The Lion Roared

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:31, NRSV

Hours, days, weeks in the hospital blurred into one long anxiety. Pain. Fatigue. Helplessness. Abandonment. Despair. Negative emotions swam through my mind and curdled my thinking…what was left of it.  My brain had no more room.  Too many tests, too long before diagnosis, longer still until treatment. I. Was. Done.

Where was the peace that passes understanding?  Where was the intimacy I normally felt and practiced?  Where was my Advocate? Where was Immanuel, God WITH us?

I paused.

Well, where was He?  It hadn’t occurred to me to look.

Aslan. Lion of Judah, my Shield, my Defender… I waited, wondering what it would feel like to have a Lion defending me.  Would he roar? Would he attack “them”– all those people and infections and reactions hurting me?  Not a mythical lion, but the Lion of Judah, who promised to be with me always.   What would He do?

He stood at the foot of my bed and He roared.

Wait! Was that an impression from God or was I making this up?  I looked up, startled that my imagination had enough strength to function.  “Lord, is that YOU?” I asked.

He roared again–at the illness, the reactions, the complications, the doctors who frightened me, the CT scans that radiated me.  He looked at me with concern, and roared again and again and again.  “Lo, I am with you always,” surfaced in my mind.

He was holding back the things that would harm.  He was standing up for me when I couldn’t even walk. He was keeping the enemy from killing, maiming and destroying.  He was my Advocate, and he would not be thwarted.

“But Lord,” I thought, focusing on the foot-of-the-bed Lion, “what do I do with this deep alone-ness, this abandonment, this pain and despair?  You’re not taking it away, you’re not filling the hole, you’re roaring.  What do I do with this?”

And then there was a Lioness, beside the bed, licking, washing, pulling me toward her.  I imagined fur, and the strong body for me to lean against.  She purred, cleaned, rubbed.  I could almost feel her breath.  This was not a theoretical “with,” but a Jesus out to prove something.  He was roaring to protect, but He was nestling to nurture.  He would care and hold and shelter.  He would provide what the doctors and nurses and caring friends could not.

For three weeks He roared and nurtured, until I came home. For another three weeks, He purred and held me, through even more procedures and pain.  My hunger for Him grew even as He reassured me. I learned to wake up and lean into those secure arms.

Until one day, just eight weeks after the hospital post-surgery nightmare, the picture in my mind was gone.  “Lord?”  I looked around, hoping I would find the reassuring image and His reassuring breath.  But no, I didn’t need it any more.  I could still lean on Him, I could still be with Him, and I could still hear the roar.  Like the encouragement of a parent long-gone, the comfort was inside me.  I’d internalized the picture and the voice, and the trauma was over.

Where is the Lion of Judah roaring for you?  Is He nurturing, caring? Or fighting and protecting? Has He remained? Or has He vanished just as you recognized His care?

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Immanuel: God With Us

image courtesy david bowman davidbowmanart.com

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14

He comes.
And He stays with us.
Not as a visitor some cold Christmas Eve in a feed-trough of hay.
But as a Friend near to our arms and hearts,
Sitting beside us by the fire,
A fire of homeless night finger-warming,
Or a fire of granite-hearth living space,
He comes and stays,
Sharing our joys and our pains,
Our homelessness and our nestled-ness.
He comes and delights in us,
He comes to share with us,
He comes to listen,
He comes to impart.

He loves,
He encourages,
He welcomes,
He comforts.
And He stays,
Near,
Arm-around-our-shoulders close.

He is here.

In our fear,
In our hope;
In our desperation,
In our delight;
In our despair,
In our overcoming;
In our suffering,
In our exultation;
In our so-near-we-can-feel-His-heartbeat,
In our so-cold-our-fingertips-and-hearts-are-numb.

In our bitter memories,
In our best imaginations.

In our days of chemo,
In our days of promotion;
In our days of foreclosure,
In our days of dreams-come-true;
In our days of dark almost-dying,
In our days of magical wonder.

In our nights of longing,
In our nights of dreaming;
In our nights of babes in pain,
In our nights of overjoy.

He comes.
He stays.
He calls.
He heals.
He holds.
He understands.
He strengthens.
He redeems.
He celebrates.

Above all,
He comes and does not leave.
Ever.
Forever.

Immanuel,
God with us.
Finally.
Forever.

Blessed Christmas-tide-and-forever friend,
Welcome, Jesus.
And thank You.

Merry Christmas!
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