I just read an amazing story from Eric Metaxas‘s excellent book Miracles. It’s a story about a woman named Eva Meyer, the daughter of a brilliant physicist, Dr. C.J. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was as gentle as he was brilliant and a loving father, but unfortunately his other daughter, Eva’s sister, didn’t take after him or her mother.
In the early 1990s Eva was given her sister’s infant daughter to care for, and later, her infant son as well. Eva raised them as her own for four years. She also did her best to protect them from the destructive lifestyle of their parents’ who were ensnared in substance abuse. Eva’s sister would spontaneously take them away from time to time, but Eva had no custody rights to the children and was helpless in the situation.
About ten years passed. Eva’s sister was living in Seattle and now had six children. The oldest of them was ten. Eva’s sister said she wanted to pay Eva a visit and flew out to her home in Connecticut for Christmas. But what she really wanted was a life without her own kids. She left them with Eva and flew back to Seattle. Soon after she and her new boyfriend fell off the radar.
One day Eva was living her life and then literally overnight: she had complete responsibility for six kids. Poor Eva was so weary from the lies and manipulations of her sister over the years that this new situation, this expectation, this unexpected but unavoidable obligation to care for six young children completely overwhelmed her. She found herself struggling to connect with the youngest, eighteen month old Jonathan. She kept her distance emotionally. She guarded her heart from him because as it’s been said, the price of love is grief. And who knew? Her older sister could sweep in and take them all away suddenly and without warning as had happened before.
Eva also became angry, even enraged at her sister. “Drowning in rage” was the way she herself put it. That first night she wept and cried out to God continually.
That’s when something curious happened. As she lay there crying she noticed a shadow on the wall, and as shadows sometimes do this one looked somewhat like the silhouette of a man. But the more she stared at it the more it looked like a real man. Soon it was growing in size and appeared to be moving toward her. By the time it reached the foot of her bed she recognized the figure as Jesus. She was terrified. She became keenly aware of the loathing she had toward her sister. And then a scripture came out of her, it seemed to just erupt from inside her, spilling out of her lips, she said, “Have mercy on me, Jesus! I am a woman of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5)
At this point she was sure she would experience the wrath of God. And she knew in her heart she deserved the wrath of God. But what happened next was Jesus, with eyes burning and his hand lifted over her in benediction, prayed for her.
And her fear and rage melted under the love and warmth of His presence. Eva says, “waves and waves of the safest, warmest love enveloped me. I felt like I did when I was a baby and my dad rocked me in his arms till I fell asleep. I kept whispering… oh, please, Jesus… stay with me… I love you… thank you, Jesus…”
Shortly after sunrise He was gone. But during the night Eva’s rage was replaced with courage, and strength, and peace, and even joy and overwhelming love. She was free to love those kids. And she was free to love her sister.
It was a miracle.
How To Be Free Like Eva
I so need for what happened to Eva to happen to me. Maybe you need it too. Too often I look at the behavior of the people close to me and convince myself that my situation is special. I convince myself that I’m justified in my anger and frustration toward them. Usually the person is just behaving like millions of other human beings behave–and there’s nothing extraordinarily special about it.
But even if there is an offense, as there surely was in Eva’s case, there’s a certain response prescribed for me by Jesus.
But my instinct is so contrary to that response. When I feel offended I don’t want to get even–I want to get ahead.
Jesus says something different though. This is what He says.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
When I do this, when you do this, we’re freed from our anger, bitterness, and resentment. We might feel like we’re giving something up when we follow those words of Jesus, but when we let go of our unforgiveness, when we love the way He says to love, we become free. This is how Eva loved. And to love like Eva, we have to cry out to God like Eva.
Why You Can’t Add Jesus To Your Life
What I want is to add Jesus to my life. I want to remain undisturbed and uninterrupted and have Jesus. I don’t want to be bothered by people–but I want to have Jesus. I want to do what I want when I want and have Jesus. I want to have enough money to be comfortable and have Jesus. I want to be entertained and have Jesus. But what am I thinking? That’s not at all what Jesus said it would be like to follow Him.
Jesus said we have to trade. We have to give our life in exchange for him, in exchange for Jesus. Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
If we try to hold onto our undisturbed comfortable life, we’ll lose our soul in the process. Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
I heard Francis Chan say that when we look at Philippians chapter 3 we see the part about knowing Jesus, and we like that. And then we see the part about experiencing the power of his resurrection, and we like that. And then comes the next part, the part that says we get to know the fellowship of his sufferings–and we don’t like that. We even try to ignore that part. But without a doubt suffering is a part of the Christian life. (Philippians 3)
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:23-24)
To keep Jesus’ words cry out to God the way Eva did. Ask Him to help you love the way Eva loved those kids and even her sister. Ask Him to help you “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Yes it’s not easy. And yes you will suffer.
The thing is, Jesus is worth it.
Eric Metaxas, Miracles, Dutton Adult, 2014
Francis Chan, Crazy Love, David C. Cook, 2013
Image via Daniel Roy – Creative Commons