Monday, April 2, 2012

acquainted with grief

(with apologies for cross-posting...which is about all i have time for these days)

“a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” i was absentmindedly chopping potatoes; luke was at school, and anastasia was happily unloading the tupperware drawer. suddenly, that snippet of a verse from isaiah 53 was running through my head. although i’ll admit that i have been the last few weeks, i wasn’t at that moment feeling particularly sorrow- or grief-filled. but for whatever reason, God chose that moment to give me those words. “acquainted with grief.”

to be honest, when i think about that phrase as it describes Jesus, i’m tempted to think, “yeah, but not this grief. He can’t understand this sorrow of mine.” do you do that, too? it’s fitting, i think, that i was suddenly struck with that thought on the threshold of holy week. my suffering and sorrow worse than His. my grief more unbearable than That. really?

i trust i’m not the only one that thinks that way some days. i’ll admit (dare i say confess?) that i’ve been reading the hunger games books this week. the tale of an astoundingly creatively repressive government, devising ways to slaughter its citizens, is appalling and nauseating…and thankfully fictional. but what of the places on earth where governments do just that? where citizens are in fact murdered by violent dictators and appalling regimes? forget my silly unbearable suffering; isn’t theirs beyond His understanding? surely. i’m not much for comparing sufferings (here are my thoughts about that, if you’re curious), but surely those persecuted citizens’ suffering is worse than mine. and surely He doesn’t understand theirs.

does He?

writing has long been my escape. but unfortunately, despite a more-powerful-than-ever need for solace in my life, this isn’t the season for me to write. as i chop potatoes, i am solely responsible for all of my children’s needs, day and in and day out; my phone is never far from my pocket, anticipating as i always am calls from various people in official capacities, deciding innumerable details about my life and my children’s; my ministry is ever and always on my mind, either in the forefront with planning to do and curriculum to write and emails to answer, or percolating in the background, ideas simmering and sputtering at all hours. and i most want to write about what i know, what i experience; but there are some seasons of life when those things are not fit for public consumption, for recording on the page or the screen. not for now. those things are mine alone, and not to be shared. except.

except when i heard (did i hear it, exactly?) this snippet of a verse from God, here on the cusp, the very edge of the week when we revisit and re-learn just what it means that Jesus is in fact acquainted with all our sorrows and griefs, more intimately than we could ever imagine—when i heard that, i couldn’t help but write it down. to remember. and to share. for the days unlike today when, in fact, i am overwhelmed by the sorrows and griefs that i deep down believe to be impossible for anyone else to understand. my suffering is not my own. maybe that will mean something to you today—or another day—too.

and as i attempt to deflect the tears from my potatoes (good thing i planned to salt them anyhow), i’ll thank God afresh for that, for holy week, for the reminder that—try as i may—i can’t possibly own those sorrows for myself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

how long?

anastasia is eleven months old today. it's hard to imagine that she has lived almost a year already. but then i think about how much she knows, what a little person she is turning into, and i realize she could hardly be less than eleven big months old. it is pure joy--almost--to get to know that little person: spunky and opinionated and charming and coy and comical and busy-bodied and smiley and snuggly and so much more. almost pure joy, except for that one little part that's pure heartbreak.

as i nursed her to sleep yesterday, i met the heartbreak for the first time. she was in that drowsy place, that cozy, full-bellied-but-not-yet-all-the-way-asleep place, that ready-for-the-pacifier-and-tucking-in place. so i made the pacifier swap--success--and snuggled her for just one more minute, wrapped in her blankie, before i stood up to put her in bed. and she looked up at me with those about-to-be-a-whole-person eyes, and she gently reached out from under her blankie to touch my face. and in her drowsy eyes, i saw sadness. not baby sadness, the kind that results from a diaper change or being strapped in the car seat or being left behind by luke as he runs outside to play. not hungry sadness or too-cold-after-the-bath sadness or banged forehead sadness. this was a deep and thoughtful and questioning sadness, glimpsed there in the eyes of my almost-toddler who is much too young for that sort of look.

