Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

On His Hand August 11, 2012

Filed under: Isaiah — Stephanie Rische @ 9:38 am
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Not long ago I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with joy personified—joy that goes around in the form of a seventh grader named Becky.

According to doctors, Becky has an extra chromosome—Down syndrome. Although I’m not familiar with all the medical implications that go along with that diagnosis, I would agree that Becky does have something extra. But in my books, the extra that stands out most is her joy.

When my husband and I went on a walk with Becky and the rest of her family on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I suddenly saw the world through fresh eyes—eyes of wonder and pure delight.

Where I might have walked right past a swampy bog, Becky had her eyes peeled the whole time, certain that at any moment she’d see a turtle sunbathing on a rock. Where I saw a field of weeds, Becky squealed with delight and promptly gathered a dandelion bouquet for me, including some to be tucked behind each of my ears.

 

 

Skipping with happiness on the way home, she looked at me with a grin that lit up her entire face. “Can I hold your hand?” she asked.

And so I walked the rest of the way back with both hands full, one with a yellow bouquet and the other with joy herself.

Later that evening we all sang hymns together, led by Becky’s older sister, Hannah, on the piano. Hannah asked for requests, and after a few selections, Becky piped up, “Let’s do my favorite! ‘Before the Throne’!”

I was a bit chagrined to discover how rusty I am on my hymns, and I wasn’t sure I could even pull out a tune for that one. So as the song started, I just sat back and listened.

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea…

 

As I looked around the room, my gaze fell on Becky. She sat perched on her chair, her face beaming and her legs swinging to the music. To my amazement, she knew every word of the song. I listened as she belted out the next line:

My name is graven on His hand

My name is written on His heart

 

Just last week I came across a startling statistic: some 90 percent of women who find out in prenatal testing that their baby will have Down syndrome choose abortion. As we sang, I couldn’t help but think of the extra joy Becky’s family would have missed if she’d never been born—the joy all of us would have missed.

Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if that were possible,

I would not forget you!

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.

—Isaiah 49:15-16

As I looked at Becky’s face, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sing, even if I managed to dredge up the tune. Not with a lump the size of a small turtle in my throat.

I closed my eyes, and a vision flashed through my mind—of God’s big hand holding the hand of a smiling seventh grade girl. She gives him a bouquet of hand-picked dandelions, and as he reaches out to take them, I notice that he has a tattoo on his hand. Right there on his palm is etched the name of his beloved child. Becky.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

Trashed July 31, 2012

Filed under: Isaiah — Stephanie Rische @ 7:52 am
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My husband, Daniel, has the heart of an artist. By that I don’t just mean he can turn an ordinary piece of paper into something beautiful with just a brush and some paint, or that he has an eye for what will be aesthetically pleasing. (Although he’s a master at both.) No, his true artistry shines through in the way he views his creations.

I love seeing the final product of something Daniel has made, but what brings me equal enjoyment is hearing about the entire artistic process—from the conception of the idea (often in a series of drawings in his sketch book) to the rough template to the final revision, with just the right colors. I relish watching Daniel’s eyes, bright with boyish animation, as he takes me through each stage of the process. He beholds his finished creation with an almost fatherly mix of pride and tenderness.

Daniel’s job isn’t specifically art related, but he still finds occasion to put his creative skills to work there. Recently one of his projects was to design a greeting card on behalf of his company, which was a success by all counts.

Several months later, when the office was having a clean-up day, Daniel happened to walk by the trash can. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted an unmistakable color scheme, a familiar fold of paper. He could tell immediately that it was one of his cards. Who knows how it ended up discarded—if it had been damaged somehow or if it had gotten misplaced with a stack of papers—but regardless, it had somehow been thrown away.

When Daniel saw his creation trashed, his first instinct was the same as any true artist’s: he wanted to rescue it. It grieved him to see his beloved creation tossed aside, devalued. The person who originally put it there may have thought it was trash, and everyone who passed by afterward may have considered it worthless too. But not its creator. He wanted to see what he’d made being used for the purpose it was intended for. He was ready to dig into the trash can himself—to rescue the card, to smooth out its crumpled edges. To redeem it.

As I read the book of Isaiah, I’m struck by the number of times the prophet uses the word redeem. One of the most frequent names for God in the book is Redeemer, and the word redeem shows up in some form more than twenty times.

All this redemption talk makes sense, I suppose, knowing the context—that Israel was on the cusp of defeat and exile by their enemies. The Assyrians saw them as so much trash, while the other countries around them barely batted an eyelash at their demise. If ever a people needed redemption, it was the Israelites—God’s chosen people.

Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob,
don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you.
I am the Lord, your Redeemer.
—Isaiah 41:14

 

Maybe right now you find yourself in the trash can, like Israel did thousands of years ago. Maybe someone said something that made you feel worthless, devalued, unloved. Or maybe it was through pure neglect that you find yourself feeling forgotten, pushed aside. And perhaps along the way no one has stopped to pull you out of the rubbish, to smooth out your creases, to get you back to what you were meant to be.

But I am here to tell you that in God’s eyes you are not trash; you have utmost value. Your Creator sees you there in the trash, and it shreds his heart. And what does he do in response? He rolls up his sleeves and digs into the trash himself. He enters our world, knowing we can’t get out of this mess ourselves.

In all their suffering he also suffered,
and he personally rescued them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them.
He lifted them up and carried them
through all the years.
—Isaiah 63:9

Because of Christ, you don’t have to stay in the trash. Because of Christ, you can be used for the purpose we were made for.

He has personally redeemed you. All because he is your Creator, and you are his beloved masterpiece.

Writer’s Note: This blog was co-written with Daniel Rische.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.