couldn’t bear the thought, couldn’t imagine the strength, couldn’t conceive of how I would be able to go on without him, knowing that I was the one to convey these decisions for him.

The next morning, when the team of doctors came in, they asked if the kids and I would like to discuss Michael’s case there in the room or down the hall in a conference room.  Michael was awake and I asked him if he would prefer we go to the conference room down the hall, thinking he would nod one way or the other.  Instead, Michael looked right at me and mouthed the words, “I’ll tell them myself.”  And he proceeded to relay his feelings, his plans and his wishes for the hours ahead.

I retell this story because each time I think about that morning, that encounter with the doctors and Michael, I am reminded that too often I give God my either/or situation.  I lay things out to God – whatever my need or dilemma is – and tell Him about the possible solutions.  Will God choose either left or right?  Will God say either go or stay?  And much like the disciples some two thousand years ago, I can only see the present with my limited eyes.  I don’t appreciate the additional possibilities that God may have in mind.  Instead of my options for a way to avoid my nightmare, God steps in to give Michael the strength to tell the doctors himself how he wants to proceed.  Instead of the disciples’ ideas of being new world leaders or being hopelessly lost, God steps in to raise Christ from the dead, offering freedom and forgiveness to all the world.  Who saw that coming?

So here’s the lesson I’m learning today.  Don’t sell God short.  Don’t box Him in with option A or B.  Just when I start thinking I have all the possible alternatives figured out, is when God shows me that He is infinitely greater, He is infinitely smarter and He is sovereign over all my worries and fears.  He has solutions that haven’t even occurred to me yet, because I can only see the present.  But He sees all the pieces – from my past, my present and my future.  He works and weaves them together for my best when I trust and rely on Him.  And as I ponder how this week’s problems will possibly resolve themselves, I am reminded that God’s solution may not even be something that I’ve thought of yet.  But it will definitely be the exact solution to fit me where I am and move me to where He wants me to be.

Universal Mourning

One year ago today I posted to this blog asking “Why?”  So many why’s with no answers.

Today I met a young Israeli Jewish man.  He was the same age as my youngest child, born in 1992.  When he was five years old, his 14 year old sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber as she left her school.  Several others were killed or injured.  He is now a student at Tel Aviv University but has spent three years as a soldier.  I heard him ask “why?”  He is forever changed by her death.

Also, today I met a Palestinian Muslim woman.  She is a school teacher and mother of six children.  Years ago, her brother was killed, shot by an Israeli soldier.  I do not know all the details surrounding his death.  A few weeks later, another brother, in the depth of his grief, threw himself off a five story building to commit suicide.  She mourns and is forever changed by their deaths.

The interesting part of today was not so much meeting this man and woman.  The interesting part was meeting them together.  They came together to tell their story.  They traveled difficult roads to be in Bethlehem together — the man crossing behind a forbidden border; the woman traveling four hours because she is forbidden to drive on certain roads.  They sat side by side, hugged each other, encouraged one another.

They’ve both been a part of a bereavement group for many years and together they work to tell their story.  There was no hostility between them.  No harsh looks.  No barbed comments or blame.  The Israeli Jew didn’t hate the Palestinian Muslim.  And the woman didn’t look to exact her vengeance on him.  Somehow, each has been able to see that they share so much.  They share loss.  They share having no answers to the “why” questions.  They don’t relate to each other politically or nationally.  They relate to each other as two people who are human and feel sadness, incredulity and even anger.  Yet they refuse to share revenge or retaliation.

Somehow, these individuals have been able to do what powerful governments cannot.  They are living in peace with one another, even helping each other and setting the example for others.   She does not see him as a soldier.  He does not see her as a terrorist.  Each wants the other to have a place to live in this land in peace.  While they say they refuse to forgive, their hearts clearly have undergone a process of transformation which plays out in the way they choose to live their lives.   They choose to live in peace.

They do not find the answers to their “why” questions, but their mourning is used for a higher cause.

Written 3/9/16
Sent from my iPad


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

For many years I’ve heard the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.  I’ve seen it on signs and billboards, bumper stickers and bookmarks.  Each time I’ve thought about the difficulties of the Israeli Jews living in a city under very difficult circumstances, having fought several wars over the last hundred years to be able to have a country of their own — a land that God promised them thousands of years ago.

This is my sixth trip to Israel and Jerusalem.  On my last trip, about a year ago, I met for the first time some Palestinian Muslims and Christians.  It helped me to see a bigger picture than I’ve ever seen before, and to begin to realize the complexity of the situation.  When I wrote an entry to this blog on April 1, 2015, I said:

My best understanding is that God gave Israel a land.  He promised it to Abraham back in Genesis.  And He said the land would be theirs forever.  Forever means forever.  But, can no one else live in the land with the Jewish people?  After all, God’s purpose for choosing them wasn’t just so they could be land owners.  He chose them to bring people to him.  To share their faith in God.  God who forgives us when we repent and trust Him.  How can they bring the world to God if they are isolated in a land?

For the first time last year I began to see Israel as not occupied just by the Jewish people, but Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians.  OK, I thought, this is pie in the sky — and certainly no one who lives here would be in favor of this.  But on this trip, twice I have heard local residents speak of this very thing.  The Palestinian Muslim cab driver who drove us from the airport spoke of everyone living together in peace.  And then an Israeli/American Jewish museum guide said the same things – we can all live side by side in this place.

This is AMAZING to me.  Never have I been taught anything about the land being shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians.  Never have I heard a news report about mixed neighborhoods cooperating and cohabitating without incident.  Yet I’m hearing it from local people on the street.

Now I know I paint a simple picture.  There is still much to overcome and many hurtful histories to be forgiven.  But maybe, just maybe, there is hope for peace in Jerusalem.  Not just a peaceful place for Jews to live in Jerusalem.  But peace between varying peoples, ideologies and faiths as they live in this world city.

So now when I see and hear the phrase “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, I will be praying not just for a peaceful place for the Israeli Jews to live, but for a city to become a home to Jews, Muslims and Christians who live side by side in tolerance, kindness and peace — an example to the rest of the world.

I believe God loves every person, regardless of labels we place on ourselves or others. Now God, help us to love each other.
Sent from my iPad