Friday, September 27, 2013

In the Middle of Reeling

I wrote a post over Middle Places today titled "In the Middle of Perspective", but it should've been titled In the Middle of Reeling... because, really - reeling is really a much more accurate depiction of what I am actually doing, lurching violently, still grasping at perspective.
One of my coworkers passed away suddenly earlier this week.  It was so terribly sudden and unexpected and we are all reeling in silent motion, greiving and processing and dealing in our own ways while we go on with our daily routines.  I work for a smallish company and sometimes, in smallish ways, it feels like a smallish family of sorts.

On Monday, I'd walked into her office to talk with her about a work-related issue.  On Tuesday, I walked into her office to sign the memory book for her family.  I walked in and immediately wished that I hadn't.  Although I wasn't extremely close to her, the sight of the empty office, and her empty chair seemed to modify the gravity in the room, making my feet feel heavy and unable to move.  Her personal items had been replaced with a framed portait and vases of flowers.  I sat in her chair to write, offering what words I could muster of symptathy and empathy and of hope.  But all I could really think was that she had been sitting in that same chair just the day before...

I sat still but my mind was racing, and my heart was reeling, recoiling from the brutal force of having been sucker punched in the throat by mortality.  There were a few brief moments, there in her empty office all alone, that I seriously questioned my entire existence altogether. 
Coming face to face with the life and death of another always makes us come face to face with the reality of our own.

In those moments, stupified by shock and grief; disoreiented by the realization of how fast and fleeting and fragile this life is, we want answers. 

John Mayer wrote a song titled No Such Thing that suggests there's no such thing as the real world.  And I beg to differ.  This is the real world.  My youngest brother has this thing he'll say at the most random, ordinary and sometimes awkward moments of life.  He simply says, "This is real life."  It's comical and caustic because the thing is - whatever moment you're in - he's right.  It's rather ironic that it's often in the wake of death that life becomes more real

In those moments, there are no answers.  Only questions. 

What am I doing with my life?  Am I wasting my it?  What would she have written in my memory book?  What would others write in mine?  Did I show her Jesus?  Am I showing Jesus to others?  To anyone?  Have I missed my calling?  What is my calling?  Did I miss an opportunity?  Do I even look for opportunity?  Could I have been more sensitive to His spirit?...

At the end of that day, and of all of my days, I realized how very much I want my life to count for something - and don't we all?  Something so much greater than myself or the sum of my needs.  I was reminded of that desire in my heart to live a life of passionate pursuit of His purpose and how, in recent months, I'd been lulled by life into routine.  The constant whirring and buzzing of traffic lanes and car rider lines and football games all moving together, creating a lullaby of white noise, drowining out the very thing - the very One - who has the answers.    

The One who calms the wind and waves, can calm the storm in me.  In the middle of all my reeling, He speaks through His word:  "Be still, and know that I am God." 
And I cry out to Him, as the Psalmist did in Psalm 39 - and my reeling follows so much of the same pattern: sickness and sorrow and doubt, followed by sielnce and grieving ... and ultimately, submission - or rather, surrender.  All over again...
"The psalmist, bowed down with sickness and sorrow, is burdened with unbelieving thoughts, which he resolves to stifle, lest any evil should come from their expression, Ps 39:1-2. But silence creates an insupportable grief, which at last demands utterance, and obtains it in the prayer of Ps 39:3-6, which is almost a complaint and a sigh for death, or at best a very desponding picture of human life. From Ps 39:7-13 the tone is more submissive, and the recognition of the divine hand more distinct; the cloud has evidently passed, and the mourner's heart is relieved." ~ Spurgeon
My heart - and my reeling - is relieved. 

