The Power In Redeeming Your Pain: "Redeeming Sunday"

Sunday has always been a special day to me. For a lot of us, it brings up memories of growing up going to church, or having a regularly scheduled lunch with family or friends. Maybe it takes you back to that feeling of easing into a pillow, stretching out on a couch, and dozing off in the first quarter of the afternoon football game you really didn't care about anyway. For me, it brings up years of memories of being with family, sitting around a table with a full belly and empty plates; laughing so hard until my stomach hurt. 

June 12, 2011 was a Sunday - the day Jacob passed away. Our family had gone to church together that morning and then Jacob and I went to eat lunch. He and I headed home while the girls stayed at church to help with VBS. We went through our nap time ritual. Like many toddlers, he wasn't ready to go to sleep, but it was time. We talked a little while in bed and then I got up and went and layed down myself.

He got up from his nap and went outside without me knowing. At 5 P.M., Brea and I found him in our car unresponsive. 

From that day on, Sundays became a brutally tough day to get through. From the time we got up we would be stuck in a loop, replaying the events of the day. Hour by hour, I would visualize and remember where I was and what I was doing. The closer it got to 5 P.M., the higher the anxiety level would get.

When it turned 5 P.M., I was transported back to the scene. We find him and open the back door of the expedition. I pick him up. I remember what he looks like and then what it feels like to do CPR. It's so hot outside. I can remember all the sounds that contributed to what felt like pure chaos all around our house. It's 5 P.M. on Sunday and I'm back in it all over again.

I was scared I would never have a normal Sunday again. Am I going to go through this every Sunday for the rest of my life? How are we going to ever enjoy this day of the week again? It's supposed to be a day of rest, relaxation, and family. It had turned into the worst day of our lives.

Sunday is obviously connected to our faith and spirituality, as well. After June 12, 2011, my faith, theology, and understanding of God started breaking down with each day. Throughout my life, my faith was built around a theology that worked in the context of my life experience. For example, I believed God was totally sovereign, good, and loving even though the world is full of evil, pain, and innocent suffering. For ages, humanity has wrestled with this issue. How "in control" or "interventionist" is God when there is so much pain and suffering? In the context of my fairly comfortable life with little heartache or struggle, I hadn't been forced to face this paradox.

Here was the internal dialogue I was wrestling with after Jacob passed: "If God is totally in control of everything that happens, then isn't God ultimately responsible for the death of Jacob and the way he died? Even if I say God allowed this to happen but didn't cause it to happen, isn't He still to blame - because He could have done something to prevent it? Is God really all good and loving if he causes or allows such innocent suffering and pain? Or, is God all good and loving but not totally in control of everything like I had thought before?"

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I had a lot of big questions with not a lot of great answers laying around to make me feel better. So, over time I did start pointing the finger at God and blaming Him. My anger towards God grew as the months went by. I prayed for God to give me peace and to help me with my faith. But, all I experienced was silence. That made me even more angry. So, I stopped praying altogether.

Going to church didn't help either. I found myself getting angry listening to sermons about how God loved us or how God had a plan for all of our lives. I didn't feel very loved. And, I certainly didn't think it was God's plan for Jacob to die at 3. One Sunday after another, I walked out of church not wanting to ever go back again. As the months went on, my faith continued to break down and a new set of questions came up. "Do I even believe in God anymore? If I do believe in God, how do I find a faith that makes sense of a loving God, who may or may not intervene in this world, after what happened to Jacob?"

The last 4 1/2 years I've been on a quest to try and rebuild my faith from scratch. Part of my hope was to find answers that would satisfy the questions I had about the nature of God. But, more so I was hoping with everything inside me to just find some peace with God again. I was hoping to be able to redeem this relationship with God that was broken. 

I've written previously about how we decided to fight against letting Sundays cripple us. We decided to make Sunday a day of the week to have friends and family over for dinner. This was how we were going to reclaim, or redeem, that day of the week. Instead of being alone we were with friends and family. Instead of letting the house be filled with grief and sadness; we welcomed laughter and community. Instead of being stuck inside our own heads; we forced ourselves to move, to cook, to talk, to laugh, and to cry. Consequently, the sting of the day faded over time and we weren't paralyzed at 5 P.M. on Sundays anymore. 

I also needed to redeem my personal faith. My understanding of God broke down over a period of a couple of years and I wanted to reconnect with God if it was possible. My faith needed to be something I could work with in light of my experience. The faith I had constructed before fell short when I needed it most and left me feeling incredibly disappointed. Over the last five years, I've slowly tried to rebuild what faith looks like to me. It is different and I don't have all the answers I wanted. But I can say that I have at least found a foundation from which to start. I do believe in God. And, I believe God is first and foremost operating from a place of love. I know this faith stuff is a life long journey, so I don't pretend to have it all figured out. So, with baby steps, I feel like I'm moving in a good direction. 

We've spent the last 4 1/2 years trying to rebuild the various areas of our life that fell apart. One day at a time we pick up the pieces, dust them off, and we're learning to live life in light of our circumstances; just like everyone else. It was important to us to not let this turn us into a victim of our pain. As we look back over the last few years, redemption has been a big piece our story. Redemption of what happened and redemption of the pain and suffering our entire family has experienced. The reason we started working with and supporting orphans, why we want to share our story with others, why we make a daily conscious effort to choose to find the good in life rather than dwell on the bad, the reason I'm writing this book - It's all about "Redeeming Sunday."

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