Is it Well?

Until recently, I knew nothing of the events serving as impetus for the penning of one of history’s most influential Christian hymns – It Is Well With My Soul.  I have sung this uplifting anthem countless times, from pew and choir loft, ever inspired by author Horatio Spafford’s message of peace, hope, and gratitude.  While thanking, honoring, and glorifying his Savior, Jesus Christ, the author also sought to encourage the weary and heavy-laden, the troubled.  Indeed, I am quite certain Spafford’s words have soothed many a soul the last century-and-a-half.  Still, for those familiar with Spafford’s personal story, those words take on even greater meaning.

horatio_spaffordHoratio Spafford is believed to have written this historic hymn during a period of personal tragedy the likes of which most of us will never experience. Spafford, a successful Chicago attorney and real estate investor saw his life torn asunder in the span of about two years; ironically, at a time the nation in which he and his family lived was healing – from the Civil War. In 1871, Spafford and his wife, Anna, would lose their two-year-old son to scarlet fever, then see much of Horatio’s investments destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

In the wake of the fire, Spafford struggled to recover financially.  He had planned a getaway for his family and was set to embark for England with Anna and the couple’s four daughters late in 1873 but, held up on business, he sent them on ahead. Unbeknownst to Spafford, his daughters were lost at sea during the transatlantic voyage, when their steamship, Ville Du Havre, collided with a Scottish Clipper, the Loch Earn, and sank.  Upon reaching England, Anna sent a telegram to her husband who subsequently made the same voyage and joined his wife in England.

According to his daughter, Bertha – born in 1878 – it was along this journey her grieving father penned the hymn.  Hence, amid his sorrows, Spafford demonstrated profound faith in Christ, finding solace in He who loved and ultimately gave His life for – the sinner.

Incidentally, the Spaffords would lose yet another son, Horatio, in 1880.  He, too, fell victim to scarlet fever.  Yet, by all accounts, the Spaffords remained strong in their faith and, after moving to Jerusalem, engaged in philanthropy.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford. Indeed, I am reminded of Job, of Lot.  I recall numerous Biblical accounts of trials befalling one after another.  I am also reminded of members of my own family, many of my friends and acquaintances who have lost loved ones, careers, relationships, their health. When we face crises, regardless of magnitude, is it not difficult to find peace?  Hope?  Is it not a challenge, at times, to recognize those things for which we have to be thankful?

I, for one, have experienced heartache the likes of which seemed unbearable at the time. Even now, I would more describe my life circumstances as nearer the bottom than the crest of the valley.  Yet, even now, I find plenty for which to be thankful.  Oh, make no mistake, my feelings of gratitude for blessings – seen, and unseen – are challenged by my feelings of despair.  But when I read the words written by and recall the story of Horatio Spafford, a man who would otherwise have been crushed by the weight of his despair, I am inspired. I, for one, aspire to be ever more faithful, ever more grateful, ever more at peace in the love of Christ.

For me, it is well… And, in His mercy, love, and grace, you too shall find hope. You, too, will find all is well… It is well, with your soul.

From me, to you, Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Your Life Matters – Pt. 1

If you haven’t already read “about” me anywhere else, you may not know I am both a veteran of law enforcement and my Marine Corps.  I will always feel privileged, honored to have served in those capacities, and thankful for having been physically and mentally able to do so.  There are many things which define me, and anyone who knows me – even those with whom I have had very little contact – will tell you “He’s a cop alright,” or “You know he was in the military.”  I know they will say that, because they’ve said it.  The tip-off, they say, is in how I “carry” myself, how I present myself.  But I digress.

The point is, people do tend to judge the proverbial book by its cover.  First impressions are everything, we’re told.  Well, let me stop you right there.  I’m living proof that’s not completely true.  The front I put on every day, is just that – a front.  I expend vast amounts of energy not revealing myself.  Most of who I truly am is bound up inside of me.  If I seem “calm, cool, and collected,” and “squared away,” it’s because I had to learn to “maintain my bearing,” as a police officer and jarhead.  Now, I’m not suggesting that’s not who I am, a proud public servant – it most certainly is – but it is only part of who I am.  The rest of me – the other me – I unleashed only a few days ago.

I introduced myself to… myself, after I started reading a stirring personal account written by one of my newest friends.  Again, she can tell her own story – which she has done – but thanks, in part, to her and others, I finally relented, and let God take – have control.  Thus, I embarked on my mission, that which I believe He has set before me.  [I am all in Father] S0, you might ask, “What’s this ‘mission’ God has supposedly charged you with?”

