…I expected to die…as a result I stopped relying on myself and learned to rely only on God…2 Cor 1:9
Last week I read a passage from Philippians about letting go of what is behind you and moving forward to what is ahead. It reminded me of a time, years back, when not the Apostle Paul, but a woman named Elisabeth told me the very same thing.
When I finally arrived at the ranch, a hexagonal wood structure emerged through the Virginia Pines as the van drove over the gravelly path and parked. Puffs of my breath preceded me as I exited the van and then labored toward the double-doors with my suitcase in tow. There was no sign, and no one around to tell me where to go, so I chose the closest entrance. Once inside, I was only aware of two things – the blast of warm air that neutralized the icy outdoors and the hospital bed off to one side of the room. The pathos of the life-sized figure of a cancer patient who lay dying in the bed was only outdone by the caring pose of the larger than life angel sculpture gently leaning over the body with his wings at half-span and arms outstretched, patiently awaiting that last breath. I stood transfixed as thoughts of that angel greeting everyone I had ever loved and lost raced through my head.
(I had arrived at a Loss, Life, and Transition Conference in Head Waters, Virginia run by the world-renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.)
I would never forget the first time I saw Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was chopping vegetables in the center kitchen with a cigarette hanging limply from her lips. I would soon learn that, in addition to her cigarettes, Dr. Kubler-Ross adored fresh, healthy eating and would wake around 4:30 a.m. to pick vegetables out of her garden or greenhouse, depending on the season, and begin cooking for the day. The only way I could reconcile this irony that the health-conscious physician was also a smoker was that Dr. Kubler-Ross’s true concern lay in the health of the spirit, not the body. She knew so certainly that she would go to the afterlife when her time on earth came to an end that she did not worry about death…
In a short amount of time, one thing became apparent about Elisabeth – she was an absolutely amazing woman. She had turned her ranch into a sort of getaway camp for rehabilitation of the mind and spirit. Forty of us were fortunate enough to be welcomed into her home, where we slept in bunk beds as if we were back in college and just starting out on our life journeys. I guess in some ways we were…
At one point, I broke away from the group and went to the kitchen to get a cup of tea, where I found myself alone with Elisabeth. She was preparing some food for dinner that evening, and as I boiled my water, I decided to introduce myself…
We chatted a bit, and at one point she astounded me with a revelation:
“God has special plans for you, Donna” Elisabeth told me. “Why else has He put you through the tumbler like He has?” God has plans for me, and He has plans for you, and His plans aren’t for the past, they are for the future.
I was familiar with the analogy. We were like rocks in the tumbler of life. We started out with sharp edges, cracks, and flaws, but we had the potential to become shiny and smooth gems. As we tumbled through the heartaches, losses, and disappointments in life, the pain was excruciating, but we could emerge a polished new creation…
Jesus never said our time in the tumbler would be easy. Just the opposite, He said, “…in this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33) But when we stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely on God…He will rescue us. And, when we place our confidence in Him, He will continue to rescue us. (2 Cor. 1:9-10) But letting go of what is behind us can be agonizing, and moving forward to what is ahead can be terrifying. Elisabeth had some very practical thoughts on that.
We needed to address the heartaches, losses, and disappointments of life and come to terms with them first…She called it, “taking care of old business,” and if we could not resolve the problems stemming from our old business, then we would be hard pressed to move forward… If we had something to work out with someone who had passed, she encouraged us to pack a lunch, go to the cemetery, sit down at the grave, and just talk. She said to go through everything we needed to say that we never had the chance to express before that person died.
The pain of our past does not have control over our future, but it can take a long time to work through it. When we love God and have faith and trust in Him, He will fill us with the Holy Spirit and the grace we need for each step. He will be a light to our path. And, Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we will be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! I have learned first-hand that whether you have been let down in a relationship or are in the midst of a full-blown crisis and you feel like God has abandoned you, that is when He is closest to you mercifully working all things together for your good.
Beautiful and so heartfelt. God has led you through to this day and He will continue to be your light and salvation….and He will always be here with us all. Oh how blessed we are!!
Beautiful, beautiful writing, my friend. You are amazing and SO inspiring. Xo
Love you both! I am so grateful to God for the grace to form words that can make a difference for others according to His purposes.
Truly inspiring words , you are my rock ! When speaking the truth in love , we grow into our Lord and Savior . I pray for my own heart to soften in my dark days , lean to him !! Show mercy and kindness and pray for those who struggle because there is so much sadness around us. Our love and understanding may bring conviction to the saved and unsaved to help them turn to God for forgiveness.
Heart swelling on this beautifully written blog. You are shining outward, Donna! Indeed He has amazing plans for you, I and all of His children. Enjoyed the tumbler analogy so very much. So blessed to have you in my life! Much Love!!