One of my favorite books is The Stars Shone in My Hands by Julia (Judy) Catherine Parker (2004). I find myself returning to it regularly because this collection of reflections speaks so truly to my heart. Forgive me if I have shared this one before, but every time I read it I am comforted and encouraged.
Exerted from the reflection Fear Not:
…Spiritually, however, there was healing waiting for me that I could not imagine... At this weekend retreat, not only was Paula D’Arcy speaking, but a special group of Haitian friends.
I picked up a copy (of Paula D'Arcy's book A New Set of Eyes)…I opened it at random. I was riveted by Paula's words.
The path is always the same. It begins with a knowing that the power is not in the circumstances I face, but in what I meet them with. It is my response to what happens to me that determines the course of my life. Pain is transformed when met with the nature that lies within; when met with that which is greater than pain. This inner spirit is who I really am. ... To live in its knowledge is to know yourself to be free.
I watched that knowledge once in the face of a young woman from Haiti, Sheraz. …The streets were violent and the threat of harm continuous. But when I hugged Sheraz goodbye, whispering "Be safe," into her ear, she stood back and looked straight into my eyes with her dark beauty. "Safe," she repeated. "It used to be my prayer. But now I recognize that we may not be safe. And if this is our portion, so be it." No sentimentality. No smallness. Only clarity.Freedom.A beauty beyond the usual definition. The Self we most deeply are.
I was stunned. I knew I had a deeply felt sense of entitlement around issues of safety for myself, and those I loved. I could not get to Sheraz fast enough. I asked her to meet with me, and our conversation is one I will never forget.
"How did you get where you are?" I asked as I told her of my fears. She was not glib. She told me she had lived all over the world with a Saudi Arabian father and a British mother. She found herself in Haiti only because her husband, Louis, felt called to go and help his people. Without hearing the exact words, I knew her life was hard and dangerous.
"My favorite psalm is Psalm 91," she said, which of course, was mine, too. As we shared further she laughed gently at my admitted sense of entitlement. " God is sovereign," she emphasized. "I know He is with me no matter what. My own safety or the safety of those I love cannot be a condition of my relationship to Him. I know whatever happens will be redeemed no matter how horrible." Then she added these astounding words. "Should I be attacked, I pray I will be more concerned for the salvation of my attackers than for myself. I want to be thinking of them, not me."
When I went back to our room that night, and settled into bed, I found my eyes drawn to a framed poster…in beautiful calligraphy it proclaimed "Fear Not, For I have Redeemed You," the opening line of Isaiah 43. Suddenly, I saw it afresh. The words had become so familiar that they held little meaning for me.
… I began to understand "Fear not, for I have redeemed you," meant not only past, but present and especially future redemption of all things. I began to slowly realize that whatever happens, under the Sovereignty of God, it is already redeemed.
I read this verse, in context, from Isaiah 43:1-2 (RSV)
1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
The words of Isaiah 43:1-2 remind me (susan) there is nothing that can be taken from me in this life that cannot or will not be redeemed by God—nothing will be wasted for those who choose relationship with Him. The road has rarely been straight, and I have done my share of wandering, but I have never been able to abandon this relationship I have with my Creator, Redeemer, King. During our marriage,Todd and I walked through fire more than once, and we were burned in the earthly sense--but each time, we were ultimately and amazingly strengthened in the spiritual, eternal sense. We both had times when we thought we would be overwhelmed--but we weren't. I continue to be aware of how much we balanced each other, and how different parts of me are awakening and gaining strength to compensate for his absence. It seems these previously dormant parts really were paying attention to the lessons he was sharing (just by being himself) all those years.
My New Year's prayer for myself, my children and others whom I hold dear:
Fear Not. Live boldly. Share yourself (your life and love) in healthy and life-giving ways, knowing that the God of all Love (agape) is with you always and He has, does, and will redeem it all (past, present, future).