BY: MARY STARK
“I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29: 10b - 14
Our Father is aware of the broken places that hold us captive. I have been in a dark place. The darkness is sometimes disguised by grief and by the mask that I wear. Others know about my captivity and in many ways, their knowledge yields sympathy and concern. It is a slippery slope that can tip over to a coping mechanism for me with the acceptance of their well-meaning attention. Sometimes wallowing is more comfortable than leaving the prison.
December 1st marked the 11th year since my son Max died in a tragic drowning accident. Since that time, the holiday season – starting with Thanksgiving- has been very difficult. I find myself in a funk that is obvious at times and well-hidden at others. It has been a struggle to have a Christmas tree or any reminder of the joyous season. It is strange when I think of it as Max used to love Christmas, putting the lights on the tree and decorating it with me and his brother Ben.
We’d listen to Elvis sing Christmas carols and just have a silly ol’ time. It is not reasonable that I would effectively ditch the season when Jesus came to earth to save me. It is especially unreasonable because I know that Max is in heaven because of his belief in Jesus and his acceptance of Jesus as his personal savior. Logically, I should have been embracing “the reason for the season” – the birth our our Savior. It is the one truth that brings me the unwavering knowledge that I will see Max again. But, it was hard to celebrate with Max not living on planet earth anymore…and so I struggled.
I was believing a lie and not claiming the promise that I have been given.
The lie? I was believing the lie that Max was actually gone. Every year, around the anniversary of his death, I had let the untruth that Max was gone seep into my rejoicing in the true meaning of Christmas so much that I could not be joyous or carefree. I wore the cloak of mourning and the despair of grief. I had become acceptive of the untruth that just because Max does not reside on planet Earth, he is actually gone. This lie, my friends, could not be farther from the truth. You see, the truth is that Max has never been more alive! He is rejoicing at the feet of his King. Every single prayer that I had for him – to be happy, and joyful, and carefree, healthy and strong and a follower of the King – every one of those prayer have been answered. He is alive and well and forever will be all that God intended him to be. I cannot wait to hug his neck again!!
The promise? The promise I had not been claiming was one of redemption and freedom. You see, I have been in exile. Occasionally, I would claim the promise of freedom, but I would return to the grief and despair – to my personal exile. I did not go there by myself, by my Heavenly Father, my King and my Redeemer carried me there. He gently laid me down and was patient and faithful to heal me and redeem me at the pace that I chose. He loves me. He has plans to prosper me and to give me hope. My mistake? My mistake was to come to Him only when I was hurting and when I needed His redemption, but to let myself return to exile. I did not come to my Savior continually until the exile was over, I did not come to Him with ALL of my heart.
This year has been different.
God has surrounded me with different circumstances. Circumstances that provided me a different place to live – not surrounded by memories of Max, but a family home – the home my husband grew up in. We made the family home our own over the spring of this year and moved in this past summer We have been able to create a place that is ours – a place where Ben can come home and celebrate our family. It is different without Max here, but it is ok. God has provided many friends and family to come along side me and to celebrate our relationships and remind me of His love. I have reached out to my Savior with all of my heart. I long for Him to heal me and restore me. HE KEEPS HIS PROMISES! I found Him! He is gathering me and bringing me back. He restores me! I keep seeking and He lets me find Him! The best thing of all is that He gives me opportunity to share His love with friends and family – to give Him the glory for my new freedom.
This year has been different.
With the memories and triggers that occur, I have but one emotion. I am so thankful that God chose me to be Max’s mom. My exile is over!!!
I have rejoiced in the knowledge that God sent His son to redeem us – our King came as a baby and lived a perfect life so that He could die for our sins and make way for us to have a relationship with God Himself….to have eternal life. This gift of eternal life begins when we say “yes” – when we accept the price that Jesus paid and make Him our King. We have relationship with God! Celebrate Him! Emmanuel – God with us!
I ask you today to start 2019 with great hope and great promise. Please examine these concepts and seek Him with all of your heart:
What holds you captive?
Is HE able to redeem you from this place?
Is there a lie that you are believing?
Claim His promise. Shout it from the rooftops. Claim it every day. Claim it every hour. Claim it every minute. Claim it without ceasing until you are free. Let Him bring you back. He is waiting.