Thanks for asking!  Well, I stated in On With It, Then my mission is to reach you, convince you Your Life Matters, and point you to One Who loves you more than anyone.  That’s the short of it, but if you want the full answer, I must ask you to accompany on that journey I mentioned.  Coming?

I accepted Jesus Christ as My Lord and Savior at the age of nineteen, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, He had called me to serve others.  Now, I realize, He calls each of us to be servants, but I mention this because I had a distorted view of what my “calling” was back then.  I didn’t fully understand God’s plan for me.  [Note to self – You still don’t]  Anyway, I was only 19 and a newcomer to Christ; consequently, my early sense of service was rooted in delusions of grandeur.  Yep, God had placed me here to “save the world.”  Had I possessed a more comprehensive understanding of The Bible and Christ’s teachings, I likely would not have been so misguided early on.  Unfortunately, the “soil” in which the seed of the spirit was planted – me, was fertile; yet, I lacked wisdom.  So, as the “weeds” grew up around me, they obstructed my view and muffled the sound of His voice.  It was difficult for me to grow straight and strong.  Yes, I grew, but askew of what I now believe was His intended path.  I only thought I knew which way He wanted me to go – no, I was certain of it.  I was to be a dashing superhero.

Of course, this didn’t help:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day – gorgeous day, in fact – I was sunbathing with friends at one of our “regular spots” nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada’s, a place we locals dubbed “Slick Rock.”  Slick Rock, or more formally, Three Rivers, was a nice place for adults to unwind, swim, and soak in a few rays.  That said, the waters of the river abruptly transitioned from shallow and tranquil to deep and treacherous.  Since I had been training hard subsequent to my enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps, I was in remarkably good shape.  I was also an avid and seasoned swimmer, so when I heard a desperate mother screaming for help, I didn’t hesitate in diving into the rushing waters to retrieve her struggling child.

The boy likely would have drowned, had I not intervened.  I know that.  My friends knew that.  Yet, there was virtually no acknowledgment from the mother.  Did that bother me?  Perhaps.  Frankly, I think I was more surprised than anything.  Moments earlier, she was screaming frantically for help, and now that I had likely snatched her boy from the jaws of death, my reward consisted of an indifferent “Thank you,” and half-hearted wave?  No, I didn’t feel I deserved more.  That’s not why I did what I did.  Still, it did feel somewhat inadequate.  In the movies, after all, she would have utterly squeezed the life out of me with a giant bear hug and kissed me on the cheek, tears streaming down her face.  Right!?!  But, alas, this was not Hollywood.

Truth be told, I didn’t need any recognition for what I had done, but I was perplexed by the mother’s reaction, or lack thereof.  Oh, my friends literally bowed in acknowledgment of my wondrous act of heroism.  I, encouraged them by accepting with a bow in return, and we had a few good laughs.  But, still, that woman’s inexplicable response confounded me.

I tried to rationalize the woman’s behavior.  She was in shock.  That’s it.  Or, maybe she hadn’t yet processed the gravity of the situation.  Perhaps, she was embarrassed, or angry with herself for not having learned to swim.  No, you know what it was, she was caught up in the moment, angry with her son for scaring her, but equally thankful he was alright.  She was focused on him.  Sure, that made sense.  Or, you know, maybe, just maybe, that’s how people treat “heroes” in real life.  Oh, now, I didn’t actually consider that at the time, but little did I know how true it can be.

As the lady – her son’s hand grasped firmly in hers – walked toward the parking area, the boy looked back at me, as if to offer a thank you of his own.  I waved, and in that moment I knew, God had placed me there, at that moment in time.  He had done so because I could and would rescue the boy.  And, sincerely, the gratitude I saw in the boy’s eyes spoke volumes – was more than enough thanks.

That, of course, is not the end of the story.  Well, yes it’s the end of that story, but not mine.  On the contrary it was just the beginning.  You see, there was a downside in all of this.  Remember I said, “this didn’t help.”  It actually made things worse, for this experience ultimately narrowed my perspective.  That day ended with we me feeling all the more assured God was calling me to be superhuman; when, in fact, He was calling me to be a humble servant.

[This is an ongoing series, Your Life Matters, set in order (i.e. Pt. 1, Pt. 2, etc.)  The next installment will be Your Life Matters Pt. 2]