The Scream

The road to recovery following my knee surgery was rough, as you may have read.  The issue was not so much my knee (although it still isn’t 100%) as it was other complications.  The long and the short of the story was that I spent over two months going back and forth between my bed and the couch with not much else in between.

When I recently started to feel better, I felt this tremendous desire to piece life back together.  My understanding was that life, in that season, had been broken and fragmented and now the very best thing was to try to fix it.

Piece it back together.  The words were almost palpable, visible, like a branding or watermark over the images of my life.

Piece it back together.

My mission:  Restore order.

Spend better time with the kids.

Catch up on piles of work.

Start to exercise again.

Be productive.

Make every moment count.

Put it back together again.

So, I asked Jesus how.  How do we piece it back together again?

His response stopped me in my tracks: “It was never broken.”

What do you mean, it was never broken?  Weren’t you there?  It felt very broken, with so many things inverted and out of place like a puzzle scattered on the table with no box top to guide you.

So many pieces.

“It was a whole picture,” he said.  “Just not the one you wanted.”

Then, swiftly and quietly, the image of E. Munch’s The Scream:

 

The Scream

It wasn’t broken.  It was a complete picture.  Just one picture in a series.

It wasn’t broken after all; it was whole.  A whole searing image of enduring pain.  One we love and hate.  We love it because it captivates, validates, swirls with humanity.  We hate it when it is our own mouth dropped open, dark sounds spilling out through our hands as if we were trying to block the opening but somehow can’t maneouver them to a right position of silence.

We are torqued and skeletal with pain.  While the dark river threatens to sweep us off the page, others walk by unhearing, unbent, toward bright skies.

When we are in The Scream, we feel like our feet our stuck to the bridge, our hands glued to our face.  We are unmoving.  Just plain stuck.  Frozen.  Too tired to do anything but let our insides spill out in lament.

And I want to rearrange the image.  Ease up the corners of the open mouth into a smile, hands clapped to cheeks in wonder.  Swap out the turbulent sky for a fiery sunset, the kind that ignites inspiration.  I’d move the people closer together and soften the movement implied in the environment.  Maybe I’d add a few brush strokes that suggest trees or blossoms—something alive.

Because I don’t like to equate hard with whole.

But what if the challenge is to view hard as whole, as passing and limited?  What if the hard image is merely one contained image in a larger body of work?  What we allow for a full range of human emotion in the gallery of what we consider beautiful or at least meaningful?

If we stop and pause to consider the significance of what currently frames us instead of desperately trying to unstick our hands and feet to run to the next canvas, we might find something redemptive after all.

Do you agree?

Barf, Balloons and All

You know how you have these images in your mind of how certain events will turn out?  Birthday parties, family photos, airplane trips, doctor visits, music recitals, visits with those “put-together” families?  These events usually involve a public component and if you are a parent, a component where your children are “on display” to some extent.  Rarely do we spend the same amount of time planning and formulating images and expectations if it isn’t intended for public consumption somehow.

In our society with so much reality TV, Facebooking and Twittering where what used to be private is on display and is often doctored by clever cropping, flattering filters or at least redeemed by a witty caption, we often get confused.  We think that life is about posing, performing and presenting these great, apparently candid moments.

Often with two little ones, even posed, things don’t come out so well.  Exhibit A: attempted birthday photo of Mommy and her two boys.  That’s a framer.

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The problem is that we somehow equate our children being on display with our inner selves being on display.  Kids misbehaving = mommy fail.  Messy house = lazy parents.  Image = success.

This past Sunday, my sister and brother-in-law were dedicating my cute little nephew at church.  In the middle of an already busy morning, preparing breakfast for overnight guests and getting ready for hosting the post-church party, their older son succumbed to the stomach flu that was going around day care the week before.   This, of course, initiated a flurry of cleaning and a whole new level of stress.

So here she is, on Mother’s day, kneeling by the tub to scrub off her sick kid, preparing to host all these people and hardly having time to get herself dressed.  Not exactly the moment you want to scrapbook.

And I thought, “Oh boy, what a shame that she has to deal with this on baby dedication day.  And Mother’s Day of all days!”  And then the realistic side of me kicked in.  Of course, I feel bad for my sick little nephew, for the added stress of the day.  Of course it is too bad that my sister can’t sleep in and have everyone serve her breakfast on Mother’s Day.  Of course.

And yet, it struck me that these are the real moments.  These are precisely the moments in which we need to dedicate our children to God, whether kneeling in front of a church or kneeling in front of a bathtub.   We need His provision whether we are serving a citrusy quinoa salad to a crowd or spooning scrambled eggs on plastic plates and eating the leftovers out of the pan, standing over the sink.  We need to be clothed in grace on days when our hair gets done and on days we can’t find time to get out of pyjamas (And we want to get dressed, we really do… Sometimes.)  We need His healing when we are up to our elbows in barf and we were really planning on doing something else.  And we need healing just as much when our own hearts tell us it all depends on us and maybe we are messing it up really, really badly. We need extra grace for the moments that are full of fits and tears—our children’s and ours.

We don’t dedicate our children because we have it all together.  We say, in front of family and community that we are committed to being dependent on the God who lends us these wee ones in the first place.  We may look coiffed and pressed and certain, but really we aren’t.

See, this dedication thing and this parenting this is all about releasing.  All about letting go.  Dedications.  It is Abraham, weeping inwardly I imagine, as he ties his son on the altar.  It is Noah, praying the boat’s construction is trustworthy as his sons march on board.  It is Hanna, pouring out her heart to God, looking like a drunken fool.  And it is her following through and actually weaning him, and bringing him to the temple, coming back every year with a handmade robe, a little bigger than last year’s.  (I probably would have waited to wean the poor child until he was 12 to keep him close to me.  She was a brave soul.)   And in these cases, the ram appeared.  The boat stayed afloat.  Samuel grew up to be a powerful leader.  But those assurances don’t come right away, nor are we guaranteed them.  Scripture and our lives are full of other examples of times when things don’t work out so well.

See, we release our children and we simultaneously release our expectations of how God has to work. When we lay aside our expectations that we need to be perfect and that our kids need to be perfect and that God needs to fit into our perfect boxes, we allow room to grow and be changed.  We leave lots of room for, “I’m sorry.”  Lots of room for adventure.  We allow room to be challenged.

We choose to nurture our kids into who they can be instead of stifling them and cramming them into a proper little mould to feed our own ego.  And when we release these expectations, we remind ourselves also of our real audience is, and how much He really cares, mess and all.  In doing so, we invite room for real life and real grace.  Barf, balloons and all.

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