I have been wrestling with the Bible verse that tells me God works for good.
When life is tough and when situations don’t make sense, it’s hard to see God working for good. Yeah, I try to look for His favor to keep that light cracking through but sometimes things are just too hard and too much. The good just doesn’t seem to be there. Everything is anything but good.
So many keep telling us God is our strength and He can provide peace. He is working for good.
Right now, in this very moment and in this very space, we don’t see the good.
When I write we, I mean Chris, Gervais, the girls and I. I also mean our people, our community.
Last week, as I swept the floor in Chris’ house in Lubbock, I couldn’t believe the pile of dirt and trash I gathered. From under one sofa came a plate, tube of toothpaste and candy wrappers. I asked out loud to no one listening ‘who lived under this sofa?’
When I started gathering empty pizza boxes and sorting through the piles of junk mail, I came across a dime. I moved out of the living room and started cleaning the kitchen counter. There I found a penny.
As Chris packed for an earlier than expected thanksgiving break, I found Clorox wipes to give a once over to the bathroom sinks. I found another penny in that room.
I said out loud — again, without expecting response — ‘if I keep this up, I’ll be rich.’
We loaded up Chris’ car and I kept the 12 cents.
Our drive home was punctuated by conversations without resolution, music and times of quiet. Our drive home, all six hours of it, gave us time to think and rest in a stillness. You see the days leading up to the drive were anything but still. Full of confusion and emotions.
But then we got home. Then we were all together. Chris would be home a whole two weeks before going back to school for finals and graduation. So even though we struggled with questions and texts and calls, we were all together.
Our schedule was normal with the only difference being Chris at home. Our schedule this time of year includes Gervais’ basketball and Camille’s gymnastics practice that is focused on the soon to be here season. There are intense practices with refining new skills and routines. There is lots of emotion and in Camille’s case, tears. Sobs. You see over the past month Camille has struggled with a new skill in the bars. Her coach reassures this is a part of her learning and joining gymnastics late (7-years-old is late apparently). Her strength helps her on the floor, vault and beam, but those pesky bars. She’s not been able to build on skills over the years. Rather, she has had to learn them quickly.
And, a clear hip handstand is not something to be learned quickly. The technicality of this skill is precise. It requires a coach who can watch and adjust and correct. It also requires an athlete to have persistence and patience. Camille has a persistence and perseverance drive that can outdo any athlete. What she doesn’t have is patience. Her perfectionism overwhelms the patience and that turns into frustration — emotion — tears. Sobs. Crawl up in my lap type of crying.
So, what do you do as a parent of an athlete who is in a sport of which you know very little — we had to YouTube the skill. With Chris, Gervais was able to work through plays and moves on the field and court. He knows those games.
Well, after a couple of weeks of those late-night tears, we reached out to the coach. We met with our lead coach and the new bars coach. Both presented methods for how we can help from home and what they are working through with Camille. All involved patience and pushing through frustration without turning into a puddle of tears on the floor.
As I spoke to the coach, I learned he was Chris’ age and had been a wide-out receiver in high school. The similarities don’t end there. This coach played one year of D3 football and very well could have played Chris when their two teams met. Suddenly, my compassion for this kid increased and I knew Camille would have equal care and thought for him as she could picture him as her brother.
And, Camille cares for her brother. She wants him to live with us after graduation. She cries when he leaves for school or when we leave Lubbock. She wants to be able to see him to make sure he is OK.
More than ever, I want to make sure he is OK. While we had started to process through his experience in Lubbock and try to find God’s favor through it, while I got back to work, greater confusion and emotion poured out and flooded our being.
Monday, Chris experienced a second tragedy. This one involved a dear friend, a sweet boy from within our community. He was a part of our people. We were impacted by an intensity of heartbreak that I never wanted to have known or believed could exist. Something a gentle pat or hug from his sisters couldn’t help. Something a prayer or statement of God’s strength couldn’t immediately heal. The bits of light we had started to feel just disappeared.
The sobs and tears came from a different room in my house and had nothing to do with a clear hip handstand. The sobs and tears came from a sadness so deep.
Our pastor shared that athletes have an ability to push through complex, difficult situations and have minds trained to handle them. Michael Jordan had one of his best games while battling the flu and played the day after his dad was murdered.
My former athlete tried to push through — doing homework as he committed to his professors since he was already missing class. He tried to persevere. He tried. That trying was punctuated by sobs and questions and responses to countless texts and phone calls.
God works for good? I couldn’t see it. God gives me peace? I couldn’t find that. Our pastor counseled me and shared that Romans 8:28 doesn’t say God works for our good or your good. It reads God works for the good.
I hadn’t found any more pennies or dimes. I couldn’t stop any of the crying. I couldn’t assure Caroline that she didn’t need to be scared because her Bubba was so upset.
I could take a breath and get off the sofa. I could organize my thoughts to focus on Chris.
My son has experienced too much sorrow this week. I remain steadfast in my decision to protect him from prying questions and bring him home. I continue to assert he is my focus.
Chris must go back to school Sunday after attending two services for two boys too young. Chris must go back and stay by himself at a house in Lubbock while he finishes up college. Chris has to move forward knowing one of his closest friends won’t be.
Romans 8:28 is one verse in a chapter that talks of suffering and God’s hand and help. We get ‘God is for us who can be against us’ in verse 31 in chapter 8. Verse 35 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And, the chapter wraps up with the explanation that height, depth, present, future, angels, demons, death, life cannot separate us from God’s love.
I’m going to have to clean Chris’ house again and there will be more sweeping, and possibly more change found. We are going to celebrate his graduation.
Our hearts are heavy. Our friends are hurting beyond any human understanding. We will struggle for a very long time. Our people will never be the same.
Yet, we will persevere, and we will push through.