Grief and Groaning will Flee

Sunday was visiting day.

Every Sunday after church, I knew that my parents and I would go to my grandmother and grandfather’s house, or they would come to our’s. Seeing Nana and Pop each Sunday was a given. Much of what took place during our visits was equally predictable.

Pop always asked for a cup of black coffee, with one piece of ice in it. Nana always smoked one menthol cigarette. Though my parents did not allow anyone to smoke in the house, Nana was allowed her one menthol cigarette. After conversing and sitting for an hour or so, we would all giggle because my dad had fallen asleep and started to snore softly.

When I was 12 our visits changed. We visited every Sunday, but now Pop was in a nursing home. His health had gotten too bad for Nana to take care of his needs at home. At the nursing home there was no cup of coffee with one piece of ice, and certainly no menthol cigarette, and no comfortable place for dad to snooze. As a child, aspects of the nursing home were slightly scary. Seeing people in various stages of living and dying, smelling strange smells, seeing Pop unable to move from his bed, needing meds and nurses.

Still, I was happy to visit Pop. I knew who Pop was aside from the bed and the medicine and the nursing staff. I remembered the Pop who could lift me onto his lap and bounce me on his knee. I remembered the Pop who went golfing with friends and the Pop who took me and Nana to the store so we could get ingredients to make goodies for our neighbors. I knew that Pop remembered this, too, when he would return my smiles.

What afflicts us in life is not what defines us, but often we feel like it does. The changes in our body as we age, the illness or disability we’ve lived with, the tragic thing that happened to our family, our mourning when we miss someone we’ve lost. Isaiah knows our struggle as he speaks the command to:

Strengthen the weak hands, and support the unsteady knees. Say to those who are panicking, “Look, your God is here.” (Is. 35:3-4. see Isaiah 35:1-10)

Last Sunday at Druid Hills, we baptized a new member. Receiving her by baptism was a reminder to us all of how God sees us. God sees us when we are afflicted, when we’re at our lowest, when we’re stuck in sin. We can’t stop seeing these afflictions, but when Jesus Christ looks at us, he sees something else: Someone redeemed by God’s grace, someone filled with the Holy Spirit, someone full of the life that God gave us, someone claimed and given a fresh identity through the waters of baptism.

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Waters will spring up in the desert… Is. 35:6

It is with that fresh identity that we walk on the holy road of Isaiah’s vision. The road begins where we are: in the desert, the dry place, the place of affliction, and somehow it’s the same road that leads us into a lush land of rivers and vegetation. It leads us into God’s presence, into the place where we will finally know ourselves as God knows us.

Wherever you are today, there is someone who sees more to you than you see. There is someone who loves you. There is someone who said that you’re worth visiting and worth saving.

However you experience water today, let it remind you of God’s grace.

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