Broken & Hurting

Many loneliness-1879453_1920people experience the worst life has to offer. Sometimes, the pain is the result of illness or accident, but at times it is intentionally inflicted by other people.

Debbie grew up in a Christian home, and shortly after high school, met Kyle, a young man who attended the same church. After dating for a year, Kyle asked her to marry him, and she said “yes,” expecting to live happily ever after.

A few months after the wedding, however, Debbie was still on cloud nine when something went terribly wrong. When she got home from work one day, she found out he’d been drinking, and in a rage, he hit her. Horrified, she called their pastor, who provided counseling for several weeks. Things seemed to be getting better, until one night Kyle put a loaded gun to her head. In a panic, Debbie managed to escape. Even though her grandmother lived several miles away, Debbie somehow found the strength to run all the way. She survived, but something inside had broken, making it hard to trust anyone. She left Kyle and abandoned her faith in Christ.Silhouette 2

Every one of us is broken in some way. We might look fine on the outside, but inside we’re hurting. If we’re to find healing or any positive result from the pain, it might be helpful to take a look at Job, James, and Jesus to see how we can respond in painful circumstances.

Even though he did everything right, Job suffered terrible business losses, extreme physical pain, and undeserved accusations from his friends. His wife also lost everything, and chose to let go of hope and faith, suggesting that he do the same. Instead, Job turned to the Lord, and began to understand more fully his own weakness and need for God. These are important lessons that sometimes have to be learned the hard way. We have a tendency to be self-sufficient, unaware of our desperate need for God. In his darkest moments, Job chose to turn toward the Lord, and so can we.

The second possibility for meaning in our pain is character growth. James 1:2-4 tells us to remain joyful when we endure tests and trials, because they will help us mature. It is true that pain can break us, but it also has a way of strengthening us and deepening us. The difference is how we respond to the crisis and to the work of the Holy Spirit.

A third potential benefit of tribulation is that it can help us develop compassion for others. When Jesus looked at the crowds, he saw their need and was moved to compassion. He cared about people and saw their hurts. He felt their need, and acted. He fed them, healed them, taught them, loved them. The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 1:4 when he says the Lord comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others.

Some people respond to pain by becoming hardened, bitter, or angry. Others are jealous of those who seem to have everything going right. If we want to grow in Christ and enjoy life to its fullest, however, we can’t afford to let either of those happen. Instead, we can turn to the Lord, mature as human beings, and develop a sense of compassion for others.

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There’s a song in the musical version of Les Misérables that a Christian pastor sings to a hungry, homeless criminal, “Come in, sir, for you are weary, and the night is cold out there. There’s a bed to rest til morning, rest from pain and rest from wrong.”

That’s what the Lord is saying to us in Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, you who are tired, carrying a heavy load, and I will give you rest.” Rest from pain, and rest from wrong.

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Giant Springs, Montana

dscn8486In the spring of 2004, I was in Montana on business when I heard about Giant Springs State Park, so I drove over to take a look. What I discovered captured my imagination, and I vowed that someday I’d return to investigate more thoroughly, perhaps to use the springs, the river, and the water process as a parable or a metaphor for what happens in a person’s life. That “someday” happened in the summer of 2016.

I had some free time before starting a new job, and decided it would be a good time to go back to Montana. However, I needed help. So I called my brother to ask if he’d go with me. Gene has a tremendous understanding of science and engineering, and I wanted him to help me make sense of the underground water system in preparation for the project.

When I mentioned that I’d like him to take a trip to Montana with me, his immediate reply was, “Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

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“Gene, I need you to become an expert on the underground water system in Montana, you have four months to learn it, and I want you to go there with me.”

He listened to what I had to say, asked a few questions, and told me he was intrigued and would consider going. Then, because he lives in Arkansas and I live in Florida, he asked, “How are we going to get there? A road trip?”

“No, I think it’d be a better use of our time to fly up there, do what we need to do, then fly home.”

Having worked for Boeing, Rockwell, and McDonnel Douglas for many years, Gene enjoys airplanes and flying. Yet, he wasn’t sure he wanted to spend that kind of money on some harebrained idea from his younger brother.

So I said, “Would you go with me if I buy the plane tickets?”

“Well, now! That makes it easier to decide. Yes, I think I would.”

Once my brother accepted the challenge, he dove into the project wholeheartedly. He read articles, searched online, and called from time to time to tell me what he was learning. I was doing much of the same reading, but his comprehension was keener and broader.

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The focus of our project was the water that gushes out of Giant Springs and forms the Roe River. Up until 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Roe River of Montana as the shortest river in the world. Guinness no longer includes “shortest river” as a category, but the Roe is still there – 201 feet of pure, crystal clear water.

The western sliver of Montana is west of the Continental Divide. On the other hand, Helena, Great Falls, and the Little Belt Mountains are immediately east of the Divide. Ironically, this means that the shortest river in the world flows into the longest river in America – the  2,341-mile Missouri.

The first English speakers to describe Giant Springs were Lewis and Clark, who explored Montana in 1805. The people of the Blackfeet Nation, however, had been using the springs as a winter water source long before Lewis and Clark arrived.

