The ordinary moments and the everyday disciplines are what help us abide in the heart-enlarging love of God.
It’s been a rough few weeks. My heart feels like it has been tied up in knots and only now is it starting to unwind. In Pastor Aaron’s sermon on April 22, he said, “Relational strife is often the most hurtful kind of pain.” Relational strife turns me inside out and upside down, especially when the resolution of it is held in the hands of another person.
My husband was out of town for part of this rough patch. Brief phone calls late at night (he was in a different time zone) weren’t the same as sitting on the couch together and having him listen to my heart or hold my hand or do something goofy to make me laugh. It was me and God and the kids and a weary heart that just wanted comfort.
And comfort came, not in a steady stream, but in slow trickles here and there.
Early Sunday morning I opened the 2 Corinthians devotional to see what the sermon would be about. Inwardly I groaned as I read the passage (“Make room in your hearts for us . . . In all our affliction we are overflowing with joy” (2 Corinthians 7:3-4)) and the questions accompanying it:
What must exist in a relationship to be able to say difficult things? How would you describe the difference between godly grief and worldly grief?
The questions and words pierced as I wrestled with them, filling the page with the thoughts of my heart. I kept coming back to that question: Would I make room in my heart again, choosing to open myself to hurt by remaining open to another?
Later that morning at church, my son sat on my lap during much of worship. Hearing him sing as he leaned back against me was a balm to my soul. His presence, the feel of his arms around me, hearing him rejoice when I could not, opened up a space in my heart for comfort and hope.
On Monday I sensed my girl’s eyes on me as we worked through our weekday routine. In the middle of math she looked at me with such serious eyes and asked, “Are you okay, Mom?” I paused to think through my answer. “I’m just sad, Punkin. And that’s okay. Sometimes we have legitimate reasons to be sad and that’s where I am now. And where I’ll be for awhile.” She gives me a small, sad smile in response. We both return to our work. But my heart is lighter for having someone see, someone receive my sadness and acknowledge the reality of it.
On Tuesday we are supposed to go to a friend’s house. I feel extremely turtleish; I want to hide at home, work hard at something to feel productive or escape into a book so I can forget how I feel. Instead, I pick up the car keys and we head out. An hour later I feel immensely better. My friend and I have talked of everything and nothing—the end of the school year, the craziness of summer ahead, the when and where of our husbands’ travel, and most of all, we have talked of the books we are reading or have read or want to read. These are simple gifts—gifts of the everyday, of the things I love. As we return home, I am reminded that I won’t always feel overwhelmed by the sadness I feel today.
Each night before bedtime I lay on my bed and read and pray with the kids. We snuggle up and read Runny Babbit poems by Shel Silverstein and laugh together at the mixed up words: “Runny saw a flutterby with pretty wurple pings.” I am renewed once more by the laughter of my children.
Then we each take a turn to pray:
Please keep Dad safe on his trip.
Thank you for a beautiful day.
Thank you that Daddy will be home tomorrow.
Help Aunt Chrissy get well after her surgery.
Thanks that we got to go to our friends’ house today.
Simple words remind me that there is always reason for gratitude. These prayers remind me that although relationships open us up to hurt, they also open us to care and connection and beauty.
I tuck my two not-so-small wonders into bed and rejoice that they are mine and that they love me even when I am sad. I thank God for using their words to remind me of the beauty of relationship.
The following day my neighbor, who is also my friend and whose husband is on the same trip with mine, comes over for dinner. After I put my boy to bed, she and I and my girl cozy up in the front room while I read The Prisoner of Azkaban aloud. All Harry Potter books must be read in a British accent and, although I feel a bit silly reading it that way in front of another adult, I continue.
It’s comforting, that moment of a shared story which two of us have already read and one is hearing for the first time. Although I know what is coming (we are at the climax of the story) it is a delight to hear it again through the ears of my daughter who is utterly confused and very concerned about the outcome. From time to time she utters a “What,” or a “But, I thought…” She heaves a sigh of relief when things turn out okay at the end of the chapter. Not all is clear but, for the moment, things have resolved. It is enough for my girl to be able to go to bed with her mind at rest. Just as God has provided enough for me in this longest of weeks to be able to lay my head down at night and rest.
Make room in your hearts for us…
All those moments of simple and quiet comfort in the midst of an overwhelmingly sad week bring those words from 2 Corinthians back to me. As I walk in the rhythms of an ordinary week—getting up early to spend time with God, singing at church, doing school, going to a friend’s house, bedtime prayers, reading books—he speaks to me. In the midst of my sorrow he meets me and makes room in my heart for compassion and laughter and hope, for believing that restoration can come again.
And it does. The following weekend restoration occurs. Not perfect restoration, but a promising start, hope for the future. More will have to be said, shared and worked through. I have failed already and I know I will fail again. But I have made room in my heart, and that is where healing begins.
Lord, thank you for the simple rhythms of an ordinary week that felt anything but ordinary to a soul weighed down with care. Thank you for expressing your care for me in so many small moments and giving me the courage to make room in my heart again—for relationship, for hope, for the restoration that comes when hearts trust in you.