We’ve just arrived and Ms. Dinah is telling us how we’re visiting just a year shy of her husband’s one year death anniversary. One day he’s out on his ATV and the whole thing hits a rock and flips over and in the blink of an eye, he’s gone.
A pillar in the community taken down by a rock in the road. And just like that, there are 26 grandkids, 5 kids, 1 wife and a whole town reeling.
This after they’ve already battled their fair share of wounds and hurts at the hands of others.
And Ms. Beth, she’s telling us how her first daughter went to the arms of Jesus at six and how her second daughter, yeah her poor mind couldn’t handle the stress of being up and down and this whole crazy painful world and one day she’s gone too, leaving behind three kids.
And what of Ms. Karen whose husband used his words like fists and held a gun to her head while she slept and then eventually, up and burned her whole closet of clothes?
The stories just keep tumbling out, like it’s one ongoing episode of a Lifetime show. Except these are real and you can’t make this stuff up.
The most stunning piece of it all: Three women sitting here laughing and smiling in the midst of the shattered and busted up pieces of their lives.
How do you pick yourself up each day from that kind of nightmare and keep living, keep moving, keep praising?
To hear their stories and the stories of their friends, you start to wonder if maybe you shouldn’t get out of Dodge real quick before whatever’s in the water catches you too. Because this doesn’t sound like a fair share of anything. It sounds more like a whole dumping on of ugly pain and meanness and the worst you can think of, and it’s not fair at all.
I spend three days with these warrior women and here is the gift they give me:
Tragedy can either be a period or a comma in our lives.
The choice is ours.
It can be the end of the story, the point when everything died and life lost its color and we just started going through the motions, waiting out when this whole miserable existence would be done.
Or, or, tragedy can be a comma, a dramatic shift in the story that is just a pause before glorious good comes bursting up out of the broken ground.
It’s a choice and it’s the difference between dead men walking and the wounded but dazzling souls among us.
Because each of these stories, yeah, they don’t define these women. They shape them, they form them and they grow them.
Ms. Beth, her losing of both her girls was after growing up in a home where Daddy died young and mama who showed as much love as a barbed wire fence. And after having to spend her teenage years selling her body just to survive. But to look at her now, you’d never know the scars that have etched and shaped her soul. She walks with dignity and laughs with delight at the days to come.
And Ms. Dinah, she hasn’t slowed down one bit. The sudden loss of her best friend hasn’t kept her down. She and Ms. Karen have taken to crisscrossing this whole wide country, and even this world, building homes for pregnant mammas and wrapping arms around other lonely and wounded women.
It’s easy to sit in the hurt, to let the pain overwhelm us like a tsunami wave, to wallow in the hatred and shake our fist at the skies. It’s easy because it’s natural.
It’s not natural to forgive.
It’s not natural to give love for hate.
It’s not natural to wake up and choose to rejoice rather than resent.
It’s not natural to keep reaching out with open hands to a hurting world when all you seem to get for your trouble is more hits and bruises.
It’s not natural because it’s not in us. It takes a super human power to turn the cheek and return grace to every stinging blow. It’s not in our nature as humans to do that.
But it was in His.
That Carpenter-Man, he forgave while the sin and filth of humanity piled down on Him.
He loved a world screaming out, “Crucify Him!”
He woke up three days later from His journey to Hell and all creation rejoiced.
And every day, His nail scarred hands are stretched out, inviting us to love and be loved. Even while so many continue to reject. He still keeps reaching.
Yeah, it’s not in our nature. But it sure is in His. And when you meet warriors on the journey like Ms. Dinah, Ms. Beth and Ms. Karen with deep water faith, you get what that traveling tent maker meant when he said that we’re a new creation when we join up with the Messiah.
It’s not in our nature to be kind and gracious and loving in the midst of the worst this world brings. But in Him, oh in Him, we can be all kinds of new and different. Because in Him we find strength, and hope and a reason for getting up each day and loving this bleeding, raging, scared world.
In Him, we find our way. And through Him, tragedy becomes a comma where the world wants to place a period.