What continues to captivate my curiosity, though, is the decades-long process the water takes to get from the mountains, 60 miles away, to Giant Springs. I can do a lot of research online and in the library, but I wanted to see the springs, the terrain, the mountains, and the streams. I wanted to take pictures. So I had to go. And, I wanted Gene to go with me.

I drove from Florida to Arkansas and spent the night at Gene’s home. The next day we drove to Oklahoma City, and from there, flew to Salt Lake City, changing planes, then taking the jaunt up to Helena. Flying over Wyoming was the first time Gene saw the Grand Teton mountain range from the air, but with their majestic peaks jutting straight up, he recognized them immediately.

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After landing in Helena and checking in to the Super 8 hotel, we took some time to drive around Helena and get acquainted with the town. One of the highlights was seeing the beautiful Cathedral of St. Helena. Another was driving by Carroll College. Then we went out to dinner to go over our game plan.

The next morning, we drove 91 miles to Great Falls, MT, which is known as the “Electric City” because of its numerous dams and power plants. Along the way, we talked, sang, and laughed. We took pictures of mountains, rivers, geese, squirrels, and waterfalls, including the Black Eagle Falls, one of five waterfalls on a ten-mile stretch of the Missouri River as it runs through Great Falls.

When we got to Giant Springs State Park, we took pictures and read all the literature and signs we could find.

After a couple of hours at the Roe River, we headed east. I’d heard about a town called Stanford about an hour’s drive from Great Falls. My grandfather was Stanford Linzey, my dad was Stanford Linzey, Jr., and my brother is Stanford Linzey III. So I thought, “Hey! We’re already in Montana. Why not drive a little out of the way and have lunch in Stanford, in honor of my grampa, my dad, and their namesake – my brother?” So we did.

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We had a delightful time in Stanford, which has a population of about 400. We ate lunch in the Basin Trading Post, learned some of the history of the area, and saw the infamous White Wolf in the display case. Then we toured the town, taking more pictures, of course

From there, we drove up to the Little Belt Mountains to see the source of the water that flows underground to Giant Springs. On the way, we discovered a breathtaking gorge, carved by the Belt Creek. It was named Sluice Box State Park because the geographical structure looked like the sluice boxes used by miners to remove dirt, rocks, gravel, and sand. From the 1870s through the 1930s gold, silver, zinc, and lead were mined from these hills.

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We passed an old farm house that had burned to the ground, and imagined together what might have happened there. Then we continued driving deeper into the mountains, taking note of the many streams and creeks. At one point, Gene mentioned he’d read somewhere that for all the water you see above ground, there’s much more than that underground.

“Sort of like the iceberg principle?” I asked?

“Yes, similar. But not the same ratio.”

We drove south through the towns of Monarch, Neihart, and Showdown. Then, going down the other side of the mountains the road was being repaired, so we got in line and followed the Department of Transportation vehicle into the town of White Sulphur Springs and stopped for gas. After pulling back onto the road, a pickup truck sped dangerously around us, slamming on its brakes right in front of us. The driver got out and marched over to our car.

This representative of the great State of Montana was quite angry that I hadn’t waited for the escort before getting back on the unfinished road, and decided to make sure I understood what she thought of me and my driving. Screaming at me, she asked, “Didn’t you learn anything at all in high school drivers training class? Or are you blind?”

When I told her that yes, I did learn how to drive in high school, and I was not blind, but I just didn’t see any escort trucks anywhere, she escalated the discussion to yelling, berating, and cussing at me.

“I hope you have a fine day, too, ma’am,” I said as she stomped back her truck, climbed onto her throne, and slammed the door.

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After returning to the flatlands, we headed north and drove along a wide place in the Missouri River, stopping outside of Winston to photograph a lone pelican on the water. Then we came full circle to where we started the day, pulling into the Super 8 parking lot in Helena. We had driven over 350 miles that day in an effort to experience the setting and context where the water parable takes place. We had to see the springs and the mountains in person, get a feel for the distances involved, and take the pictures. Just as importantly, we needed to talk about what we saw while we were there, which brought the project to life in a new dimension.

That night, we went to a steakhouse to celebrate our time together and to discuss what we had seen and done, the places we visited. In the hotel later, we shared our pictures so we’d have duplicates, just in case my computer crashed or Gene were to lose his camera. If either were to happen, the other would still have a photographic record of the experience, which brings us back to the parable of the hidden waters and the invisible forces.

Using the story about the Madison Aquifer and Giant Springs as an allegory, we want to explore some of what goes on internally in human beings, and examine some of the invisible forces at work in each of us. Hopefully, the result will help us – and our readers – more effectively manage the things that have happened in our past, how we respond to them, and how we relate to the people in our lives. Please go with us on this journey. As we discovered, it’s a lot more fun to travel together.

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Speed Bumps Ahead

 

Speed Bump SignThere were four or five speed bumps on the road ahead, but what caught my attention was the car in front of me. As it approached each bump in the road, it veered way over to the right to go around it. Didn’t slow down. Just avoided the speed bumps.

