Hang On

There are two words that perfectly describe the state of my life for the past three years.

“Hang on.” 

Have you ever seen the 1996 movie Twister?

The two leading actors in this film are Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. The premise is this storm chasing couple is trying to further understand the inner workings of Tornados. The storyline and acting is sub par at most but for a 90’s film it really has great effects in the storm scenes. I haven’t watched this film in years, but there is one scene that is burned in my mind.

It is at the end of the movie. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt find themselves face to face with one of the biggest tornados they have encountered and it is coming right for them. They take off running on foot from this humongous storm that is threatening their lives. What they have been chasing for so many years is now chasing them. They get pretty far on foot, but eventually reach a point where running is no longer an option. They dodge into this small building and are looking for anything that will anchor them from being taken by this storm. All they find is leather straps and a metal pipe.

Nail biting seconds pass as they maneuver and secure themselves.

Bill Paxton hunkers down next to Helen Hunt and says, “Hang on.”

Then it happens.

The tornado reaches them. First it obliterates the building they have sought cover in. Then it lifts them up, feet flying above their heads, held only to the ground by leather straps hooked around a metal pipe. They are terrified. But then all of a sudden, the music shifts and what once was a place of terror and uncertainty gives way to beautiful madness. They are both looking into the eye of the storm and it is glorious. This is what they have been chasing and researching for years and now they are beholding it in a way no one else has before.  You see them physically change from terrified to awestruck.

I see Joshua and myself in the face of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.

For years we had been “chasing” the Lord in ministry. We loved it and it was our life. Until God graciously began undoing us. One day we turned around and were met by an enormous storm. The biggest we had ever encountered.

Joshua had suffered an unimaginable trauma as a child. Sexual abuse is one of the worst possible things a child can endure. Innocence exposed to too much, too soon. He concealed it for 21 years and it had become a raging storm that had chased him into a small place where he couldn’t breathe.

So we tried to run.

We wanted relief. An instant fix. A building that would keep us safe, that the storm could not reach us in. A way to stop the storm ourselves. We tried so many things to stop that storm from ravaging our life. But in the end we found ourselves tied by leather straps to a metal pipe. Holding on for dear life as the storm roared above us. But it was in this place that God began to do the real work in our lives.

I look back on the time before all this came to the surface and I can remember Joshua I asking God to really make Himself known to us and to use us however He wanted to. But I have to tell you, I had no idea it would take us down a road of such brokenness, loneliness, undoing, grace, faith, redoing, and opportunities greater than we could have imagined.

We felt so alone during this time. Especially Joshua. Personal topics like this are so hard to talk about. And no one wants to really hear about these hidden places. It’s too raw. But there are so many hurting in the dark. Scared to really tell anyone what they have endured. How could anyone understand? Would they treat me different? Would they blame me? What would they think? Would they look at me differently?

Would you believe that before Joshua told me about his abuse, I had NEVER talked to anyone who had endured childhood sexual abuse. Now, after Joshua had the unimaginable strength to speak his truth and to take the risk of being really seen. I have talked with and met too many to count.

Too many to count. What a contrast to before.

There are so many people hurting in this area, and I had no idea.

I was down in a storm cellar somewhere, totally ignorant to the real storms people were and are facing.

I wish I could tell you now, three years later, that we are at the end of the movie in our lives. Where the storm has dissipated and the dark clouds give way to a new sky. But we are still right in the midst of it – feet flying above our heads, holding tight to that metal pipe.

BUT we aren’t terrified anymore. We have moved into the moment when we look up into the storm and are amazed.

We are watching His beautiful plan unfold in the midst of a storm I never saw coming that has completely changed Joshua and I. This storm that was meant for destruction and devastation became one of the most beautiful gifts.

God has allowed us to see what HE can do with a life shattered and brought back together by Himself. HE has given such peace that passes all understanding to Joshua. And HE has allowed new opportunities of ministry to come forth and start redeeming what the devil meant for evil.

Here is the truth. The Lord may never allow the storm to fully dissipate. It may always be raging above us or swirling near us until the day we step into eternity.

GULP.

But I am so unbelievably grateful He has given us the opportunity to see His hand so clearly working right in the midst of the storm.

And you know, as much as I see ourselves in the faces of the actors of this film, I see God in every other part. He is in the tornado, undoing all that we have built on our own, graciously passing over each thing and leveling it so HE can rebuild. I see His provision and sovereignty in the building, sheltering us from the debris long enough to become secured. I see his mercy and grace in the leather straps and metal pipe that anchor us from being taken by the storm that threatens our lives. And I see his majesty and power in the actors faces as they behold the beauty of the storm.

What is God trying to undo in your life today? What gracious prodding is He giving for you to tell your story and to really be seen. Taking a step in faith and taking the risk to be fully seen and known can be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. It could go either way. People may embrace you and love on you or they may not be able to take in that kind of vulnerability. We have experienced both sides. But I will tell you, it is one amazing thing to behold God working through circumstances you never thought He could use.

