My tummy felt unsettled, upon waking, and it was moments before tears welled up, and spilled over.
I was almost seven when my father threatened to kill our family. Later that day, in a drunken stupor, he belted out religious hymns and muttered incoherently about ‘poor Moses’ and ‘baby Jesus’, leaning over my baby brother. It scared me.
It has been thirty-seven years since that day that shaped so much of who I am today. That day, when I decided no one would take care of me, except me. I’ve had much healing, and renounced the vow I made to not need anyone, but the emotions linger, below the surface. Sometimes closer than I like.
I have no choice but to acknowledge past trauma and present grief when this happens. Not so much grief for me, or our family, any more, but grief that children still suffer. But I cannot linger long in that place. It is too dark and oppressive.
So I lifted my heart to heaven, and my eyes to the cross, this morning, and held up a little 11-yr-old boy whom I’ve never met. And asked Jesus to be with Him, to heal him. Because that little boy has physical, emotional and spiritual scars, if he survives, that will haunt him for life. I know this. And his two siblings, as well.
When I think of these words of Jesus, almost without fail, I also think of the brass serpent Moses made in the Old Testament, Numbers 21, to be exact. In this story serpents attacked the Children of Israel, after they complained about God having rescued them from Egypt, where they had it so-o-o-o good! (How soon we forget!)
When the Children of Israel saw the consequences for their sin, they repented, and went to Moses, begging him to ask God to get rid of the serpents.
What God does next is a powerful sign of the coming Messiah, Jesus. God tells Moses to make a Serpent, and lift it up on a pole. If the people look at it, they will live.
Moses does as God says, makes the snake, and lifts it up. By that time many have died, and others are dying. But every one who raised their eyes, in obedience, was healed. It was not the snake that healed but faith, in what God had said, that healed them.
The symbolism of this event plays in my mind often, because of the work I do. If God had not called me to work with Sexual Abuse Victims, I would prefer never again in my life to utter the words, ‘sexual abuse’. It is such a tragic thing! And I love to focus on the brighter side of life.
But this abuse reminds me of those snakes. And to not acknowledge, is to watch countless people die a slow and painful ‘death of the heart and spirit’, without doing what I can.
In a way, I feel like God has asked me to sit with victims who are ‘bitten by the snake’, and point up, to the cross, where Jesus hangs dying for us, for our sin, our pain. If for no other reason, I believe God chose the cross because it is lifted up. It requires us taking our eyes off of ourselves, our pain, our trauma, and the ‘stuff of life’ and seeing a whole new perspective of suffering. The redemption.
And that is a hard thing to see, when we look down and focus only on our pain, or even the darkness around us. But when our eyes are lifted up, to Jesus on the cross, and we see His suffering for us, it changes our perception. It doesn’t change our circumstances, at least not immediately, but it changes the way we see them.
When we focus long enough on the cross, and acknowledge that suffering of Jesus, the Christ–our Messiah–then we realize He too did not stay in that place of suffering.
The revelation strikes us that His suffering brought our redemption, and if we let God use us, then our suffering will bring the redemption of others.
Oh… it is so tempting to stay caught up in our pain. For a long, long time. Much longer than we would need to. Because we get comfortable in our pain. We learn to embrace the sympathy we can draw from others, and we cringe at giving that up. We fear that if we cannot use that sympathy, the whole world will abandon us.
Instead, when we lift our eyes to Jesus, and see Him, not only on the cross, but the Risen Saviour, and we begin to speak that kind of Hope to the world, out of our own suffering, it is then we discover true relationship with others. A relationship of giving, of pouring out, of making a difference.
While those who oppose me try to draw my eyes away from the Christ, and to the pathetic arguments of ‘this world’… And while the enemy attacks with various lame distractions… I have made a commitment. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, High and Lifted up.
And I will encourage all I meet to join me. Because when we do, the ‘serpent’s bites’–those tragic things we have experienced in our lives–will lose their power. Then we will live… truly live. We will be more alive than we were before the tragedy struck. And then the enemy’s power over us will be broken! Then even 11-yr-old boys, who are beaten within a breath of their life and scarred in every way, can be made whole again, and little girls too.
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