Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Unexpected healing for a hurting family

My brother’s stroke set off a tidal wave of panic and chaos back in Florida where he was hospitalized. Yet, the disaster sirens blasted inside me. My family’s tsunami-response has a way of resurrecting and exacerbating hidden, unresolved hurts. 

The powerful swell threatened to overtake me and swallow me up. When considering an emergency visit to Florida, I was more fearful of the force of family frenzy consuming me than about my brother’s recovery. One can manage a recovery process. But how does one navigate a family tidal wave, except to avoid being in its path? I telephoned my brother from afar.

Besides, what good could a visit from me do?

I am not prone to insert myself where I am not invited. A similar tentativeness crosses over into my coaching business as well. I have avoided marketing myself as a personal coach because that seems too pushy. A marketing coach recently reframed self-promotion as, “getting to know me, like me and trust me.” That sounded inviting instead of invasive. In considering going to Florida, I needed an invitation to outweigh this familiar chaos that triggered my anxiety.

Go willingly with the attitude to help bear another’s burden in crisis.

My son and daughter-in-law listened as I shared concern for my brother. “He cannot form his thoughts into comprehensible sentences. His finances are a mess. He is a contentious guest at my sister’s house. My sister almost lost it when she had to send a letter on his behalf because she had no stamps or envelopes,“ I lamented.

Daughter-in-law tentatively spoke up, “When I am overwhelmed,” she said, “sometimes I just want someone to swoop in and take care of it for me, even when it’s hard for me to ask for help.” Hearing that, I had my reason to jump back into the surge. Perhaps, my invitation was that I could be of help.

Working together enhances the healing process.

In Florida, my siblings and I locked arms together on our brother’s behalf. Waters were turbulent but we rode the waves. We searched, sorted, telephoned, documented, prioritized, and filed all the issues into categories. And we rebuked, listened, affirmed, accepted, apologized and laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. Amidst the debris we discovered traces of compassion. I thought it was just my brother who needed healing after his stroke. In the midst of working together, I caught a glimpse of how God was already at work in each one of us.

Willpower exhausts itself but trusting in 
God’s great love for us emboldens us 
to face adversity with sustaining hope and faith.

Occasionally I would be pulled under by the strength of the current but could bob back up to the surface…exhausted.  Overcome by the details of disaster, I doubted family myself, and the power of God. My friends’ invitation to dinner offered welcome respite from swimming against the current. The instant we were seated at the restaurant table my fear and frustration gushed out and onto my friends.  They listened. When my grumbling gush ran out of steam, one friend responded, “I will pray for you.” His words secured the dam and contained the waters.

Words from the biblical apostle James wafted past me, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” My friend had intervened to ask and believe on my behalf. I was grateful.

My thoughts shifted direction like a repentant thief caught red-handed. Clarifying words from Dr. Henry Cloud challenged me, “Repentance,” writes Cloud, “is the change involved when we face the truth about ourselves.” Maybe this journey was not about willful and defensive maneuvers against tidal waves but about engaging trust when disaster strikes.

In Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning writes, “In the midst of tragic events that leave us bereft of understanding, trust does not demand explanations but turns to the One who promised, ‘I will not leave you orphans.’ (John 14:18)  Manning’s simple prayer appeals to my lack of trust, “Jesus, by your grace I grow still for a moment and I hear you say, ‘Courage? It’s me! Don’t be afraid’. I place my trust in your presence and your love. Thank you.”

The more we are healed, the more we can be 
genuinely generous with others.

My family has known me to insulate myself with distance and resistance. Fear and self-protection wanted to hold me back. But my call to grow was for the real me—the swimmer—to show up…with family. God has honored my yielding to this intentional process of healing over the past couple of years. As my swimming has grown stronger, I can jump into an ocean of conflict and not sink. So now my sister calls more often; she trusts that I won’t judge her. And my brother acknowledged my apology. He expressed his response with thoughtful acceptance, “I...I know…I have another…uh…a second chance.”

What a tsunami threatened to destroy, God intended to heal. He loves me and my family that much. When I was hell-bent on dodging any family business, God tossed me right into the middle of it. After all, my family business IS God’s business. And I’m absolutely blown out of the water that He would entrust me with His business…to turn around and help others grow.

Am I the only one with family tidal waves?


beancounter said...

No, you're not the only one, Julie. Thank you for being willing to share your experiences, both the difficulties and the lessons and growth. You make me feel more brave about trusting God when facing my own family challenges.

Julie Voorhees said...

You are more brave because of my experiences? Thanks for letting me know. And how courageous of you to be trusting God--instead of getting swamped-- during those family challenges! Isn't it interesting to think that trust is equated to bravery?

I'm Jamie said...

Wow. How unexpected and wonderful how your family could grow from this trial! I'm encouraged by this... by your trust and His faithfulness.
Thank you!

Julie Voorhees said...

Sometimes, I fail to notice His faithfulness...until I have first persevered and trusted. I don't know why taking those first few steps is so daunting. But when I have let my guard down--or set aside my self-protection--I begin to notice more of God's faithfulness and love.