Shifting Shadows

“Light and Shadow,” © 2017 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

I had high hopes for the idyllic setting that would be our new home.

After all, there were plenty of potential buddies for my then seven-year-old son. In fact, my son brought the total count to 14 boys on our block.

A born leader, my son hatched some amazingly adventurous schemes; so much so, in fact, that boys considerably older than he sought his friendship.

However, a Saturday morning U-haul brought change by way of a sour-faced and scrappy new kid in “paradise.”

He swiftly demonstrated a decided dislike for my son.  Of course, if you know kids, you have already guessed what happened next.

Yup. The bullying began within a matter of weeks.

I spoke with the scrappy boy’s parents and we determined that the boys should steer clear of one another. But despite our attempts to keep the boys apart, the bully continued his unapologetic attempts to sideline my seven-year-old.

Over time, many of my son’s friends drifted away, and sadly,  many neighborhood parents feared offending the boy’s parents; thus, my formerly friendly neighbors began to excuse the bully’s behavior.

The bullying intensified.

The tide had turned. What began with joy ended in heartbreak.

And although I clung to Romans 8:28, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How can God cause this situation to work for the good of this seven-year-old who truly loves Jesus?”

Indeed, we learn early… the crowd can be fickle.

The workplace? Fragile.

Friendships? Variable.

Relationships? Tenuous.

Popularity? Fleeting.

There is always that one: the gossip, the slanderer, the jealous, the back-stabber, and yes, the bully–one who wishes to tear down rather than build up…

We learn early… the crowd can be fickle.

Sometimes, pain comes from places we least expect. We bleed emotionally from unanticipated blows.

Maybe, you’ve been there. Perhaps, you walk that road today. You began with high hopes; your dreams have crumbled in the face of injustice.

There is One who understands. Scripture tells us that our Great High Priest sympathizes with our pain. Yes, God-incarnate walked such a road.

It’s shocking history, actually.

After all, Jesus exemplified unselfish love, mercy and grace. He loved the unlovable and healed disease and brokenness.

The resulting three years of extraordinary popularity certainly seemed unassailable. Despite the jealous venom of many religious leaders, Jesus’ fame grew. Thousands sought Him out.

He fed the five thousand. He healed the blind and lepers. He cast out demons. He raised the dead.

His entry into Jerusalem prior to Passover undeniably demonstrated the enormity of His influence.

Riding a donkey colt on that road into Jerusalem, He clearly announced his kingship. The people rejoiced in his arrival as the fulfillment  of Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy,(Zechariah 9:9).

On what is known as Palm Sunday, expectations soared. The people worshiped and cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…” (Matthew 21:9).

Yet, on that Sunday road lined with palm branches, Christ did more than claim His identity as Messiah.

He boldly repeated His claim to be God: “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who behold Me beholds the One who sent Me, (John 12:44-45).

His words rocked the Jewish community.

And then,  Jesus also disappointed the people by speaking of His death and substitutionary atonement, (John 13: 27-33).

His words did not match the people’s hopes for a political king who would defeat Rome.

Sometimes,  pain comes from places we least expect.

And so their grumbling began.  And the religious leaders’ ongoing criticism of Christ gained traction, (John 12:37).

Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve closest friends, turned against the Savior.

Yeah, that’s right. A disillusioned disciple led the Roman guard and Jewish officers to Christ in Gethsemane.

In that quiet sanctuary, Judas betrayed Christ.

And shadows shifted.

Ironically, Judas betrayed Christ just five days after Christ’s triumphal Palm Sunday entry.

All seemed dark that Friday afternoon before the Passover Seder.

Christ, the lamb of God, sacrificed His life on the cross for the very people who rejected Him (Luke 23:34a).

Does He understand the pain of rejection?

Does He know how you or I feel when someone back-stabs or betrays us?

Does He care when we face rejection or even persecution for His name sake?

Yes. Infinitely so.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin…” (Hebrews 4:15).

Unquestionably, Friday was dark. But Yahweh had a plan bigger than you or I could ever conceive.

Sunday was coming.

The Lamb of God’s sacrifice on that Passover Friday enabled our salvation. In addition, Paul tells us that God the Father exalted Christ and that every knee will bow, acknowledging Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

Quite frankly, the Gospel itself demonstrates that “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28).

If God could bring such good out of history’s darkest Friday, then He certainly can bring good out of the shadows that you and I face.

He can.

He will.

He has promised, (Romans 8:28).

