a spade a spade, a heart a journey

It’s Friday, and it’s noon as I start this blog. People often ask how we’re doing… I figured I’d write something up. This update will mark the end of me using CarePages for updates – CarePages is for patients, and we are no longer that. If you’ve been following our story via CarePages, please subscribe to TheMatthewsStory or BecauseofEzra for updates going forward.

How we are requires a fluid answer, and I will write my thoughts today… it will be a read. Feel free to skip this update if you’re not into self-reflection and/or spiritual thought.

There’s not a word that describes “how we are”, and “how we are” changes quickly and often. Robyn’s mom told her from a very young age there’s no “right” way to grieve. Grief classes and groups will all give you their preferred book, worksheet, or tip chart, etc.  The reality is every situation is so different, even when it’s the same – no one shares the exact same history and situation, and we all react differently. Personally, I am compelled to do a few things. I look inward, trying to make sense of the questions and loss. I look toward God for answers, but I think I will eventually receive peace rather than answers. I try hard to make myself available to my wife, who has her own set of thoughts to move through. She and I need each other’s brokenness and strength equally, to both open the door to express these thoughts and to step one foot forward after the other. Love dictates we don’t tell each other what to do, but stand next to each other as we experience this, talk it through, and let each other know it’s alright.

Our struggle is just as real as yours – I believe it is in fact the same – and we fail just as any man or woman does. We live life attempting to understand more, and trying to be a better person today than we were yesterday. We all shortchange ourselves by trying to define where we are or where we are going – we should find peace in the motion of life, in the stillness of life, in the search of God (not for).

So how are God and I? I almost decided not to write this thought process, as I’m not sure you actually mean it when you ask. It’s easier for people to see us as people who simply continue to believe God is good despite all we’ve been through, and write our whole story off as a sad and inspiring story of faith without question. It would be unfair to you for me to say I don’t struggle with the outcome of this past 14 months. I come from a background where I’ve seen miracles happen, and I have a strong foundation of knowing God is real. So how do I reconcile that with losing two sons? How do I explain the tens of thousands, perhaps millions of prayers which were directed toward God asking for healing in Ezra and Price, and then losing them? Is there such a thing as the Christian cliche of a “hedge of protection” (which comes from Job 1:10)? Is nothing promised aside from Heaven?

Some of you will be disappointed or offended that we question these things. You’d be surprised just how many people are ready to tell us how to feel and think. But some of you need to hear it. Need to hear it’s ok to question. I heard a quote once which said something like “if you’ve never struggled with your faith, I doubt you have any.” I’ve heard it called foolishness – this faith, this belief in who God is despite the inability to answer the questions of “why” we all have. Why did Abraham get to keep Isaac in Genesis 22, and I didn’t get to keep my own children? We all have these questions – my childhood best friend’s dad died after 3 years of living in a coma. Robyn’s dad died of cancer when she was 9. How many died in Haiti? Ezra, Price… Layla Grace… we all have a story (at varying levels of personal involvement) of tragedy which we have trouble reconciling with who God is. And yet, I have felt Him. I have seen God move, and continue to believe He is real, and is in fact who the Bible says He is.

The problem we have is this picture of God as Santa Claus. This creeping, far-reaching, poison philosophy that an insistence on God, a life dedicated to a continual focus on Him, means nothing more than a free ride to Heaven and a sense of superiority in our “right” decision. Blessings and safety in everything we do. We’ve turned God into a seminar on sociology. We go to church to learn how to be a better citizen, rather than to be challenged to have the mindset of Christ. We define our views of people based on how they fit in our checklist of what a “good” person is, instead of realizing Jesus would probably much rather be hanging out with the ones we write off. We feel good that we’re being good, and pat ourselves on the back for filling the parking lot once a week to watch the lights and hear the band. We tell each other how challenging the “word” was, and we ignore the injustices of the world another week and show back up next weekend. Tony Campolo put it interestingly. He stated a fact – 30,000 kids die daily from malnutrition. Then he cursed from the pulpit, followed by saying what’s worse was more people were bothered by the curse word than the 30,000 kids. I’m not advocating swearing from the pulpit in referencing that – I’m trying to illuminate this false priority we put on fitting a checklist of don’ts over living like Christ and bringing relief to the hurting in our lives.

Let me beg you to go read Isaiah 1:13-17 and Acts 2. I feel just as guilty as anyone – but if you ask me what I’ve got through this thing we’ve been through, one sure takeaway is to call a spade a spade. To ignore this mandate to be societally correct, and instead to live like I believe. Can we all please stop picturing a church, and be the church? Jesus’ disciples were mostly people we would be uncomfortable with on the staff of a modern church – look up their histories. JESUS would probably be laughed out of most board meetings.

Anyway… so I guess we’re “alright.” Charley continues to do awesomely. The Because of Ezra foundation is shaping up to do some awesome stuff. My business is growing a ton this year and I enjoy putting time into it. Weather is good, and many of our friends are starting 2011 with good new ventures that are doing well. I am always excited to see people doing well. There’s pings of jealousy when I see a healthy family in the park, as I’m sure you get when you see success in any areas you’re struggling in – but I work to be disciplined in “capturing these thoughts” like 2 Cor 10 says and always be excited for the good in people’s lives, as I am for the good in my own. You know – it’s good to be healthy (not just physically, I mean spiritually, maritally, financially, etc). Be glad when you see it in folks’ lives. Jealousy is worthless.

Until next time…