February 07, 2008 Length: 7:40
Life presents regular opportunities to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But is it the catastrophic or the routine where that is most played out?
You remember the haircut, right (see my last post for a thorough explanation)? Well there’s an addendum to that story I’d both like and not like to share with you. It involves the explicit instructions from my daughter’s stylist not to remove the rubber band holding together nine inches of hair being donated to Locks of Love, an organization (I was corrected by a friend of mine) that makes wigs not for cancer patients but rather for individuals afflicted by alopecia areata, a mysterious medical condition involving sudden hair loss. We promised to be careful while carrying home the correctly bound ponytail I had placed in a freezer bag for protection. Being somewhat predisposed to screw these kinds of things up I was unusually determined to be responsible, even pre-addressing the manila envelope that was to be mailed off that week containing Priscilla’s contribution; I was proud of myself for following through on all of the details.
So later on when my little girl innocently opened the bag to look again at the long silky waves now intended for another child, when the rubber band holding everything together somehow loosened and the strands of hair fell free, when she and I tried to gather them back up but they wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t stay together, I chastised her severely for an unintentional error. I felt myself bumping up against the line dividing “appropriateness” from “overkill” but I plowed it through it anyway in obedience to the insatiable appetite of my own irritation. When I looked up she was gone, I stood alone with my recklessness while a fistful of useless curls slipped through my fingers.
Three months ago, I watched on dumbfounded as a grim faced doctor told my sister-in-law that the stinging sensation in her abdomen was not an ulcer but a freakishly large growth that could possibly be malignant. It was all quite surreal, like an act in a play; I kept waiting to hear “Cut! Let’s do that scene over!” “Don’t cry, don’t cry” I begged of myself, “Hold it together for Paige.” But over the weeks that would follow, throughout episodes of excruciating pain, a trip to the Mayo clinic and a stint in intensive care, it was Paige who comforted me; it was her faith, her courage that uplifted all of us. Eventually, there’d be a diagnoses: sclerosing mesenteritis, a rare disease of the mesentery tissue that can thankfully be treated with steroids; eventually, there’d be healing and hope. “You were amazing,” I told her, “I could never have been that calm.”
“I am good in a crisis,” she honestly explained, “it’s everyday life that is difficult.”
When my husband, Troy, says on any given month that things will be tight, I stoically rise to the challenge, spending money on nothing but food, bills, and gas. When nausea keeps the feverish head of one of my sons or daughters buried in a grocery bag-lined mop bucket, I will empty it repeatedly, rub his or her heaving back, and not complain although sleep will be scarce for both of us. I would die for the sake of the Cross, I work endlessly to tune out the empty promises of materialism, but don’t you dare infringe on my quiet time or take for yourself the last chocolate chip cookie. Yes, Paige, I know exactly what you mean - it’s not tragedy or sacrifice but rather banal annoyances that have the greatest potential to destroy me.
“Priscilla, where are you?” I searched through each room; she was hiding and rightly so, I had hurt her deeply. Then a sniffle from under my bed led me finally to her hand, outstretched where I could see it, open wide so I could grasp it and pull her toward me. “I’m a dumb girl,” she quivered, through a heart breaking jumble of whimpering, snot and tears. “I ruined everything,” she went on and I ached as she made obvious the shame she was wrestling with because of me. “Shhh, shhh,” was all I could initially muster. “Lord have mercy,” I silently pleaded. And then I wrapped myself around her, kissed her cheeks to calm her down. “I’m so sorry, baby. It was an accident, a complete and total accident. Mama’s very sorry that she was harsh with you. I apologize, Priscilla, can you forgive me?” And of course she did because she’s resilient like that, but woe to me if I test that elasticity too often.
“You know,” I said, that evening, “while Priscilla and I were washing dishes, after a cherished red goblet had inexplicably shattered just seconds earlier, “it seems like your mom has a lot to learn. What do you think God’s been teaching me today?” She examined my face before stating her answer. Could she really talk to a parent about their weaknesses?
“W-e-l-l,” she began timidly, contemplating all of her many options “maybe patience?”
“You are absolutely right, sweetheart,” I assured her. “Help us not forget that all things are sent by You. Have you heard mom pray that before?” Thus began a conversation about frustrations that have a purpose, that when examined in light of salvation can lead one straight to Christ. And I honestly think their working because with each spilled box of beads, dropped gallon of brand new apple juice emptying its sticky contents all over my kitchen floor, I become less exasperated, more likely to grab a broom or hand out some paper towels then lose my temper. Longsuffering, I need to remind myself daily, is an earned discipline. I must bear some weight before I gain the strength to follow Jesus’ example, to stand back up and walk again after being struck by wickedness or affliction. I’ve got my “count to ten” rule, a spray bottle of disinfectant, and several icons hanging within my view. Please prepare me, most Holy Trinity, for what is coming around the corner. Out of love for my family and for the furtherance of Your glory, may I exchange my impulsivity for restraint. There is never an empty moment when your sights are set on Heaven, no lack of opportunities to save one’s soul.
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