In the life that I have experienced, joy and sorrow can come at the same time just like the yin and yang of the Taijitu symbol in Chinese philosophy.
Yin and yang is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary instead of opposing forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, for instance shadow cannot exist without light. (Wikipedia online)
A disciple of Jesus Christ, Apostle Paul, described the same Christian principle in this way: II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I will call her Grace. When someone is describing their life to you in tears of both joy and sorrow about not knowing real familial love and then finding it at their lowest point you listen in earnest because she has had divine intervention in her life, an awakening. Grace’s lowest point came when everything that defined who she was had slipped away and was under the control of the ones she no longer trusted. This was her yin and yang moment – the light and shadow, fire and water, joy and sorrow, life and death moment of awareness. I was sitting across the table from someone who once was dead and now – alive – her tears, a form of baptism in entering a new life.
A few years earlier at our first meeting, she described a life without a childhood, a life of trying to parent siblings only a few years younger to keep them in school and out of trouble. Her life started in rocky circumstances, born into the chaos of drugs and a long string of stepfathers. She talked about the adults who knew the abusive lifestyle in which the children of this family were living but who did nothing. She described social services representatives who looked the other way. She was in and out of hospital care with broken bones due to the condition she was born with caused by drug abuse. She got pregnant at 15 by the son of a family friend who lived with them. They had slept together due to cramped quarters since they were children.
She was in a leg splint recuperating from a broken leg. She was told that next time she would most likely lose her leg. She was raising her child and attending college online and trying to make her life better. I remember how impressed I was with her intelligence and will to succeed.
Today, two years later, even that was renewed and stronger than ever coupled with nosedives to the bottom describing her struggle to stay clean from drugs and the devastating fact that her children were no longer in her care. Grace talked about the journey she had had with alcohol addiction and now hardcore drugs and trying to get through life daily under her own steam toughing it out – the only way she had learned to survive each hellish day.
I have heard the stories from many young women looking for love in all the wrong places as the saying goes and getting burned again and again but this time for her it was different. Grace was in love with being loved in healthy ways. She was around people who weren’t perfect but were trying to live a clean drug-free life, and who set boundaries on her addiction management and yet loved her unconditionally. Now, for the first time, she had her village. Her partner sees her as a beautiful person. He wasn’t trying to exploit her in any way. This was the joy that ran down her cheeks today, at last finding something that felt whole and lasting.
The dark and light in her life, were in a battle together everyday making her feel like they could tear her apart. The yin and yang symbols are held together in a circle which is an actual line not just imagined but visible as it shows up in the light side. It is this circle I believe to be God who I look to at all times to keep my light and dark together as a whole. I hope to lead others to this awareness by seeing that belief in action in my life.
Grace’s greatest challenge was now facing her in her new life. Her parental rights were in question. Her tears of joy and sadness peaked as she was dealing with the reality that she could do nothing at this point. Too much time had been lost in drugged numbness and escape to be able to catch up. Could she let her children go where they would no longer have to experience her present instability or fight for them when she had nothing to fight with at this time? Later, as we rode in the car, I told her the story of King Solomon and the two mothers who came to his court one day. She leaned forward and listened.
. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. I Kings 3:16-28 NIV
This story has many of the elements that Grace was dealing with and the most important one was the ”grace of God love” that she and the mother in the story both shared. “Grace of God love” is defined as the love and mercy given to us by God, our Father because he desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.
This love tirelessly advocates in the most difficult situations. This love makes the hard choices to let go when there is no other way. I have witnessed many times in custody cases where one parent even though they have been the perpetrator of abuse is awarded physical custody because they have the financial resources. Whereas the other parent who has invested a great deal of emotional energy and time in providing loving care will have to accept this decision due to their lack of financial resources. The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence reports that half of all women and children become homeless while trying to escape abuse situations. Research shows that domestic violence is a risk factor for homelessness and this is especially true for those who are more isolated and have a harder time getting support from family and friends.1
After hearing the story of the two mothers, Grace decided she must be that woman who was the real mother and let her children go until she was able to get her life on track for their sakes.
From her journal: Struggling to Stand Again – “I turned to the people supporting my self-destruction thinking they were my only real friends. .. I asked multiple people sitting in leader seats for direction, advice, help, a chance. I have tried every way I know to show the people of the community that make the big decisions, that have jobs to give that make any difference, that I made a mistake. I own that. But once I was the employee to fight over. I want to be that again.” (End of quote)
“. . .we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 NIV
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14NIV
5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. John 1:5 NIV
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“Like the rising sun that shines. . . From the darkness comes a light!
I hear Your Voice. . . This is my awakening!” Lyrics from “Awakening” by Hillsongs United
Wherever you see dysfunction in people’s lives, believe me, God is there working to bring Shalom2. If it isn’t visible it’s most likely because not enough of others are helping God to make it happen.
I have been entrusted with the stories of those whose paths have crossed mine. I have been blessed in discovering how powerful the “grace of God love” is in helping someone understand that God encircles their chaos and wants to teach them life’s lessons while under his guidance and protection to bring about their awakening.
John Newton wrote: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Our neighbors in our communities have amazing stories of life and near death of the spirit and the watershed moments of enlightenment that brought them into an awareness of God. I believe that it is God’s intention that we come together to listen to and support one another and be strengthened by each other’s story of faith and struggle.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was grace that taught my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
John Newton 1725-1807
The true stories that are included in Sweetwater Journey are being shared with us by clients of Christos House with their permission that they be presented in a way to teach the readers that there are people who are in difficult circumstances where not having any resources or a support network can make it impossible to overcome. We are honored that they are willing to share their stories to help others with similar issues and to hopefully keep them from making the same mistakes.
- MCADSV “The Basics” Newsletter, February, 2012