Gates of Time

This summer I was at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum – a memorial to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal building which killed 168 people. It is a beautiful and power memorial. We were only able to view the outside memorial due to the hour of the day but the symbolism of that place was powerful enough to help us feel a small sense of what happened in that sacred space 17 years ago.

okc_memorial_from_250_feet_above

The Gates of Time and the Reflecting Pool

One of the most moving parts of the memorial for me was the Gates of Time. These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing. When you enter either gate, you have to wind through a ramp that twists back and forth. This was done on purpose to force people to slow down and to transition from the outside world to the sacred space, the solemn moment. Between the gates, time is frozen. People linger, reflect, relive a moment that changed everything for so many.

But at the end of the day, they have to exit through the other gate. Eventually, they have to pass back through to the real world, the waiting world with all of its quirks and hurts; joys and fears. You simply can’t live between those gates.

But some of us try, don’t we?

Most of us have moments in our lives where peace and innocence were destroyed and we were left dazed and bleeding, standing among the rubble and the ash. Maybe it was a dream that crashed and burned; a relationship that ended despite your best efforts; another’s choice that forced the label of victim upon you. Whatever it was that brought death and destruction into your life, that moment is etched in your brain like a memorial and it is tempting to live between the gates.

But we can’t.

We can linger. We can reflect. We can relive a moment that changed everything for us. We can build an altar so we don’t forget any lessons we learned. But, eventually, we have to exit out the other side. The world didn’t stop even though ours did.

So, if you find yourself stuck between the gates please know that I am praying for you. My natural inclination is to rush in and help you find your way out. But I can’t. This is your journey to make. When you are ready to move on, know that I’ll be waiting for you – just outside the gate.

Scars

At youth group on Wednesday night, we talked about scars. There are physical scars that we all have, scars that open the door to some pretty amazing stories.  Stories about falls in the shower that ended with a face plant on the side of the tub and a gash in the chin.  Or a cool trick on a skateboard that turned out to be a not so cool trick.  Maybe a story about being so excited about getting asked to prom your junior year by the cute cross country runner that you ran down the hallway, grabbed the door frame to swing around and accidentally cut your wrist.  (Not saying that last one actually happened or anything but if you want to see the scar ….)

Physical scars don’t usually hurt.  Sometimes the memories associated with them do but physical scars often just remind us of a pain that we once felt, a wound we once suffered.  The multiple scars I have don’t hurt in the least.

Emotional scars are another story entirely.  Everyone has emotional scars – scars representing deep wounds in our hearts, our minds, our souls. They take so much longer to heal and they are  infinitely more fragile than physical scars.  The slightest word, sight or thought can rip them open again and the pain feels like the first infliction. And because they often aren’t visible, it is easier for us to cover these scars and pretend like they aren’t really there – that everything is fine.  Just as a physical wound festers and gets worse the longer it is ignored or buried,  so do our emotional wounds.  They begin to eat away at us inside and ooze into every aspect of our lives – our thoughts, our spirit, even our physical body.

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Bloody Church

Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein.  Red Smith

Open a vein . . . quite simple?  I think not.  Painful . . . most definitely.  Messy . . . usually. In the days of early medicine when people would be under the daze of a high fever, doctors would open their veins to bleed out the “bad blood” so that the person might heal.

Do successful writers open a vein?  Do writers who resonate with people bleed out?  In doing so, do writers heal? Does the opening of the vein benefit more the writer or the reader?

It seems often that Christians don’t want to bleed.  There doesn’t seem to be much blood-letting in the Church these days.  Few people speak honestly of hurts and pains.  Even fewer people confess their failures or the temptations that they struggle to shake.  We put a lot of work into making sure no one knows we bleed.  How tacky and weak to open a vein in the Church.

But in private, oh, do we bleed.  We gush.  Having worked so hard to hide it from others, by the time night makes its appearance we can no longer hold it in.   How scary and frightening to bleed alone. To wonder if it will ever stop.  To fear that someone will see the stains or that perhaps one time in the light of day you will not be able to stop the flow. And then your secret will be out.  You bleed.

Then one Sunday you stand up timidly in your pew piercing the quiet of the sanctuary with your presence. You slowly roll up one your sleeves revealing bloody bandages covering wounds.  Without saying a word or meeting a glance, you tear the bandages off and open the vein.  You pour out to this community, this gathering of people who have no visible scars or blood stains.  When you finish, a young woman stands up in the back and rolls up her sleeve revealing the truth.  An older gentlemen stands up behind you, removes his tie and unbuttons his shirt to reveal the bandage across his heart.  One by one they stand.  They open the vein.  In that moment with all of our wounds exposed and our pain gushing from each wound, we see what church should be.

Who will stand and bleed first?  What are you bleeding over?  How can I and others pray for you?  If you are bleeding in  your life, I want to assure you that you are not alone.  Your Creator is present with you and He loves you like no other has ever loved you.  You are safe with Him.  You can show Him your wounds.  Nothing will scare Him away or disgust Him.  He will look upon your wound and will kiss it gently, like a mother kisses a child’s scraped knee.   He will embrace you and carry you until you are able to walk again.

Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.  I Peter 5:7