I am so grateful for the thought of “Hanging on.” It means that there is nothing left I can do but to hang on or rely on a God who is strong enough to take me through the storm.

There is something so out of this world about holding this kind of hurt out to God and saying, “Here. This belongs to you, and I am willing and ready for You to use it however you see fit.”

Corinthians 4:7-11 : But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

I don’t know what your storm is today, but “Hang on.” And when you can, look to the Lord in the midst of it. He is our Savior, Shelter, Strength, Protector, rock, comforter, defender, peace, deliverer, God, and friend. I can almost guarantee you will be awestruck by the beauty He can create with anything you allow Him to use.

-Amanda Rager-

89 Roses and 2 Apologies.

 

I was recently given 89 roses. They were magnificent. And heavy! Whew! My husband, Joshua, gave them to me.

Now, I could tell you they were given to me because he just had me on his mind one day. I could smile big and flaunt to everyone. But that would be such a disgrace to what they mean to me. To be honest, I think a couple of years ago if anyone had found out about my gift, I would have said just that. It was just an extremely thoughtful present. But they are so much more that that. They are redeeming and grace filled. The day before I received my gift of 89 roses, Joshua and I had an argument. One of those big bad ones you have sometimes in marriage.

Oh, you don’t? Ok. Just us then. 😉 We had both been going through a lot personally and had placed expectations on each other in the midst of it. And when they weren’t being met we both imploded. I wanted him to be more open and honest about everything and he just wanted me to understand that he struggles with that as someone who has been through deep hurt and to leave it there. We were pretty hurtful to each other and made accusations that were far from truth. And then we walked away from one another for a whole night and day. The silence was deafening. Then he came home with 89 roses.

We talked for what seemed like forever. We were open and honest about everything we were hurting about. Most of it had nothing to do with each other, it was just manifesting itself in our relationship. We said hard truths and offered each other grace and understanding. We asked for forgiveness and gave it freely to one another. God was all over it. Because, trust me, our reckonings don’t usually go like that… 😉

This journey God has placed us on has taught us so much about our marriage. We have learned that we have to deliberately choose to be open and honest with each other, no matter what. We are partners and are in this together. Forever. If we just go off assumptions and half truths we will end up in a mess (erm…like this one). We need all the information. All the time. I need to know where he is hurting, and he needs to know where I am. I need to know where he is feeling weak. He needs to know the same about me. The list could go on and on.

When things are left unsaid, you have to start filling in blanks on your own, and I was never good at guessing games. Especially for a man’s mind. And a man trying to fill in a woman’s unsaid thoughts?! It only creates distance and confusion. In a marriage relationship, vulnerability and authenticity are vital. It took so long for us to understand and start grasping that. And we still struggle. Being totally vulnerable with someone is one of this life’s hardest climbs. But it has the best views. Being vulnerable and open, I mean truly open, can breed a connection like you will never understand unless you have done it. It is groundbreaking. Especially for a marriage.

Now back to my story. After we had talked, I was looking at the roses and I asked Joshua, “exactly how many roses are here…?” He said, ” I bought 90, but gave one to Cadence (our daughter), so you have 89 roses there.” I was floored! “Joshua, where did you get 90 roses?” His answer stilled my heart. “Well, I had to buy all they had.” My husband, hurting and not understanding at all where I was, went and bought a store out of their roses. For me. My heart was overwhelmed. It is in moments like that I can really see a portrait of who God is. That despite all the hurt I had inflicted on him, he wanted me to know I was loved and cherished.

We have been through so much in the last three years, and I can remember some days being so lost and hurt, wondering if we would ever make it through. But then moments like this one happen, and God brings so much beauty into the hurting. As I stood, admiring this vast bouquet of flowers I just saw grace and redemption all over them. God is redeeming our story for His glory. And offering grace into every hurt. A rose is such a classic unique flower.

It has a long stem filled with sharp thorns that lead to a beautiful case of soft petals. And those petals hold one of my favorite smells. But if a rose is not handled with care and purpose, it can hurt you. Marriage can be the same way. Beautiful, with a sweet smelling savor. But if not handled with care, can become hurtful and hard to maneuver . We let the thorns of hurt, misunderstanding, miscommunication, pride, fear, and silence take away the beauty of the bloom. Choose honesty and openness today in your relationships. Choose hard conversations over the “I’m fine” response. Say I’m sorry and genuinely mean it. Try to really forgive and give grace, if you can, because so much grace is given from the Lord to your life. Verbalize your expectations. That way, together you can decide if they are reasonable for each other. Each of these moments will be like cutting off a thorn. And thornless roses are so much more enjoyable…don’t you think? 🌹

AMANDA RAGER

First Step to Freedom: Repentance

In The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Dan B. Allender states, “The pain of past abuse does not justify unloving self-protection in the present.” The insanity had to stop. For thirty-five years I had lived out the old cliché “silence is golden. Read more

Authenticity? Oh…None for me, thanks.

Authenticity is the quality of being genuine. Sit with that for a minute. When is the last time you remember being genuine? Read more