Three Steps Back…

when we find ourselves relearning what we thought we already knew

I flipped the closet light on and scanned the high shelves. There it was, the new box, only now quite old, that sported a picture of a 30D Canon. I pulled it down, and dusted it off, this old friend of mine.

While it should have been exciting, it stung.
Pulling this old thing down actually hurt, because it reminded me of what I had lost.
I was having to downgrade, step back and face my loss, my mistake.

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You see in January we took a sudden trip to Honduras, and of course every time we visit my brother’s grave on that wild, windblown hill in Carrizal, I want to document it for my mother who has not been back to her only son’s grave since his burial seven years ago. Some day I hope she will have the opportunity to sit there again herself, but in the mean time, I always make a point of capturing her grandkids crawling all over the river rock head stone (yes, we let them crawl on it- Isaac LOVED kids, and he would be delighted to know his grave is a place we let them play) or place bouquets of wildflowers gathered with childish hands.

Instead of renting a truck to make our trip back those bumpy roads, we chose to save a bit of money and take the bus.
“Plus” I told myself, “I want the kids to get to taste real life down here…”

So we took the three kids, and a backpack and my shoulder bag and piled onto the bus.
Daniel and I both have bussed extensively, and we have traveled Central America a LOT. We know how to do it, we know to watch our bags. We knew that adding three kids into the picture would get a bit hairy with busy bus stops, long waits, nasty bathrooms.
And it did.

Either during the long wait, or on the cramped bus ride, somewhere it happened.
I have revisited every possible moment, but at some point,
my SLR either fell out or was slipped from my very carefully watched shoulder bag.
Gone.

I am not an overly sentimental person.

In fact, years ago, I would have said I was not sentimental at all.
But Daniel had surprised me with this camera, a significant upgrade, for my birthday.
It was a camera for a much more qualified photographer than me, someone who still grapples with aperture and ISO. And pictures are one thing that I have learned to treasure. Moments and memories, and people forever gone from my life make pictures so much more important to me. But this camera represented what I hoped to become,
and motivated me to try harder, to reach for skills I only dreamed of.

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Six months had passed since I took a picture.
But yesterday I blew the dust off and turned it on.
And I snapped. It felt good. I played with the settings and snapped again.
Such a happy feeling.
A few more images and then the age old “Error 99” popped up on the screen.

I had forgotten.
This camera and lens have issues.

Just like me.

I’ve got issues that I forget about. And they pop up in the most unexpected places.
And at the most inconvenient times.

This last year, I’ve found myself revisiting emotions and places in my heart that I thought were chapters of the past. Stuff I thought I had faced and processed long ago suddenly feel fresh and raw. When I thought I had taken five steps forward, suddenly I had to acknowledge it, I had slid three steps back. Things I had worked so hard for, now I was grappling to grasp again. Facing forgiveness and choosing things I thought had become part of the fabric of my being is just plain rough.
And I hated it. I hated what I was feeling. I hated who I was.

One evening last week I looked up into Daniel’s face and said it.

Words I hadn’t even known were there, but were burning a hole in my heart none the less.

“Do you think God is angry with me?”
He replied so fast it shocked me.
“Of course not.”

I just stared at him.
I know Daniel loves me, through my ugliest moments, through the thick and the thin.
But how could he be so sure?
How can God NOT be angry with me when I feel so disappointed with myself?
How can it be ok to take three steps back,
to have to learn to use an outdated and problematic camera again,
to face heart turmoil ages old?

Because He knows the plans He has for me.
They are plans for peace, to prosper me.
To give me hope and confidence in the future.
Because He sees the bigger picture.

Years ago, on a rare family vacation, we were playing in the pool in the hot California sun, and while I loved to splash and play on the steps, the rest of the pool was deep and scary. I’d venture out for a second, depending heavily on my orange arm floaties, but a few kicks beyond the steps and I’d be turning around and frantically heading back into the shallows.
Back to where I felt safe.

But my dad scooped me up with a twinkle in his eye, and walked to the other end of the pool; to the deep. There was not a thing in the world I could do but scream at the top of my lungs, both in delight and terror, as he pitched me into the middle of that deep, deep end.

For all I cared, it was 100 feet deep, and I flailed and kicked and somehow, amazingly enough,
I reached the side.
Alive.

At the moment it seemed like a miracle that I survived, but I knew even then, in my five year old mind, that he was watching. He was ready to dive in the moment I needed him. But he loved me enough to know I needed to be tossed out into the middle, beyond any safety, where there was nothing to hold onto. Real love doesn’t always keep us safe; sometimes it takes us to the deepest element of terror. Because there we learn how much stronger His arms are than we ever imagined.
We learn He is ALWAYS there.
That He ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That feeling of terror still sweeps over me when I jump in deep, even though I can swim.
When I can’t feel the bottom of the pool and all is so, so quiet.
It’s there, the terror, the fear. But He is there too, and that makes it all ok.

It doesn’t make it safe, but life isn’t about being safe. It’s about walking with God.
It takes my breath away, His giving us this eternal treasure in simple jars of clay.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
Perplexed and confused at times, but never to the point of absolute despair.
We go through shattering times, but we are never truly forsaken, crushed but not destroyed.
It is in these times that we discover that we carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that His life may also come out of our temporal, human bodies…

Because of this, we don’t loose heart.

Our bodies, and all we feel, are wasting away, but at the same time, our soul is being renewed, refreshed, made alive, day by day. And when we see it like it really is, we understand that these are simply momentary groanings, preparing us for the eternal glories that cannot even compare to anything we have ever known down here. It’s all about seeing the eternal more clearly than that earthly…

(2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18 paraphrased)

Somehow, this amazing God of ours loves us in the journey. He could have skipped this whole thing of life, and just taken us straight from salvation to eternity. But He sees something priceless about the process.

And sometimes that means letting Him take me back, to face old things, to relearn,
to accept my need afresh.

So today I’m taking a deep breath and turning that camera back on.
There are moments to capture. There are lessons to learn.
And I’m learning that’s ok. God loves me here, in my need. It’s not about my need, really.
My life is about Him.
And sometimes we learn best who God is when we see what He can do with brokenness.
When we see what He can do with us. After all, this is His name, our Redeemer.

“Let the words that I speak, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable and bring you glory today,
Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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4 thoughts on “Three Steps Back…

  1. I can certainly relate to this. I remember the day I was weeping tears of frustration with myself when I first clearly understood… His grace is sufficient for me, not just to supply my need before I mess up, but after the fact, when I am hating myself. I really appreciate how you articulated this.

  2. Thank you for sharing your life stories. They are encouraging. They are reminders at times and at other times they are fresh insights into what we all will experience ourselves one day. Thank you!

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