Awaken: the beginning or rousing of something; to come into existence or awareness; to realize.
Some of you know that I spent the majority of the last two weekends at the ‘Awakening Conference.’ The purpose of this conference, in my own words, is to awaken the hearts and minds of young people in hopes that they would realize God’s magnificent love for them, causing them to go deeper in their relationship with Him.
I know that I’m not technically a young person, but that has never stopped me from wanting to experience God alongside tens, hundreds or thousands of other young people. I’m young at heart, and I see such beauty in children and young adults of all ages. I admire their openness and vulnerability towards the things of God. The courage I see in them would have been so foreign to me when I was their age and it awes me. It always blesses and ministers to me when I am able to spend a little time in their world.
I didn’t really think about what I would get out of the conference, except that I knew it would encourage me to watch thousands of teens sing and lift their hands in worship to their Lord. The first weekend was good! Lots of funny speakers, great worship, great bands, and best of all happy kids! It was so great to watch young people worshipping God, but especially to see my own children doing it in the midst of this big storm. They miss their big brother, and they have so many questions. I was proud of them for going and seeking God, even in all that. As for me, by day 3 of the first weekend, I felt like I’d had enough. It was just too much to sing and hear about the goodness of God and all the wonderful plans He had for us. As soon as week one ended relief came over me – like I said, I had had enough. But, before I knew it Week Two was here. And, as that second weekend progressed, I began to realize that God had some things He wanted to communicate with me. I needed an Awakening of my own, but, I didn’t feel ready for it; and I certainly didn’t think I was prepared to hear what God was about to say to me…
Let’s rewind a bit to the time in between these two weekends. It was one of my hardest weeks, and not just because of the missing of my son. I had to endure some pretty bad hurts and overcome some things in my own heart, as well. I will not get into this too much, but I will say this: All those things you read about, the things that people say to grieving parents or about grieving parents… well, they are true. People really do tell us to move on. People really do say things that are perverted and twisted. People really do tell us they love us to our face, but say the most cruel things behind our backs. People really do think we want attention or pity. People really do forget that we lost our son, and refer to how horrible and scary it will be when their teenagers start driving. People really do forget; people really do move on; people really do dishonor and disregard. SOME people do. But, MOST people don’t. And those people, well I thank God for them.
I was so hurt by some things that were said or unsaid that week; so much so, that I decided to seek some help from a wise leader that I respect and love very much; this leader, who has checked in on us, who is sensitive to the leading of The Lord, and who cares about us very deeply. I broke down. I cried my heart out, blurted my questions out, and dumped a lot of my hurt out. This person is a wonderful listener and is very careful with word choice. (That’s something we could all take a lesson in.) By the end of the meeting, I already felt better; just to get all the junk out of my head. But, something this person said to me, towards the end of the meeting, just couldn’t make sense to my mind. ‘I’m believing that God will restore you not just to where you were with Him, but to an even better place.’ I nodded my head, longing to believe it, but I just couldn’t see it. I left the meeting feeling much better than when I had walked in, but I just could not fathom these words spoken over me – even through the ringing and repeating they were doing in my head.
Now here I was, Friday afternoon at Awakening Conference. I barely made it on time for Speaker, Chad Veach. He started off the message talking about Naomi and Ruth. I never realized how much I identified with Naomi now. She lost her son and felt so alone. People looked at her like she was cursed. She was in depression and fear of the future, and other people mocked her. No one wanted to be with her anymore because she wasn’t the same, and she knew it. But, Ruth never left her. Ruth saw more in her than she could see in herself. Ruth worked on her behalf. Ruth gave her first born so to her and reestablished her. But, not just to where she was before – even better. At the end of the story, people look at Ruth and praise God for all that He’s done. Ruth represents Jesus for me in this story. He will never leave me, He will always see the best in me, and He will intercede on my behalf. Chad Veach said he knew he was speaking to someone who was broken and that God wanted that person to know that He was going to do more than restore that person, He was going to do far better than that. I sobbed, knowing God was trying to get this message to me.
But how? How can I ever be better? How can life without my oldest son ever be better than before. I’ve wrestled with this question for days now, and still I cannot see it, so how can I ever believe it? But isn’t that what faith is? Believing when we don’t see? And isn’t that what Jesus does? He doesn’t just restore us, He redeems us. We get an overhauled, brand new life instead of a refurbished replica. So, maybe it can happen, right? Even if I don’t see it. Maybe all I have to see is Jesus, and He will be my eyes for this journey. Maybe I don’t have to possess this flawless faith, but maybe I look to Him, the One who is the pioneer and perfecter of all of it. Maybe, just maybe, in some small way – I have been awakened to Who He really is and what He really has the power to do.
‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> with perseverance<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>the pioneer<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> scorning its shame,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3