Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rams, Stretcher Bearers, and Arms

You may be wondering what rams, stretcher bearers, and arms have to do with each other. Truthfully, the answer is nothing, except that all three have been on my mind lately. It has been a few days since I have written, mostly because I have been doing a lot of thinking and just taking in a lot of what has been before me.

I finished reading "When I Lay My Isaac Down" by Carol Kent, the book I mentioned in a previous post. I really just couldn't stop reading it. She addressed so many of the feelings and questions that my meandering heart have felt and wondered. One of them was, What happens when God doesn't provide a ram in the thicket?

In Genesis 22, as Abraham is about to slay Isaac, an angel of the Lord calls out to him. Verses 12-14 read, "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

But what happens when God doesn't provide the way out? What if there's no ram in the thicket? I was comforted to know that I am not the only who has ever asked this question.

Another part of this book that touched my heart was in a chapter about community. Kent introduced the term "Stretcher Bearers," named after the passage in the gospels where Jesus heals a paralytic brought to him on a mat. Here is the story as told in Mark 2:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 1But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 1He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

This man couldn't get to Jesus on his own; he had to be carried there. What's interesting about a stretcher is that one person can't carry it alone; the job is shared by several people. The same is true about community. One person can't provide everything to someone, but each person can do something.

Spencer and I have been so fortunate to be surrounded, supported, and sometimes even carried by a wonderful group of stretcher bearers. Some of you are people whom I have never met in real life who have committed to praying for us. Others of you are people with whom we are very close, who have also prayed with us, asked the hard questions, shown up just to be with us, and who at times, have carried us to the feet of Jesus. We are so grateful for you and for the blessing you are, have been, and will continue to be in our lives.

Today I was at the pool with our neighbors. They have two kids, one of whom, turns 6 in a few weeks. Her name is Hannah, and she is learning to swim. I was sitting on the edge of the pool with her while her mom was in the water asking Hannah to jump in and swim to her. Her mom was standing a bit further back than she would have liked, and Hannah was afraid to jump. She looked up at her mom and motioned with her arms as she said, "Arms out, Mom." Then, she jumped in and swam to her.

I was struck by how much I feel like Hannah. God has allowed the circumstances Spencer and I are currently facing, and they're not how we want them look. We would write the story differently if we could. Sometimes I feel like I am staring God in the face, not knowing what to make of the situation. What I do know is that His arms are already out, and what He asks is that we trust Him and jump in.

He wants us to trust Him, even if he doesn't provide the ram in the thicket. He wants us to trust Him, even in what feels like one of the most unthinkable circumstances. He never changes, He is who He says He is, and He is worthy of our trust.

I don't know what God's plans are for our sweet Isaac. I know what I would like them to be. I was reminded today by one of our dear "strecher bearers" that God has given me the gift of already experiencing one of the truest joys of being a mother, which is seeing your child's life impact others for God. I couldn't be more proud.


Alison said...

I just don't know what to say, other than to tell you that we are thinking about and praying for you as you travel this road. Your faith is incredible and Isaac is blessed to have a mother and father like you guys.


Alison (from the Nest)

Stephanie said...

I love your heart to stay focused on the Lord and how to continue to love and trust Him. Thank you for being such a beacon of light.

Your post made me think of a verse...
" Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things."
Psalm 81:10

As you continue to trust and "open your mouth" to be filled by God, I pray that mannah from heaven will be abundant. That His Word will be your Bread and the Holy Spirit- your refreshing, life-giving Water.

You are precious and Isaac is being used in a powerful way. At the same time, I am so deeply sorry that you are going through so much anguish.


The Writer Chic said...

Stacy, I just wanted to say hi. I have to tell you -- for the moment, Blogger is accessible from work, and your blog is one of the first applications I open each morning -- just to listen to your playlist ALL day, and to keep you and your Isaac close to my heart.

I love your faithfulness to put God's truth and His Word right out there, unashamedly. It humbles me and makes me want to have my own writing be so much more meaningful than the things I blog about now. You're such an encouragement!

Hope your little family has a glorious weekend!

Lauren said...

Love your posts, love you, love Isaac. Oh and I did send you my address so if you didn't get it let me know. :)

Taylor said...

Thank you so much for the comments that you have left for me during the birth and death of my sweet Nathan. I appreciate your prayers and will pray for you as well in your journey with Isaac. Feel free to e-mail me anytime... I would love to chat with you.


Taylor said...

One more thing... I teach 6th grade too! Math & science!


Kirsten said...

Beautifully written. Praying for all of you.