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” ~James 1:17

53 thoughts on “Shifting Shadows

  1. Jesus started His ministry, knowing full well what waited for Him at the end. It’s true, He rose from the dead but the path to His resurrection meant that He had to endure, He had to willingly walk into it, towards it, everyday. And it wasn’t just death that He faced but a horrible, horrible death, beyond what any of us can imagine. And He deserved none of it. Not one stripe, not one blow. And the greatest pain of all was the temporary separation from His Father, something that we can’t even imagine because He became our sin. My mind can’t fully grasp it but in some strange way my spirit does, and I kneel, and I worship, and I marvel at His love. All things, all things, work together for good, beyond what we can see, beyond what we can understand. We’re all like your little boy, tossed by the wind that we can’t control, subject to forces we cannot see or even understand, in the shadows of our lives. Faith is trust and we trust because we see in part and comprehend in part, walking towards our own destiny with our Creator. I can do nothing else but because that is the ultimate reality of this life that He has given us. To be at one with Him. Beautiful post Lynn, as always. Many blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a beautiful summation of our Lord’s sacrifice for us, Bruce. I love how you express it…that we are “subject to forces we cannot see or even understand” and yet, we place our faith in our gracious Creator and as a result, embrace the gift of close relationship with our God. You have a way of zeroing in on the essence of things, Bruce. I so appreciate that about you. God bless you greatly, my wise and godly brother in the Lord!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. first of all, I love the painting–reminds me a some quaint English village I wish to live—I just don’t know where it is but I’ve seen it in paintings—such as yours……and it always invokes a quietness and simpleness that has always called my name….

    secondly—I know your son’s story all too well—ours was not in the neighborhood but it was at school.

    It began in 5th grade and migrated to the middle school when he moved up.
    He was a very good quiet little boy, very religious—and the bullying began by the more athletic popular kid and it didn’t subside until around 8th grade…but the damage was done.
    In our community if you aren’t into sports or attend one of the two larger denominational churches, of which we were not and did not, then you are “an outsider”

    Here I was, working in the school system. I was “friends” with these principals and knew the teachers—and so I trucked on down to the school for meetings time and time again.

    Yet no one seemed to want to offended the “popular” mom who was pretty, outgoing and had been born into the community of which I had only moved into…despite having been in said community now going on 20 years at the time….so I was always the outsider— and now 40 years on I’m still considered an outsider to those who “grew up” here—
    ode to the small town.

    It was hard for my husband and I to watch.
    We did our best.
    And the resentment in me, when all these boys reached the high school was hard.
    I too had lessons to learn about forgiveness…even if those I was to forgive did not show remorse or were merely flippant.

    Our son is soon to be 29—-living away but has had dealing with some of these boys turned men over the years—all of whom are now matured and civil and even quite nice to him…as the main one actually had come into my husband’s store and bought his wedding ring.

    Our son has long “forgiven” even more readily than his mother—who still has to find myself being prayerful whenever I see the boys or the mom…..as a parent it is hard…

    And my thoughts have always drawn to Mary on fateful terrible day–the day she watched her son tortured, mistreated and finally murdered….
    I think of her heart….
    and so I know she knows and understands injustice—and that she always knew the price that had to be paid…paid by her son—for not only herself, but for us all…

    Seems we as parents are always learning—and we only think the learning stops once they grow up 😉

    Thank you for the reminder Lynn

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not surprised that you recognize the scene, Julie. I snapped my painting reference photo in the Cotswolds…probably the most photographed region in all of England. 🙂 I’m so sorry that your son experienced bullying as well. It’s all too common, I’m afraid. Sigh. And what a long time for your son to have to endure interaction with those boys! How awful. Fortunately, for us, some time after things had gone sour in the neighborhood, my husband decided to sell our restaurant in that state and move to Virginia. The situation actually made it easier for my son to move… although God had provided a wonderful friend for him two doors down from us. He’s 22 now, and I think I’m the one who is still most bothered by the memory of the bullies. So, yes! I totally agree. I think it is, in some respects, more difficult to forgive someone who has hurt one of our beloved than to forgive someone who has hurt us. I love what you say about Mary. I don’t think I thought much about the pain that she experienced until I saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” But seeing that film brought it home for me. Thank you for reminding me of that and for sharing your beautiful thoughts about it here. It also means a great deal to me that you would honor me by sharing your experience. It’s so comforting to know that someone else has walked a similar path. You and I are such kindred spirits. I’m so blessed to have met you here online. What a wonderful friend you are! ❤ and huge hugs!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • it was that scene in the movie that kept and keeps coming to mind—as Jesus was going through the streets carrying the cross and Mary is running along side as best she can to watch and see him, as she falls to the ground as he falls, her mind races back to the time he was a young boy who fell and hurt himself and she was there to comfort him and here, at this moment she was unable to “make it all ok again’….that I still weep over that thought and that image—if a mother has ever understood another mother’s agony over her own child, it is Mary.
        Oh and don’t forget I shot you my email over on one of the comments from yesterday….

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was such a powerful scene! And thank you as well for mentioning your other comment, too! Sometimes, when I comment, I forget to check the box to see follow-up comments… thus, I miss quite a few redponses to my comments. 😣 Silly me. 🙄☹️ Thank you! Huge hugs! ❤️

        Like

    • Yes, Anthony, I did. I actually started this blog because my closest gal pal thought I should share the inspiration behind my paintings with others. And so that’s what I’m about here. 😉 Thank you so much for reading! It truly means a lot to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Truly amazed! And, for that matter, truly thankful you are using your gifs from God in such a way. I recently watched a video on YouTube about a particular painting of red circles going for millions of dollars – insane. It brought to mind once again Francis Schaefer’s book, “How Shall We Then Live,” and his comments on the link between devolving culture and devolving art. But your work is true art, and your testimony/stories make it even more beautiful.

