A letter

Archive for April, 2018|Monthly archive page

Stronger than before

In 2018, Entering Spring on April 6, 2018 at 10:48 am

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I was eight, maybe nine. Yep, just as you imagine: stringy blonde hair with my “just don’t care” look. The one you know so well. The concert was at the new sanctuary. I don’t remember anything until I remember what I remember. And that part is branded in my heart forever. And it feels illuminated— almost like I’m still there if I close my eyes long enough. I didn’t know then how that evening would shape me. I didn’t know the seeds it would sow deep into the bedrock of my soul. I don’t know if you even remember it. But I sure do. She was all the kinds of crazy I felt inside. Inch-short, spiked hair. Fierce, passionate, bold. I distinctly remember feeling the bass in my chest. The ground shaking. I remember exactly where I was standing in the room. And then she began, and like a wrecking ball these words came, again and again: “they’ll be stronger than before.”

I was eight, remember? Stronger than before. Great! Why would I need to be stronger? For what purpose? What would make me stronger? I feel great now. Stronger for what? And Why? Now at thirty-four, I know all too well what those words meant. And the reason they branded me was for that very reason. She was stronger than before. Before life. Before things you never want. Because of things you never want to face. Because of hardship. Because of tears. Because of winter. Because of things you never dream you’d walk through. Because of pain. Because of life. And, on the other side you are stronger. But no one signs up for the “stuff” in life. No one welcomes it with wide open arms, or goes looking for it. It just comes.

I remember being at a conference a few years later. I think I was 11. I’m sure you remember it. A grandfather spoke. Well, he may have been my dad’s age now, but then he was definitely “older” to me. His message was about pain and ministry. I don’t remember his exact phraseology, but I remember what I came away with–a sinking feeling that God could never use me because I didn’t really have much to show for in regards to “stuff. ” In regards to suffering. In regards to pain. Not everyone can say that at eleven, but I could. And I desperately wanted God to use me. I remember me and Al having a serious talk with Dad that night, and him reassuring us, in his ever-so-gentle way, that God would certainly use us. We didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but I sure do now. He was so confident that pain would come, though he wouldn’t wish it for us in all the world. Almost everything was roses for us then. I wish I could say that it stayed that way, but dad was right: God would use us, and life was sure to come, full of heart-searing pain.

Janny marked me. Her words haunted me for years and years. Something about her raw passion. Something about her journey. Something about her hot-love for God.

In 2014, when I was compiling my album and choosing which of my songs I wanted to include, I kept coming back to that song. I wanted to sing her song. I had this ache to sing it. I now understood what she meant. And, as powerful as it was then at eight, it was grippingly real to me in a new way. It was a tribute to her, a woman I never had a chance to meet, but one I will one day on the other side. But more than anything, it was a testimony. A truth. Still resounding years later. That we will be stronger than before. He see’s us through, always. I hope you’ll listen to my recording. And, I hope you’ll listen to hers too. But more than anything, I hope you’ll be encouraged that seasons do change, and we do come out stronger on the other side. And rest assured, that even when we feel we can’t hang on, His grip on us never changes.

 

Love,

Bep

 

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