“Do you want to just do it alone?” I snapped to my dad as he was helping me with a chore. He had made some innocent comment to me about my method of packing (or something) and those sharp words were my reply. I never imagined that those would be among my final memories with my dad: angry, hurtful, unkind words from an exhausted mom. I could defend myself by explaining that we were moving for the fourth time in six years. That we had moved to Topeka, Kansas, to take over a ministry from an ailing pastor, only to be eye witnesses to his miracle healing. We were handed our walking papers with nowhere to go and no severance. But those are just excuses. The reason I said those words was because I’m human. I’m a sinner. I’m a sinner who by God’s grace alone is headed to Heaven, but a sinner nonetheless.
I have a zillion memories of doing (and amazingly, saying) things that were pleasant while Dad was alive. I could write a book of all the wonderful times we had together. Why, oh, why do I remember this the most?
Two years after dad died, another terrible thing happened in our family. An outsider grieved us deeply, in what I now think of as our “unspeakable tragedy”. It’s something that I only discuss with my husband. It’s something that I sometimes cry about, wishing I could have prevented it, in fact, blaming myself for not preventing it. These memories are – for some reason- branded upon my brain! Oh! How I would love to forgive myself completely and expunge then memory!
When I am overwhelmed with heartache and grief from my past, I often will call or text my husband. I don’t have to say much, because he holds half of my soul. He understands. Recently, he said to me in a reply text: “It is the influence of the evil one. Don’t believe it.” I stopped and pondered those words, rather than the other ones filling my mind. The influence of the evil one, Satan. I remembered that verse about Satan being an accuser, from Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. That verse made me recall the verse from 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul says, Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; It’s so hard sometimes to keep my mind on right things, and I find that I am an easy target. It’s no secret that I make mistakes, and I’ve certainly made my share of apologies over the years, as most of my friends can attest. So when Satan reminds me of this mistake or that harsh word, I crumble inside. I momentarily give up on serving God because I’m such a failure. How can He use someone like me?
And then, in my menagerie of thoughts, Christ whispers, “Oh, but, Valerie, it’s not about you.”
That’s right. It isn’t! I mess up…a lot. I speak harshly and loudly and sarcastically. I roll my eyes. I huff and sigh and shrug when things go awry. Thank the Lord that HE can take my mess, my mistakes and my craziness and make something beautiful out of it. Because, my life is beautiful. I am loved in spite of my sinful condition!
As I ponder my past, I recall something else from so long ago. I remember that I stood in beneath the lattice roof of my little patio at my duplex on Winterbrook Avenue in Lawrence, Kansas, and I hugged my parents goodbye. They had successfully helped us move and were now taking our dog and going back to Arkansas. The sunshine blinded me and Lauren and Mitchell, who were seeing their papa for the last time, as we said goodbye. We sobbed and cried so much that my neighbor, a large Native American lady, opened her patio door and peeked out at us. Despite the nearness of this stranger, I stood firmly and waved my arm at the little white pickup truck until it was out of sight.
Yes, I remember the hateful words I said, and I suppose that memory will be with me until I cross over the heavenly shores and see my Savior face to face. For now, however, the Comforter says to me, “The evil one is lying. Those words were not your last words. Remember, Valerie? Your very last words to your dad? I do. You said, ‘I love you’.”
And that’s the truth.