Beauty From Ashes


Beauty From Ashes


There’s been an accident.

His voice was too calm, too measured. I knew this accident was not like the last when my husband called on his way home to say he had clipped the freeway divider. Even before hearing the details, my body began to shudder involuntarily and my eyes welled with tears. Hanging upside down inside the overturned wreckage, he was somehow able to reach his cell phone with his one free hand. Still in a state of shock, he briefly related that he’d been in a brutal hit and run accident, and that the other occupants of his truck were still unconscious; it was serious. He couldn’t talk long; he just wanted to let me know. Hours later we would learn that our friend’s life was tragically ended in the accident and my beloved father-in-law had suffered permanent neurological damage. My husband was conscious through the whole incident. Cocooned between the two front seats, he was spared serious physical injury. His emotional injuries, however, were incalculable.

In a moment, three families’ lives were dramatically altered forever. The days and years that have followed have been overshadowed by the consequences of this violent event: death, injury, trauma, a criminal case, a civil case, financial duress, grief, depression, fear, questions, injustice. Our friend, an only child, was survived by his parents and his wife of one year; my father-in-law would live seven more years in a semi-vegetative state, cared for faithfully by my mother-in-law who gave sacrificially of herself each day to ease his burden. After 11 years, with the civil case still to be processed in Portugal, we recently learned that the defendant has divested himself of his assets and fled to Brazil. He will not be pursued or required to pay damages. The story is still unfolding.

And ours is by no means an isolated case. Almost daily, news headlines are relating incidents like this that include death, injury, trauma, injustice and lives altered in a moment. Lately, there have been so many that it is almost impossible not to wonder what is going to happen next. And there is no way to foresee where, and when, the next will strike.

The sheer weight of the violence and brutality is enough to leave one paralyzed, engulfed in fear and uncertainty. Looking only on the surface of things, all that is visible is chaos.

Over the years as the consequences of my husband’s accident have unfolded and we continue to navigate the frustratingly slow and circuitous nuances of a justice system that seems anything but just, I have found myself asking this question: “What is the truth? Remind me of what is true!” What I’m really asking is to be reminded of transcendent Truth that can anchor me in the face of circumstances that threaten to consume us. If I can settle my mind on truth, the rest of my senses will eventually follow and peace can be restored.

The truth is…

Jesus is familiar with suffering and promises to never leave me or forsake me.
I have been bought for a price, I am no longer my own, and I am living simultaneously in two dimensions. I am in this world but not of it. My real Home is elsewhere.
I know how the story will ultimately end. And we are victorious.
God WILL provide, even if the provision comes in unexpected packages.
I was already warned in scripture that I would have trouble in this world but to be of good cheer because Jesus already overcame the world.
Faith overcomes this world. And faith works only one day at a time.
When I remember that all I am and all I have is a gift from God and ultimately belongs to Him, I can loosen my grip on all I hold dear and allow myself to trust. By remembering that I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies, I can accept more readily that I am a stranger on this earth. While stuff that happens can temporarily steal my happiness, it cannot touch my soul unless I let it. The sadness and suffering and frustration are real, but the deeper reality of Christ in me provides strength to overcome.

As believers we may not be spared suffering and loss, but I KNOW we can do it differently than those who have no hope. We are not victims, we are victorious.

Don’t get me wrong – I have had my share of moments where I didn’t think I could go on, where I cried myself to sleep, where I screamed and threw things out of despair, unsure of how else to release the pressure. However, I’ve learned that it’s ok to be human; it’s ok to feel. These feelings prove I exist. Yet there is a deeper place in me that remains steadfast despite the storm on the surface. It is here that mystery resides, where an anchor of hope keeps me from being utterly destroyed.

These are desperate times. I don’t know how long I have on this earth, but the Lover of my soul does. While I still have breath, I want to move forward with courage, be astute but innocent, and love like there is no tomorrow. I want to walk with my feet on the ground but my heart in eternity. I want to have a grateful heart and cherish the small things, because often they are the biggest.

Above all, I don’t want to walk alone. Our Triune God established, from the beginning, that community is essential. In some of our darkest moments, the light that gave most comfort almost always came in the shape of a friend or a mentor. While it is still today, let us spur one another on to love and good deeds, carrying each other’s burdens and thus allowing God to create beauty from ashes.

Tamara Carpenter