of course, as she reached up to touch my cheek, i doubt if she was really that kind of sad. she was drowsy and snuggly and thinking something between nursing and dreaming, for sure. but what i saw in her eyes, really, was the potential for sadness, the reality that, before i know it, she will know that kind of sad. and it shattered my heart. because, in that moment, i felt more desperate than i ever have for her to stay a baby, to keep her from knowing that kind of sad ever. and simultaneously i knew that she would know it, soon, sooner than i can get my head around. and there's nothing i can do.

it is a mama's biggest heartbreak, i think, or at least this mama's: that we cannot protect our children from pain forever. not broken arm pain or fell-off-the-scooter pain or ear infection pain; certainly, we can't protect them from that, either, and that's hard. but broken heart pain, broken world pain--that's the pain no mama wants her child to ever know. i would give anything never to have to see that wistful sad in my children's eyes ever again. but it's long past too long ago that luke learned something of that pain, and it's so very too soon that the look in anastasia's eyes will be real sadness, too.

sometimes, sometimes i can find hope in that. sometimes it can remind me that the longing i feel for my children to be free of that broken-world sadness is a reminder to long for a world that's not broken, to long for the promise we cling to of eternal life where there are no more broken arms or broken hearts. sometimes. but yesterday, this mama who would have her almost-toddler stay a baby with an intact heart could only grieve the heartbreaks that she will have to face, the heartbreaks that her big brother already has. yesterday, this mama could only cry out with the psalmist, "How long, O Lord?...How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" (psalm 13:1&2). must my almost-toddler know that sorrow, too?

(photos by sonya ewing photography)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

avec le coeur

It is such a secret place, the land of tears. 

the little prince is not a children's book. but perhaps you already knew that. am i the last to know?

which isn't to say you shouldn't read it to your children. on the contrary, luke and i just read it together, and it was wonderful and delightful and such a treat for both of us. but maybe even more for me than for him.

i can't remember the last time i read it. whenever it was, i certainly didn't understand it. i know i read it in high school french class. in french. no need to explain why i didn't understand it then. (did they really expect us to?) i suspect i've read it in english, too, especially since luke has two copies of it on his shelf. but if i did, i certainly didn't understand it. when i pulled it off the shelf to read to luke, he told me he had read it just the other day and didn't get it. so that made two of us who were ready for a rereading.

let me stop here and say that you need to read this book. if you haven't read it--or, like luke and me, didn't get it when you did--go read it. maybe before you keep reading this post. i think you can find the whole thing online, even. in english. it'll only take you an hour. because i'm going to spoil it for you, at least a little bit.

or just keep reading...but don't say i didn't warn you.

the little prince is from another planet, a tiny little planet of which he is the only human inhabitant. there he loves and cares for a vain rose whom he doesn't understand, and whom he is sure is unique in all the universe. he is just a boy, and he goes out on a mission to make friends. along the way, he meets many different people from many different planets, each with his own lesson to teach. he finally ends up on earth, where he spends a year, toward the end of which he meets the narrator and tells him his story. he is a boy of endless curiosity and deep insight, who always asks questions and never answers them. he is wise beyond his (how many?) years, and he teaches our narrator much about love and what really matters. at the end of his year on earth, he needs to return home, leaving behind his too-large and too-heavy body. his leaving looks like dying, but he reassures our narrator that he's really just headed home to his star. thus the narrator will always look at the stars--all of them, as the little prince's is too small to find--and remember his laughter and lessons about love.

a mysteriously wise little child on an inexplicable journey, with many questions to raise and much complicated wisdom to share, loved by a narrator who would never fully understand, who had to leave his heavy earthly body in order to go Home much too soon.

today is eliza's birthday.

for luke, who loved it despite the fact that the ending was "a little sad," the book was probably not about his sister at all. it was about the fallibility of the narrator (do you think he was making it all up?); the lessons the prince learned from the people he met on other planets, the snake who spoke in riddles, the fox with the wise heart (i think that man is greedy); the narrator's broken plane and how he miraculously fixed it (he said he had a wrench); the narrator's age and identity (he's not in any of the pictures!); the little prince's wardrobe (the colors of his clothes keep changing); the pronunciation of the name of the tree that is the the little prince's achilles heel at home (is it bao-BAB or bao-BOB?). he loved it, couldn't wait for anastasia to get down for a nap or for the night so we could curl up and read some more. but i'm pretty sure it wasn't about his sister at all.

which should maybe be part of the very definition of good literature.

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.