On Broken Hearts, Dashed Dreams and Resurrection Years
Last June, Sheridan and Merryn Voysey told us their story over dinner—ten years of infertility, IVF, and stalemated adoption (ten years which coincided with the success of Sheridan’s radio programme in Sydney) after which they settled in Oxford, seeking resurrection.
I’ve enjoyed reading Sheridan’s new book Resurrection Year. A few reflections:
1 Never define yourself by your “great sadness.” Maintain an attitude of gratitude.
Oh, for own healing, we need to keep our palms open to God, accept what he gives, and let him take what he takes. As cheerfully as we can manage!
One of Voysey’s goals in writing this book is to encourage people not to define themselves by their tragedies, for every life has much sunshine too.
2 Travel helps in the healing of the heart
Merryn Voysey’s dream had been a husband and kids. When the latter was denied her, she decides on “a consolation prize:” “Live overseas. Have an adventure.”
As an inveterate traveller, I know travel helps to heal the heart, restoring perspective. I travelled to Venice and Florence in 1998, a magical trip after a messy miscarriage with prolonged haemorrhaging which left me heart-broken and exhausted, exotically fainting! And came back with renewed physical and creative energy, a mind full of new ideas and a heart healed by distraction and beauty. So much beauty!
I was bored and stuck in Williamsburg where we lived for 12 years. When the chance came to move to England, I leapt at it, just to live in a stimulating place, not even caring about whether we’d be better or worse off. (And by the time we factored in private school, and dream houses, we were far poorer)
I love Mark Batterson’s formulation in The Circle Maker: Change of Pace + Change of Place= Change of Perspective.
Interestingly, the Voyseys’ path of healing also included a total change of scene. Sheridan left his radio show. They travel to L’Abri in Switzerland, founded by Francis Schaeffer, trying to find an answer to Merryn’s theological question, “Is God a meanie?”
Reading Greg Boyd’s Is God to Blame? they conclude that (while God is ultimately sovereign–my interpolation, not Boyd’s view) many factors decide whether prayer is answered: “God’s free will, human free will, angelic and demonic free will, the faith of the person praying AND the person prayed for, the number of people praying, how persistent the prayer is, the number and strength of spirits battling in the unseen world and the presence of sin.”
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The Voysey’s resurrection year was partly inspired by Adrian Plass who advises them. “New beginnings follow death, as resurrection follows crucifixion.”
A river must flow. If you are blocked in one direction, see why God has permitted the blockage, and what you are now to do. Either override the blockage, or accept it, and flow in another direction.
A change of scene, moving to another country, is a first world solution, and the Voyseys (and I) live in the first world, and it has apparently worked well for them, as for us.
However, if a massive uprooting after sorrow is not financially or practically possible: Be comforted. There is great value in rootedness. Benedictines and Trappists add a fourth vow: stability, a commitment to a particular community, in a particular place. In rootedness and commitment one learns to love well, to love people one has known for years, and to know and love the anchoring land.
3 Seek the silver lining, but more, seek how your suffering can bless other.
The Voyseys begin to see some benefits to childlessness: “less financial pressures without little mouths to feed,” “flexibility to travel without thinking of schooling,” “write books” “have an international radio show.”
However, Adrian Plass advises them to move from acceptance and seeking silver linings to what Jesus did at the crucifixion: “an event so barbaric that one could not put a positive spin on it.”
Instead of trying to find “an up-side,” Jesus blessed people throughout his crucifixion. He was “positively crucified.”
He made his crucifixion bloom, ministering to his mother; the good thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), the mockers, (“Father, forgive them”), the centurion, converted by his grace under pressure, and to us, who have been forgiven by his sin.
Seek whom you can bless through this experience, Plass seems to be advising them, so that the process of resurrection begun in their trips to L’Abri and Oxford might bloom into blessing for many more people than they might ever have imagined.
Sheridan blogs at sheridanvoysey.com.