Have you ever gotten a line or two of a song in your head and just couldn’t stop thinking about it? That happens to me occasionally…for instance recently, I kept thinking about this line…‘I hope Life treats you kind..’ from Dolly Parton’s famous song, ‘I Will Always Love You’. Dolly wrote the song when she left the Porter Waggoner Show. Later, Whitney Houston elevated this same song to unbelievable heights and popularity. Country and Pop music fans loved that song! It’s a song about leaving, heartbreak, loss, bittersweet memories and to some extent betrayal. A sad song really.
Often, when a line from a song or a portion of Scripture stops me in my tracks… I want to sit with it a while…contemplate it. With Dolly’s Song… I let the words run around in my head, moving on to that line about ‘Bittersweet memories…’ Ultimately, in the privacy of my own home- I broke out singin’ it- loud….no, I did not sound like Dolly or Whitney- more like a bad version of Willie Nelson, in case you’re wondering. Then, there was a Scripture, I was reading a devotional recently and a portion of a verse just hopped off the page and stopped me in my tracks-I wanted to sit with it awhile- here it is:
‘…the same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread; and when He gave thanks….’ First Corinthians 13:23-24.
Jesus was betrayed…He shared a meal, He gave thanks. Think about it. Betrayal and Gratitude are puzzle pieces that rarely seem to fit. I wondered, what if it said-
- ‘And after she lost her job…she gave thanks’ or
- ‘And after he was put on hospice, he gave thanks…’ or
- ‘After she was abandoned, she gave thanks…’
- ‘After his father had beaten him, he gave thanks…’
Think of any emotional damage that causes human suffering. Sit with loss, betrayal, abandonment, physical illness, abuse and heartache for a while. Think of them as Gunshots to the Soul. Now, insert those grave wounds into that same Scripture… Does hosting a meal and giving thanks follow heartache? It hardly seems possible. And yet…there is a deep truth in there. Suffering isn’t convenient- a gap opens up, right in the midst of Living. The Betrayal occurred right in the middle of the Last Supper that Jesus would have with his closest friends; He continued living, He turned to what remained of His life; gave thanks and resumed the meal. I must be honest here, I am not a big fan of telling folks to count their blessings when they are in the midst of suffering– it seems to add an unnecessary burden onto an already wounded spirit. However, for myself…I have found when I am able to allow light to come into my suffering- turn to what remains- the good that life still offers- it takes the form of gratitude and the healing begins…
Life is hard; it never permanently gets easier. Bad things still happen to good people. Promises are broken and some dreams die. You cannot go back and make Life different. If you look at the photograph, you will see Crepe Myrtles blooming at the back of our yard. There is a gap between the trees- where a clump of beloved dogwoods used to be- they died this year and were cut down. I mourned the loss- this area is a Memory Garden. The loss of the dogwoods seemed to be a metaphor for what has already been a year of difficulties-among them, the loss of two sweet friends and my mother. As if to drive the heartache/ gratitude connection home, the crepe myrtles are blooming their heads off! Meanwhile I’ve been staring at the Gap- the Loss. These trees have never bloomed so profusely before this year, maybe the dogwoods were blocking our view!
I took photographs of the heavy blooms hanging down close enough to be at eye level- midst the most incredible blue sky with puffy white clouds- the fragrance was faint and lovely. I had stared so long and so hard at what I had lost, feeling the dogwoods had betrayed the Memory Garden… having bittersweet memories… I realized I was missing the near and present loveliness! ‘Life was treating me kind…’ Thank you, Dolly. The day after the photographs were taken, to further emphasize the point of the Scripture from First Corinthians which I had been contemplating for days…one of the big crepe myrtle branches heavy with blooms broke. ‘And the same night He was betrayed, He took bread, and after He had given thanks, He broke the bread…’ Wouldn’t you know? In the sun-filled blue skied day, the truth of Jesus’ actions broke through my mind…instead of dwelling on one more bad thing-I decided to cut the blooms from the broken branch and make something of it! I’m so thankful I did!
Just look at the planter shaped like a woman’s head! She’s surely grateful for the glorious flower-dy hat she’s wearing! Turns out the broken branch isn’t a mortal wound… Life does go on, bright blue skies mingle among the cloudy days- enjoy what you can and when you think of it? Give thanks to God… He will always love you! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!
Love y’all, Camellia
p.s. Be honest now, you’re humming Dolly Parton’s tune aren’t you?