“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)
A fragile, young woman came to me in confidence, several years ago, with her story of childhood sexual abuse. She was opening up her deepest, darkest secrets in an effort of finding healing for her tortured mind and broken heart. She needed to talk to a person in whom she felt safe. She put her trust in me.
For years I held her story. I had promised not to tell it. I made that promise believing that if I proved trustworthy, my friend would be emboldened to continue on her path of openness and healing, seeking further help from educated professionals. I considered my role as one of a civilian stepping into an emergency situation while the true paramedics were on their way.
A Simmering Hellscape
Child abuse does not hurt just that one child. It disfigures a family. It impairs a community. It blemishes every corner it touches and every inch of past, present, and future until it destroys all or is itself destroyed. I knew, when the truth came to full light there would be upheaval, anger and all sorts of extreme reaction. The infection would spill out like a volcanic eruption, and I, now a part of the storyline, was within range of being burned.
Who but God can stop such a storm?
I fervently prayed to God for protection, healing and help. With time, the young woman sought counsel (a mandatory reporter) and began to share more with caring people. She took the tiniest of steps towards trusting more and became stronger in herself. It seemed as if this path of trust was like a chain link of arms…I was trusting God to lead me, and my friend was trusting me. Forward progress was slow yet measurable.
The metaphoric volcano erupted just prior to our trip to Hawaii. As expected, fire rained down in angry words and accusations.
“How could you know and not say anything?!!”
“How could you let my family remain in danger?!!”
“How could you?!!”
Hidden smoldering pops up in unexpected places and with unanticipated individuals. Affected people with unresolved issues had a new channel to direct their flow of heat. I’d had time to prepare for the explosion, but I could not have known what else would come forth from beneath the surface. Oh, things came out!
The finger pointing hurt. The blame-shift off of the true offender scared me. I became angry too. I cried and yelled in defensiveness. It felt chaotic despite the fact that the crimes were long since past. I questioned myself.
When I am under attack, there are moments of standing firm and there are moments of retreat. At the end of the day, when emotionally and physically exhausted, I need reprieve from the battle. A light-hearted movie often gives me some rest. This week, I chose to watch Jerry McGuire as a distraction before bedtime.
In this movie, the main character, Jerry, is a sports agent who is trying to sign a representation contract with the hottest, up-and-coming football star. In a pivotal scene of the movie, the father of the boy-star tells Jerry that they do not need to bother with paperwork because, “you have my word, and my word is stronger than oak.”
The hairs rose on the back of my neck as I heard those words. I had given my word, to a frighten, tenuous, shell-of-a-girl, all those years ago, a promise that I would hold her trouble in confidence. In that movie moment I realized that if I had not held strong to my word, the outcome of this ugliness would have been completely different.
God In The Fire
Affirmations abounded through this single line of the movie. I was not the villain in the story nor was I responsible for more than I could handle. I did the right thing by this one girl and surrendered the rest, putting my trust in the Lord and praying hard. True to His Word, God was there, protecting, healing and helping. He was trustworthy.
I found rest that night.
Yesterday, Jeff and I visited the volcano on Hawaii’s east side. We hiked over layers and layers of lava bed. It is an amazing site! This whole island is a result of volcanic activity. This paradise would not exist without that activity. The volcano remains active, increasing the land mass of Hawaii, yet it is the waters of the Pacific Ocean that determine its boundaries by cooling the destructive nature of the erupting beast. God can work wonders with even the most volatile things.
Today, it is Jeremiah 17:7-8, that speaks so lovingly to my heart, in this situation and on so many levels. It reminds me that to trust in the Lord is like cool waters. Waters that both nourish and put out flame. I’ve not yet reached the point of “no fear” when it comes to being in the heat, nor “no anxiety” during the dry spells. But every account of His care, as I come through these events, is building trust…like more links in the trust chain.
In this wavering world, I desperately desire for my word to be stronger than oak; a hardwood tree planted by waters with strong, strong roots! I want to trust in the Lord with an assured reliance on His character, ability, strength and truth, confident in my relationship with Him. To trust and to be trustworthy, epitomizes living untethered to the world.
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