        Like

      • Oh, I love Francis Schaefer’s writings! When I was much younger, my church at the time showed the film version of his book on Sunday evenings. It truly impacted my life. I have never forgotten it. When my son was a young teenager, we read Schaefer’s book together. I’m delighted to find that you are also familiar with Schaefer! And thank you with all my heart for your kind words about my writing and art. My closest friend actually encouraged me to start this blog because as I painted I would share with her my thoughts about the paintings. And of course, everything flows from my faith in Christ. I tend to paint water and light… and for me, both tie to Christ, the Living Water and the Light of the World. Thanks for your patience with this loooong response. I’m just so delighted that you “get it” and that you are a reader of Francis Schaefer. 🙂

        Like

  3. I am so thankful that we have a God we can wholly trust in, especially when we live in a world so uncertain as ours! It feels like people’s opinions and views are constantly changing. Thank you for speaking some encouragement through this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, how sad for your son, Lynn. I don’t know how old your son is now, but I hope he is healing from it and his situation now is better. Bullying can do so much damage. But oh yes, Jesus understands so perfectly. This truth especially moves and encourages me – “If God could bring such good out of history’s darkest Friday, then He certainly can bring good out of the shadows that you and I face.” Love and hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it was heartbreaking at the time, dear Trudy. But faith-building for my son. God did bring good out of a not-so-good situation. I think as a mom, I remember it more profoundly than my now 22-year-old does. 🙂 Isn’t that just the way it is with mama bears! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The same crowd who shouted “hosanna”, also said “crucify Him”. That story touches me deeply whenever I read or hear it. It is foolish for us to put our trust in man.

    I absolutely love this! “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin…” (Hebrews 4:15).
    One of the very many reasons why He is reliable❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this. It is harder still to watch someone I love go through difficult things. I try to remember the good that has come to my own life through what seemed bad circumstances at the time. I guarantee God will not let you or your son down. God’s success rate is 100%.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You said: “Maybe, you’ve been there.”

    Yep, way too many times, but I found great comfort in knowing my Lord walked that road before me, and that he had a plan and a purpose for it all, to conform me to his likeness, and to use me for his glory, to grow me in my faith, and to prune me and mold me and make me into the person he wanted me to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It really is disheartening to hear what happened to your son. I am sorry that it happened but I pray he will begin to understand that there are people out there that want to give themselves to their ‘self’ nature. As someone who was bullied long ago in school, and recently by many in religion, it is a tough experience but a vital lesson. Like you, we do not wish to suffer but are so very thankful for the fruit that comes after.

    When we followed Jesus on our journey of faith we had little understanding of just how many people proclaim Him with their lips but are completely, utterly opposed to living a life of faith and anyone who tried to do so. Bullies in school are bad enough but when they grow and get religious that is another kettle of fish altogether. Thankfully we follow Jesus who has gone through this before us and can show us how to navigate this tricky path of faith and those that oppose it. What was the most startling for us was to realize just how deep the bullying ‘self’ nature was in us. It is only when we fully surrendered to our great high priest did we really see ourselves as we really are. It has given us compassion for those still trapped in serving their own ‘self’ natures and empathy for those that have suffered under them.

    I do hope your son has found some relief from the bullying and may he find solace in knowing that Jesus walks with him every day.

    Thank you for the post.

    Homer Les
    http://www.homerlesandwandaring.com

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! Never thought to compare the abuse bullies heap upon their victims with the suffering of Jesus, but that verse from Hebrews does suggest that. Thank you.

    Went to four different high schools. Decades later I still remember the bullying. I hated high school, but I am afraid bullying is normal for human beings. Ashamed to say I have even been guilty of it.

    We prefer to think of ourselves as victims of bad people, and we nobly forgive the bad people. Mothers and fathers prefer to think of their sons and sometimes their daughters that way. But the reason we find it easier to forgive the sins against us (as opposed to the sins against those we love) is we find it easier to remember the other guy is not the only sinner.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Tom! Thanks so much for stopping by! It is truly an honor. And thank you, too, for your thoughtful and compassionate comment. I’m sorry that you experienced bullying, but you are right. All of us have faced it at one time or another.
      My son is 22 now, and the situation is a distant memory for all of us. I probably should have mentioned that in the post. Silly me. The good news is that God indeed worked the situation out for good in all of our lives…And I’m grateful. God bless you greatly, my talented and wise new friend!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. “If God could bring such good out of history’s darkest Friday, then He certainly can bring good out of the shadows that you and I face.” Lynn, this post is so beautiful – I truly appreciated reading it this evening! Life has been hectic for me recently, and this was a much-needed reminder. He cares for us so much ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lynn, Once again…a wonderfully encouraging and honest but hope-filled post. Wishing you God’s very best this Christmas season and always! Thanks for sharing your gift! It truly is a blessing to me!

    Like

    • Amy, you encourage me more than you can imagine! Thank you with all my heart for your kindness! You are truly a wonderful new friend and I thank God for you! I pray God blesses you beyond all that you can imagine! ❤

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s