Recovering Black Boxes

Forefront in world news has been the successful recovery of black boxes by deep sea divers, once part of yet another downed airliner.  Along with their recovery comes the sadness of knowing all the passengers once aboard the plane are assumed to be at the bottom of the same dark body of water where the plane’s parts are being retrieved.  There is reassurance, but also a grief no one can tell another how quickly to “get over”, especially when loved ones have suddenly left  lives once shared with family and friends.

A recent announcement by a computer tech, hired to transfer data and photos from more than a decade of family and personal memories, came with a gut-wrenching blow when the word was: “It’s a defective hard-drive and nothing seems to be recoverable.”  Only pictures, you say?  Only writings from a lifetime of sorting out and making sense of complexities in life?  No one died, it was true; but for me it was like an all-consuming fire’s total destruction of every visual account of things that mattered to me, and might possibly matter to others someday.

A friend, trying to console me, pointed out it was like the Waltons television show when a house fire destroyed John-Boy’s hand-written account of his family’s history on the mountain where he grew up.  Devastated at first, he then purposed to re-write the story, and later admitted it was better than the first documentation because he had to dig deep and find more descriptive words to convey his rich memories.  At the time, it was hard to receive that bit of advice, but today I‘m understanding the wisdom of that simple observation:  When all seems lost, it makes us dig deeper and strive for greater clarity in what we finally communicate of value, not only to ourselves, but to others as well.  After an hour of walking my dog and crying, and even shouting out in anger at the apparent loss, I too was coming to terms with the new task ahead of me—to write more descriptively, transparently, and with a deeper conviction and greater compassion, without the aid of pictures.

I started thinking about Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, whose friends didn’t understand his humility faced by great loss when he proclaimed: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)   I thought about the proclamation in the New Testament I’d just read that morning in my daily devotional: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)   And I considered how continuing to grieve over things we can’t retrieve because of our choices, or circumstances beyond our control, can take us down a dark path of depression, hard to emerge from until we release back to God our gut-wrenching sense of loss, accompanied by even our weakest attempts at thankfulness.  I went to bed exhausted, but resigned to a new reality.

Then, this afternoon, following a long day at work, I received another voicemail from the same computer tech, who only the day before had delivered the sad news.  His tone of voice was different—even triumphant:  Most, if not all of the data and pictures had somehow been recovered through his diligence!  Surely he’d heard the long silence and deep disappointment in my voice when he’d previously said: “nothing is recoverable”.  So when I see him next and go to collect my new hard-drive with whatever was salvaged, I want to gift him with something of value in return:  a good meal, a gift card, and maybe even an appropriate, hardy hug, as tokens of my appreciation for not giving up on what seemed like a lost cause!

I began thinking God’s love may be like that computer tech’s tenacity and joy at successfully recovering what seemed to be lost.  And why at times I wish I could just give Him a Bear Hug!

We all have “Black Boxes” whose contents tell the story of our lives, our hopes and dreams—-some realized, some apparently lost.  And it is with a mysterious blend of awe and thankfulness we recover what once seemed irretrievably lost—perhaps handling its contents and whatever life remains for us with greater tenderness and care, as we turn it over in our hands and minds.  I think of a song I’ve played frequently in the car when driving alone:          “He gives beauty for ashes, Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Hope for despair” —based on Isaiah 61:3.  And I thank the Lord for his mercy, forgiveness, and incomparable ability to bring us through dark seasons in our lives, into a new realization that we are never alone and fullness of joy lies just ahead….if we just trust Him and Believe….

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