Setbacks. Thin places. And torn veils.
All of these have interchangeably described the past five months of my family’s life.
A setback. (perhaps the greatest of our young family’s life)
A setback can be described as a “reversal.” You are moving forward, when something spins you around and takes you back a few steps before you can stop it.
In the beginning of October, 2011, Andy (my husband) and I seemed poised to leap ahead in one of the greatest adventures of our lives—fighting for the hearts of others through Rally Point. We had direction, confirmation, affirmation. Even preparation. Then the unthinkable happened.
Saturday, October 8, 2011, ushered in a lazy sun-shiny, crisp fall day. Lavishing in the final weekend of our Fall Break from school, I decided I better fulfill my promise to our youngest who had begged all week to go “4-wheeler riding”—a joy I and my kids grew up with. This would be our last chance before school resumed on Monday. Elated, the kids threw open the shed doors, gassed up, suited up, and had the two ATV’s parked out front and ready to go before I made it out the door!
Overgrowth in the pecan orchard we usually romp and race through
forced us deeper into unfamiliar territory. I rode alone for a bit to scope out
the area. Handing over the larger ATV to my oldest, Drew, and one of our
daughters, I waved the other two girls in on the smaller 4-wheeler and pointed
out the safe perimeters to all of them for riding. When I finished the
exchange with Drew and Emily, I turned around to realize Ashley and Abby were
nowhere in sight. Drew drove off with Emily in search of them.
|Oct. 8, 2011|
|Earlier in 2011|
As they also disappeared into the orchard, I began to hear screams...
My heart stopped with my feet. Above the roar of 4-wheelers in the distance, I couldn’t discern if it was play or serious. The sounds stopped. I assumed they were playing and resumed walking to find a place where I could keep watch, thinking to myself, When they get up here I am going to tell them not to scream like that! It’s scaring me! And to stay where I can see them!
Sickening screams reached my ears again. Drew bolts back into eyesight driving full-speed towards me with panic on his face, and I see Emily racing into view on foot, screaming, “MAMA!!!” over and over in a frantic call no mother wants to hear. Picking up the pace in their direction, my heart sunk when Abby, just ten years old, appeared. From far away I could see the bloody mess from head to toe. Up close, her face didn’t even look normal it was so badly crushed in the center, severely affecting her nose and eyes and everything behind them.
Ashley and Abby had driven into another area of overgrowth in the unfamiliar territory, which completely concealed a deep, narrow, V-shaped ravine over six feet deep, slamming them unaware into the lower wall of it. Abby had taken the brunt of the force to her precious face.
So many crucial things happened in the early moments before the ambulance arrived. I’ll share those details in later posts—but the specifics that unfolded during the wait set the stage for all the thin places and torn veils that were sure to follow us into the hours, days, weeks, and months of this setback.
Author Mary DeMuth writes in her book, Thin Places: A Memoir, that “the Celtics define a thin place as a place where heaven and the real world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond.”
She further writes that “thin places are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity…these are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways.”
He has come so near in the midst of unthinkable pain, in times when all that beat were the shattered pieces of a numb heart. I’ll bear the “how’s” in future posts.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Paul imparts to us the difference of seeing God through a veil verses a face-to-face unveiled encounter. After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Moses’ face shone with a glory that would soon fade, prompting him to cover his face with a veil so that others wouldn’t see the glow dulling. The problem with veils is that they not only keep others from a clear view of us, but they also keep us from having clear sight of God.
Only Jesus can tear the veil and set our sights no longer on the ministry of death and condemnation written on stones, but to see with unveiled faces the glory of God. Suddenly we recognize that God is a living, personal presence desiring to come for us in the hardest of places, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when we turn to the God who is personally present, a living Spirit, we are transformed, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (v. 18, The Message)
Suffering wickedness in this world can turn our blood cold and cause us to lose heart (Matt. 24:12). That is when many of us trade our freedom for a veil. The worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart, our view of God and our relationship with Jesus. Turning to the living, personal God in these raw places allows the Son of God to adjust our view, and fit together the pieces of our broken heart until we are whole again, shining brighter than before and looking more and more like him. I never understood how suffering could make us one with Jesus until these recent months in the wake of the accident.
I invite you to read through the pages of our family’s life as we sift through the porous membranes of setbacks, thin places, and torn veils that allow pain and joy to intermix until suffering has produced its great reward in all of us—and, as James says, through such we are found lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
For me, I hear the Spirit saying, it’s time to turn a setback into a launch forward.