I, on the other hand, don’t mind speed bumps. They don’t bother me or my car in the least. Unless they are particularly obnoxious, or unless my wife is in the car with me, I go right over them without worrying. Without slowing very much, either, I might add.

When the car ahead got to the last speed bump, there was a parked car on the side of the road, so the driver had no choice but to go over the bump. To accomplish this feat, he came to a complete stop. Then he crawled over the speed bump as if his car might be damaged if it went more than 2 MPH over that obstacle. It was a fairly new car, and it didn’t seem fragile. Yet he crept over that speed bump as if his very life depended on not going any faster than the snail on the sidewalk to our right. The earthworm on the other side sped past him, though. Just zipped on by!

I watched the scene play out, trying to remain patient. I had a meeting to attend, but I could wait a little longer to see what the fellow would do. See if his jalopy would survive the ordeal of climbing over that mountain. It got all the way to the top of the speed bump and eased down the other side. Then the driver looked around, breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and accelerated. He was a success. He was having a good day!

Man in StreetAfter the meeting, I thought about the speed bump episode. In everyday life, we all face bumps in the road. We might call them hiccups or obstacles. Some people refuse to use the word “problem,” preferring, instead, to call them “challenges.” But they’re real.

Jesus said plainly in John 16:33 that there’ll be trouble, sorrow, pain, and difficulty in this world. Different translations of the Bible use words like tribulation, trials, distress, and afflictions. The Greek word is thlipsis, which refers to a variety of tough circumstances.

The fact is . . . life is tough. And just when you think it’s going to ease up a bit, it gets harder. It tests your faith. It raises hard questions. It makes you want to run away. “But be of good cheer,” the Lord goes on to say. “Take heart, be brave, don’t let it defeat you.”

Jesus knew about hardship. He knew what it meant to suffer, to hurt, to wish things could turn out differently. So did James, who wrote that we can be joyful even when going through tough stuff, knowing that the Lord is at work in our lives. So did Paul, who said God was working for our good in every situation. Even when hitting those speed bumps.

Basketball HoopYears ago, in a pick-up game of basketball, the other team got a rebound and was running a 4-on-1 fast break. Trying to defend them, I turned to reach for the ball. In doing so, I twisted my knee, snapped my ACL, and landed on the ground in pain. Surgery was followed by months of physical therapy.

To this day, I have an awareness and a compassion for people who have a leg, knee, or foot injury. Whenever I see someone in a wheelchair, on crutches. or wearing a knee brace, I remember what it was like falling to the ground in agony, then being helped off the court by friends. For a moment, I relive the exercises designed to restore strength and range of motion. My painful experience helped me become more aware of other people and what they’re going through.

We can’t avoid speed bumps, can’t always drive around them like the driver in front me was trying to do. There will always be problems, challenges, and obstacles. Some will be overwhelming, others mere hiccups. What we can do is face them with courage, patience, and confidence, open to the idea that they just might lead to personal growth and maturity, and just maybe help us develop a sense of compassion and an ability to relate to other people.

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Check Your Baggage

Luggage 2When we say a person is carrying a lot of baggage, what we mean is there has been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it. We often have trouble letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

There’s a Biblical Principle of Marriage in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritually, in order to fully live in the present we have to let go of the past. If we want to enjoy the Christian life and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we have to allow God’s grace to set us free from our past, and move forward in a new direction, with different habits and attitudes, forming a different lifestyle that is shaped by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. This might entail ending some relationships and forming new ones.

Relationally, if we want today’s marriage to succeed, we have to stop focusing on previous relationships, good or bad, and live the life we are currently called to live. We can’t afford to live in the past.

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While Genesis states that it is the parents who must be left in order to form a new unity, there are others besides parents we must leave behind as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover or spouse. There may be a number of people and situations that have to be included in what we let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, sports, or any number of things.

One couple lost a son in a boating accident. The woman drove her husband to divorce because she was unable to let go of the pain and loss, unable to heal, and unable to stop blaming him. She couldn’t let go of yesterday, so it ruined today.

House 1But it’s not only the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes we have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, the perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth, fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete who can no longer play is often headed for emotional and relationship disaster. A business person or a Soldier whose career comes to an end might find it hard to stop living that life and transition to retirement. Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work can have a tough time accepting the new reality, and letting go of the previous physical ability. Cancer survivors have to get used to “the new normal.” But anyone who can’t accept the new normal is in trouble. So is their marriage.

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves and others from the pain and injustice of the past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. It can’t happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, the betrayal, and the injustice. When forgiveness finishes its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and liberated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We typically carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and forgiveness is complete. The singing group Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with scars that might remain for a lifetime.

  • Heal the wound but leave the scar
  • A reminder of how merciful You are
  • I am broken, torn apart
  • Take the pieces of this heart
  • And heal the wound but leave the scar

Water and ReedsOne middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. They also felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor for guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. They also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness. They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They also asked each other for forgiveness. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.

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