Deprived of the remainder of my years . .
I have cut off my life like a weaver,
He cuts me from the loom. . .
What shall I say?
He has both spoken to me,
And He Himself has done it.
I shall walk carefully all my years
In the bitterness of my soul. . .
Indeed it was for my own peace
That I had great bitterness;
But you have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
This poetry comes from Isaiah 38. The King has just been rescued from certain doom by the angel of the LORD killing a camp-full of Assyrian besiegers, but his great joy in deliverance is muted when he falls prey immediately afterwards to a fatal illness. Hezekiah is having a very bad year, but he throws himself once again on God's mercy through prayer, and God decides to give him 15 more years of life. This is poem is Hezekiah's response. As I woke up early this morning feeling sad, unsettled, and anxious, this phrase really sunk in: It was for my own peace that I had great bitterness.
This is the promise I am clinging to right now. Because these days are bitter. In church this morning the children's choir was announced, and I turned to see the 8 or so kids coming up. Aligonilla met my eye, and smiled. There he was in his best clothes, a rumpled white button-down shirt and worn tennies, hands in his pockets, mouthing a few of the words and concentrating on the steps of the shuffling dance. He is a pale, shrimpy, little belly-distended 8ish year old boy whose life I have fought for untold times since he was born, one of the last surviving siblings in a family devastated by sickle cell. Singing. In the church choir led by his uncle, a fine young man who has been friends with and helped by many missionaries, now in a teaching job with Melen's Alpha Nursery and Primary school. Aligonilla is as weak as they come, Byamuntula is one of our hopes for a redeemed Bundibugyo. And they are both hard to leave behind. Though we are peripheral in each others' lives, we are present, and threads must be cut as we part. This weekend we've had lots of visits, my widowed and disenfranchised neighbors who value our belief in them, one of our first house-workers who looked stricken to find out he wouldn't have another chance to say goodbye to Luke, one of our sponsored "sons" who chatted at length about school and life, and on an on. And then we turn from visits to a trunk of old stuffed animals, each with a story of being given and being loved. This is a life that has held together against many odds.
And is now being disentangled, cut from the loom, with an unraveling of the place we've been given in our community. It is a bitter process.
But Hezekiah saw that the bitterness he was given was for his own peace. Not just sadness, but sadness with a purpose and a meaning. I miss Luke and Caleb. A lot. Leaving here brings us towards them. I have not seen most of my family or Scott's in well over three years (except my mom, who visited here two years ago). That's a long time in these days of short terms and quick trips. Gently God is trying, at times, to remind me that it is for my own peace that He is giving the present bitterness.
Bitterness for peace, and the hope of fifteen more years, different ones, but good ones all the same.