Author Archives: chronichopeblog

No Turning Back, No Turning Back

no turning back

Photo Credit: Roost Photography

“What if I wasn’t created with love and intent for a specific purpose? What if I really am just an abnormality explained by science… essentially, a cosmic mistake? There’s a mystery behind being known and understood that gives life meaning.”

I wrote out these words at 1 am as I sat crying silently in my bathroom and let myself travel down the mental path of questioning what my life would look like if I truly believed those first two statements.

It was frightening. It looked like despair. A life void of value. Complete, unending darkness that would swallow me. It looked like death.

But I needed to sit in it. I needed to let myself go there and feel that in it’s completeness. I needed to find out if God’s love was deep enough and wide enough to cradle those questions.

Surprisingly, after all the pain that I’ve experienced, I never had questioned that God allowed the formation of my spine to stop at L5, leading to permanent life long damage of a clump of some of the most important and delicate nerves in my body. I had always just accepted it.

Recently, I uttered a phrase to a friend who is hoping in her journey with singleness. I said, “You know what your life would look like if you abandoned your belief that God is good and has a purpose in all of this. But you don’t know what it will look like if you keep trusting him. There’s hope in that.”

I realized that I’ve played this mantra over and over silently in my mind but had never given a voice to it.

know what my life would look like if I abandoned my faith in Jesus. I would be angry and cynical about my pain. I would be self-centered, my faith would rest solely in doctors and my identity would be my disease. I would use alcohol and cutting to numb the emotions that I didn’t have the mental strength to process. I would make all my decisions based on my feelings. I may have not even had the opportunity to write this because in a moment of mental exhaustion, I likely would have chosen suicide.

I’m in the middle of a 30 week seminary class titled “Biblical Theology and Interpretation”. Every Monday night, I leave the class feeling like my mind is going to explode from information but what  I am learning about how to study the Bible and about the Bible itself,  are life changing.

This weekend we looked at how to deal with doubt and hard teachings in the Bible. We focused on John 6: 48-69

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

If you’re familiar with the Bible, imagine being the Jews and hearing Jesus say this for the first time. They would not have had his death on the cross and Resurrection to put it into context. They would have had no idea of our modern tradition of communion. This all would have been gross and confusing. It’s not surprising that the response of MANY of his followers was to “turn(ed) back and no longer walk(ed) with him.

I love Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’s question, though, “Do you want to go away as well?” He doesn’t reply, “Of course not! I totally get everything you just said and I’m in it to win it, no questions asked!”. Rather, Peter’s response suggests that he had thought about turning away and if he did, to whom he would turn to…and he was one of Jesus’s best friends!

But ultimately, Peter chooses to stay because of everything he had “come to know”. A better translation of this would be because of everything he had learned over time…the time he had spent living with Jesus. He had seen and heard enough truth to believe that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.”. Did he doubt? yes. Did he lack understanding and probably think some of what Jesus said was hard to accept and a little crazy? yes. Did he think about turning back to his former life and job as a fishermen? yes. But he knew enough to know that going forward with Jesus was filled with more hope than turning back.

I know what God has done in my life up to this point. I know what my life would look like without his death on the cross and Resurrection from the grave. I know enough to continue clinging to my faith.

As I continue to have increasing pain and disheartening diagnosis’, I have found myself humming this familiar tune;

“I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.”

This video shows the story God has given me. It was created and used by my home church, Elmbrook and I hope you are encouraged by it. Video filmed and edited by Matt Roth.

Much love,

Adri

 

 

 

 

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Keep Going

Hand pressing Keep Going“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote rings true with so many areas in my life right now, whether it be our journey into fostering, continuous struggles with my health or simply the courage to make various decisions that I know in my heart are the right (but not easy!) ones to make.

About a year ago I saw an orthopedic surgeon about pain that I experience in my right knee. It was nothing new but had been growing worse and so I was referred to him to look into it further. The belief was that due to the misalignment in my right leg, the joint was suffering damage, which could eventually lead to the need for a total knee replacement.

After gathering multiple X-Rays to try and determine if surgery could be done to correct the alignment in my leg, we were all quite astounded by the images that glowed back at us through the light box in his exam room.

The X-Rays showed leg bones that were strong, healthy and fully developed. The orthopedic surgeon, who has worked extensively with children at Shriners Hospital, was amazed at the a-typical results from a patient with my condition, Spina Bifida.

He further explained that his only conclusion for seeing such strength in my bones was owed to the fact that through everything I had never stopped using them. He said that when bone is stressed it actually in turn becomes stronger. It’s counter-intuitive thinking but we had the X-Rays to prove it.

“Bones are living tissue. Weight-bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form, and this makes bones stronger. Bones and muscles both become stronger when muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity.” -National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Upon hearing his words, my mind immediately flashed back to countless times in the hospital after surgery where I had to “get up and walk” despite excruciating pain, to my parents instilling confidence in me by maintaining expectations for me to have the same household chores as my siblings, and then to my first week as a freshman in college in downtown Chicago. My apartment was only three to four city blocks from the EL (which took me to my classes) but to me it could have been three to four miles.

At the time, I wasn’t wearing any braces on my legs and each step felt like I had stepped in wet cement. That combined with the elements of weather made each trip to and from the brown line a mental and physical battle.

On each of those days, when life required me to get back on my feet and keep going, I often wondered if those activities might be the cause of me ultimately losing the function in my legs.

But here I was, years later, sitting and listening to a doctor tell me that those years could actually be attributed to making my legs stronger.

I can’t help but think about the direct correlation that this picture has to the rest of our lives. After all, the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” must exist for a reason, right?

I am constantly amazed at how God has created our physical bodies to reiterate the truths that He has laid out for us in His Word. Scripture repeatedly affirms this idea of suffering producing strength;

Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

2 Corinthians 12:10 “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The solution to correcting this knee pain ended up being more complex than we originally thought it would, so that is a surgery that has been put on the “back burner” for now.

But I was reminded of the important mystery of God’s redemption in the midst of pain;  that if we keep going in the midst of the suffering on this earth, God promises to bring strength to our soul.

-Adri


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