Oh Lord remind me of how brief my life on Earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered and time is fleeing away, that My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you. Human existence is but a breathe.
And so Lord where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:4,5

Friday, September 6, 2013

In the Middle of Disappointment

Following his Daddy - literally and figuratively
It seems appropriate that I would write about football this week as it is the thing that is all but consuming our life right now.  This little guy is on the field two hours a day at least four times a week. The lazy days of Sunday soccer and one weekly practice have reached an abrupt end.  We were completely unprepared for the investment of time this endeavor would require.  Parker started training camp in July, then regular practice in August.  By mid-August, they were in full pads and helmets and on the field in the summer heat practicing four to five times a week.  This blew my mind.  You know, because they are seven… 
It all just seems too much to me.  Maybe it’s my innate desire to keep my “baby” little.  I took him to one practice and quickly realized that I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to watch the running of the drills, the screaming of the coaches.  The other moms and dads on the sidelines seemed fine. I just wanted to break loose, run out on the field, scoop up my baby in my arms and carry him [like a baby] home.
He is the much more sensitive of my two children and watching him endure such a physically tough sport was difficult.  Frankly, I felt certain that he’d want to quit.  Can I just tell you it would’ve been the first time ever that I’d have let him quit?  We normally have a rule that we will allow our kids to try whichever sport/activity they are interested in with the understanding that they have to complete that particular season.
I was completely prepared to throw that rule out the window – along with the massive amount of time and money we’d already invested. Because it seemed too hard.
Maybe more for me than him… 
Because, maybe, that part of me that was so accustomed to fearing and running from that which is difficult and painful is still alive and well within me – and maybe, just maybe, I have a tendency to project that onto my kids.
It was a reminder of how far I have and yet, have not come.  And so, as it often happens in the throes of parenthood, the Lord is teaching and reteaching these lessons all over again.  Lessons of trust, and of perseverance.  The lesson that I can learn in the middle of anything and everything, even little league football, if only I’d let Him.  If only I’d listen.
At the end of Parker’s football game this week, I stood at the edge of the post-game huddle.  Sixteen little sweaty players taking a knee, leaning in to hear their coach.  It had been a very close game and his team had come back in the end for a fourth quarter victory.  It should’ve been a happy moment, but as I looked through the lens of my camera, zooming in on Parker, I saw something I wish I hadn’t: disappointment.   It was on his face, in his eyes.  He was several yards away and though our eyes hadn’t yet met, I could tell by his facial expression that he was fighting back tears.
He hadn’t gotten to play.
He wasn’t the only one.  It had been a close game and with it being his rookie year, there were four or five other players that didn’t get put in, but still – even that knowledge didn’t lessen the blow for him, nor the ache of my cracked heart.
I did that thing that we mamas do, that instinctive feigning of strength, masking my own hurting heart in an effort to comfort his.
It’s a difficult lesson for him to learn at seven.
And for me at thirty-seven.
I felt utterly helpless as we made our way back to the car, his helmet heavy in my hands, my heart heavy my chest.  By the time we were in the car, he was completely over it – laughing and talking with Chloe.  But it would take several days for me to completely get over wanting to “fix” it.  This wanting to shield him and protect him from any and all disappointment.
Chris had told him that it was just part of the game, that he had to keep going strong in practice and giving it his all.  And therein lies the balance in our family, and in our parenting:  Chris’ solution is to persevere.  My solution is to send the coaches, and maybe even the league, a strongly worded email rallying for equal playing time, lamenting the unfairness of it all…
But I keep silent and in what I hope will be a trend for his life, he takes the wisdom of his daddy’s practical [much-less-dramatic] advice and evokes the same quiet strength.  In that moment, I am thankful that he has a father to emulate - one who doesn't react foolishly out of emotion, but is steadfast and solid refusing to get reeled in to any unnecessary drama.  Yes, listen to your Daddy.      
Because the thing is, he loves playing football – genuinely loves it.  He doesn’t mind the heat, the pads, the helmet, the hitting, the yelling.  

He showed up at his practices this week and gave it his very all, making tackle after tackle, impressing his coaches and amazing his mama… because my seven year old has demonstrated more strength and perseverance in the wake of disappointment than I do at thirty-seven.

The next game, he got to play.  A lot.  He learned the value of persevering through disappointment.  And I did, too.  All over again.
I willingly accept this lesson, in both the little disappointments and painful, tragic trials of this life.  I keep on asking, praying, whispering under my breath and beneath the fear, “Teach me your ways, Oh Lord” (Psalm 86:11).
And He answers me.  Right where I am.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  
Through suffering, we continue to share [Jesus]
so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in us.”
2 Corinthians 4