The Gift of These Scars

I stroked his hair as I woke him up this morning, my little boy turned young man.
“Isaac went to heaven 13 years ago today,” and all the sudden tears I didn’t know were there stung my eyes. Weston’s sleepy eyes focused on my face and he pulled his face closer to me, offering comfort in his lanky teenage way.

“You remind me so much of him,” I whispered between the unexpected shakey breaths. He really does, from the way he carries himself, to the never dying love for a good challenge. His connection with all things wild and rugged, of creating carved beauty out of an old log. Well worn pocket knives and jeans always with holes in them. Isaac was ALL boy, and Weston and he would have endless fun together. I know Isaac would take him off on long exhausting hike or the best, smokiest camping trips and late nights of steaks and stories and hammocks strung between trees. There are no new memories or new photos of Isaac. We have carefully combed through the ones we have, remembering with shocking sweetness how he used to walk, or the sound of his voice from a video clip. I love with when Weston uses an Isaac expression, and for a split second, I’m looking Isaac in the eye again. For just a moment, and then it’s gone, but it leaves my heart warm and smiling.

Isaac’s life was shorter than I wanted it to be.
I wanted to watch him to play with my kids, marry and have kids of his own.
Mostly I wanted him to show young people what it’s like to cross deep waters of hard questions and come out boldly with the answers.
And he did just that, but not how I expected.

“It’s humbling,” he told me quietly a few weeks before he died, “after it all, to discover that God is who He said He was all along…”
Isaac faced very dark seasons, but he found in those darkest places, God isn’t daunted by our hardest places.
He found God able to handle our heaviest questions.
He found God to be truth.
He found God WAS.

The rugged Lempa River, carved deep into blistered hot stone, has etched a grand canyon into my life, forever changing me. Isaac’s drowning sliced right to my core, and laid bare parts of myself that I never knew were there. Grief has taken me apart, and put me back together in a new way- in a better, deeper way, with a fuller understanding of God. I wish to have Isaac back, but I do not wish to lose what I have gained through this loss.
The jagged scar is now a daily reminder of God’s goodness through the most horrible moments of life. The scar is a visible expression of God’s faithfulness through it all.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Cor 4:7-12

13 years. Thirteen short, yet eternally long years ago today Isaac burst into heaven. I will always remember Hunter S. Thompson’s quote: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

While he isn’t here today, my relationship with Isaac is still changing me and forcing me to grow. He inspires me to be honest, seek truth, and live life with all I’ve got. Daily I look into Weston and Landon’s faces, and I remember to seek to understand them, to study them, to love than better than I did yesterday. And to always remember that this life is just a small chapter before we start the real adventure in eternity. Isaac’s death has brought so much clarity to the reality of eternity.

We must choose to look at our grief as a tool to make us better, to experience more deeply who God is. Our scars and battle wounds do not become our identity, but they are beautiful testament to the journey we have walked and the faithfulness of God, through all seasons.

Isaac longed for life free from pain and injustice. Where no boy would have to grow up without a dad. He wrote about the joy of all being made right in heaven, and said, “Then we will dance.”
He is on the dancing side. And we still wait, on the other side of the deep Lempa waters.
We see through a glasswork dimly, but Isaac sees Jesus face to face.

In your deepest pain, you are carried, loved, held.
Someday you will look back and see the goodness of God through your darkest times.

Are you scarred? Have you been sliced wide open? 
It’s there, right there, that God’s presence and healing oil wants to flow over you, pick you up and carry you away. 

After grief, we are never the same.
And after finding God in those places, we are forever changed.
We have tasted heaven in earths most broken moments.
Even here, on this side the river, we have reason to dance.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Meg says:

    There’s so much deep, life-giving water in this post… you never deny the difficulty of losing Isaac and that’s why the deep grace you’ve also experienced is wrapped around every word. Thank you for sharing the insight you’ve gained as a result of this journey you’re in.

  2. notestowomen says:

    So sorry for you loss, Melissa. August will be two years since we lost our son. He was 11 when he died. I miss him but I’m comforted by the fact that I will see and be with him again. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Leona says:

    Amen, and amen. This post is artfully written, and is a beautiful tribute to your brother. Thank you for blessing me again. I, too, know loss and grief, and your reflections resonate with my heart.
    …And after finding God in those places, we are forever changed. (Deeply changed. That I wouldn’t want to trade.)
    We have tasted heaven in earth’s most broken moments. (Yes! Tears.)
    Even here, on this side of the river, we have reason to dance. (We do indeed! God is good.)
    May God be near you as you remember Isaac.

  4. Shannon says:

    Yes, to all of this!

  5. Linda says:

    Just today I cried because I missed Isaac. His death shattered all my theology into a thousand jagged bits, and I too am constantly aware how much my life has been shaped by his death. Hugs to you and all your people.

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