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Sometimes the Best Birthday Present is Rain

These are photos from another storm that didn’t bring much rain, but it was worth it just to see all the clouds and lightening and hear the thunder bowling through the hills. We are due for another storm today.

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Today is my 29th birthday. Next year I will be 30. I still don’t feel like a “grownup” most of the time. I don’t mean I dislike grown up things or prefer playing with little kids or being silly–even as a kid I didn’t enjoy being a kid very particularly. I wanted to do things that only grown ups get to do, like sailing and flying and traveling around the world by myself. Reading books, drawing in my sketchbook or listening to music while sitting in a tree were my idea of fun, and they still are. I had hoped to feel a little more poised and confident by now, a little wittier and smarter and ready for the day. I believe the main reason I don’t feel that way is actually part and parcel of being almost 30–my kids. Parenting is a whole new kind of growing up, and when you begin on that journey, your cherished presumptions about life fall away (some softly, some wrestled right off you whether you like it or not). You find out you have become your mother (or father) in all the ways you told yourself you wouldn’t be like them, and all the good things about them you remember as a child you don’t necessarily see in yourself yet. The things you were great at are not the things you are doing every day.

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But there are things improving as they go. Where you lose your passionate first loves, you learn to replace them with long and deep and wide loves. The love that grows slowly like a tree, and slowly, slowly swallows up whole cities of badness in the strength of its roots. The stones crumble under the power of those roots, and become a fine soil to feed the tree. The bad things done to you are not gone, but that love has used them to its own purposes and is stealing the bitterness from them every day. It is a tree in fact, that love; or a love the wraps itself around a particular tree. The cross that Jesus was crucified on, which I often forget was once a tree itself, and on that tree all trees found redemption and all mankind and even history itself. All the savage murders and genocides and ugliness are wrapped up in the story of the cross and the roots of it are slowly destroying them and making something new. We don’t get to claim it now. We can’t say that our prayers and struggles for Good are making a better world–nor that we will see it in our lifetime. It’s not human work, although humans work out part of it. It is the work of Christ on the cross, Christ resurrected, Christ in and through us like a river of life that is not running to the sea. That river is the sea, endless and terrible, and yet a sea of the deepest, purest, most endless love. Love that is always action and feeling undivided, and whose thoughts are so just and holy that every action is a perfect reflection of them.

We jeer that God is unjust when we see suffering, but if He were to stop all suffering instantly, there would be no story worth telling anymore. Without free will, without the option to cause suffering, there is no story at all. A story must have characters. Characters must have life. Life is the ability to move of their own volition in one way or the other (whether in the mind or in the body or heart). And when you can move you can strike out. Suffering results, but without the capacity for it there is no capacity for anything. Those who claim God is unjust because He allows suffering tend to be the same people who would rather see a child destroyed in the womb than let it live to see poverty and suffering. But in both cases they choose death over life. Life at least gives you options, even if you take the wrong one. And the Life that is Christ is powerful enough to undue those wrong ways throughout history, if we have the patience to see it through.

I struggle with parenting. I do not enjoy it, and it makes me feel dumb and slow and rotten. But, it’s one of those things that can be caught in the roots of love and ground into good soil. And it will be.

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