America has a political hangover this morning. And I probably would have been partaking in the social media grousing myself, had I not woken to a text message alerting me to a tragedy closer to home and far more important. A family we know is being asked to walk a way of the cross that takes my motherly breath away, and as I sat this morning, unshowered and uncoffeed, tears blurring the screen as I struggled to understand what I was reading, the idiocy and the acrimony of the past 8 months of political chatter faded into the background.
I hope that’s where it stays.
No matter what flawed and potentially felonious human being mounts the Presidential throne next January, it won’t change the brokenness of this world. Nobody can save us from the pain, the suffering, the incompleteness of this life. No matter their party affiliation.
Help us, Jesus. You’re our only hope. (And It feels right acknowledging that on May 4th.)
I have been coming out of the tunnel of early motherhood these past few weeks. I can see it here and there, in moments of rare solitude or sibling contentment, when I’m for once sitting and observing my children at play, not wiping or directing or yelling or shoveling.
And it is so sweet.
And it’s fleeting. Every long, hot afternoon in the finally-defrosted backyard, spent packing mud pies and shredding grass and breaking plastic baseball bats against the fence. (Our yard is an aesthetic dream, let me tell you.) Each fathomless post-nap and pre-Daddy arrival hour spent refereeing and rescuing and reiterating basic rules of human decency…it’s all temporary.
The days are friggin long and the years are bitterly short.
That won’t look good on a coffee mug, but it’s truer, at least for me.
Even while I’m pulling out my metaphorical hair trying to coax charity and obedience out of my little band of brothers and their renegade flight risk of a sister, I’m grieving the transformation of fat baby cheeks into more sculpted toddler features.
A preschooler displays a sudden flash of empathy and I glimpse the man he might one day become.
My daughter hands me a slobbered apple carcass to dispose of and tosses a casual “I love you, Mommy.” my way, and I almost have to shut my mind to the intensity of the moment, it can be so overwhelming.
It’s bittersweet, because I want to walk the line of authenticity with my friends and my sisters and with you all, because motherhood is hard. But it is also so beautiful.
It is beautiful to have your heart torn open for another person, to give yourself entirely in service of a creature with an immortal soul, equal to you in dignity (which I am constantly and shamefully forgetting) and utterly inferior to you, for the most part, in personal hygiene.
When I met my husband, death entered into my world in a more tangible way, because I knew that one day we would be parted. It was written into our very marriage vows, woven into the fabric of the happiest day of our lives.
And really, marriage is sweeter for it’s fleeting permanence, the forced acknowledgement of our own mortality in our pledge of “what remains” to each other. You can have all of me. The rest of me, in fact, until last call.
Motherhood is a little different. Motherhood bespeaks a promise of immortality, in the supernatural and even in the natural sense. My children are my legacy, emissaries of hope sent into the unknown. We are building a civilization we ourselves will not dwell in, pouring out blood and tears and sippy cups full of milk in the service of a future we cannot know.
And no matter how grim the state of the world appears, God keeps sending new life. My mom told me once when I was younger, maybe a teen, “new babies are proof that God wants the world to go on.”
And while I have no very new baby on the way, my littlest son is now 8.5 months old, rolling across the family room floor, mouthing for toys and squealing with delight as his brothers tackle his 21 pound body to the floor in a kinetic explosion that would have stopped my first-time-mom heart. And one day, God willing, he will be a man.
The future will belong to him, and I will fade into the background of his own personal drama, his epic contribution to the Story. And then I’ll be gone.
Hopefully not in the near future, and hopefully, my God how I hope, before him.
But this isn’t forever.
These sleepless nights. This frustrating season. This heartbreak. This agony. This time of uncertainty or loss, of pain, of prosperity, of confusion, of clarity…it’s all passing away.
All day I’ve turned over St. Teresa of Avila’s famous prayer in my tired brain, eyes filling up with unusual tenderness for a child in want of a drink, for a baby with an eager smile. And I’ve thought to myself, nothing outside these walls matters the way this does. And everything can – and will – disappear one day, in an instant.
Let’s not waste the time we have. Let’s not spend our hours wishing away the pain or hustling towards that next milestone.
And, looking away from the mirror for a moment, I invite you to consider doing the same.