Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Ache & A Calling

I’ve been telling him for months that I can’t do this. That I am not strong enough, not wise enough; I don’t even look the part. My pleas are futile, I know this before I even begin. I am holding her close, and I cannot give her back; I cannot stop being a mother because it is terrifying, because my ignorance feels like paralysis.

“I’m going to wrap her up in layers of cellophane, then,” I tell him. “Holes for eyes, nose, and mouth, arms tight by her side, padded and protected. I’ll keep her ears covered so she doesn’t hear the ugly, the profane. Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, I’ll tell her, and don’t make any waves. You’ll just get hurt.”

“You don’t mean that,” he says.

I shake my head. “No, no of course not. Cellophane is hot, sticky, uncomfortable. Maybe something more breathable.”

He catches my gaze; I am looking down, trying to avoid his eyes, because I know what he is going to say and I don’t want to hear it. I am not ready to hear it.

And then I am sitting at the dining room table with three precious friends, cup of hot tea between my hands. I’m gripping it so tightly my fingertips are going white and numb. A few leaves slipped through the filter and I’m watching them sink to the bottom of the mug, and oh, my God my God, nothing is certain and nothing feels steady and even a fine mesh filter couldn’t prevent these leaves from falling through.

Is this what it will be like? Slipping through the cracks on the periphery, because my mothering is not big enough, it is not wide enough, it simply cannot catch all of this. My tears are dripping off my chin and she hands me a napkin because love is letting your friends cry and sometimes all you need is a hand to hold, and someone to whisper I understand, because they do. They understand frailty and they understand fear, that weakness is inescapable and that sometimes you want to hold on but you can only let go.

I remember how I felt on December 14, just a few short months ago, when I heard about the Sandy Hook shooting, all those tiny children dead. I was sitting at my desk at work, and the tears wouldn’t stop. I hid in the bathroom, forehead pressed to cold tile--and the pain burned and it seared and I couldn’t understand how a mother could survive such a tragedy.

I held my hands out in front of me, I willed them to stop shaking so I could call my own mother, make sure my daughter was okay, safe, alive.

And that night, as I held my little girl his voice broke through the dark, through the confusion and the pain, not to ease it, but to validate it. “Motherhood,” he whispered to me. “It is an ache and a calling. To give in to the ache is the crux of the calling.”

But why must it hurt? Why must it hurt?

The ache is the fear. It drives me to irrational protection, why I pray she never hears a cruel word or knows malice or pain. But the ache is also the longing. He wakes me up in the night and my hands cover her heart, they cover her head, and it is these whispered midnight prayers, rising fragrant to the throneroom and oh Jesus, fill her cup with this ache and pour it out on her precious and sacred life.

This is the calling of motherhood, is it not? It is the growing up and the letting go. The call to release her back to the Lord, to relinquish control, to accept that perhaps her heart will be broken, she will know pain, she will face disappointment, that her life will not be without tears.

It is a fearful letting go, and I wonder if the fear ever entirely disappears, if we can live without apprehension for our children, if I will always fight this urge to shield her, to cover her ears, to cover her eyes when necessary, to make her numb to the arrows, to misfortune.

I am learning to let go. I am learning to trust, not in myself, or in my own abilities, but in the God who saves us, who promises to heal any broken pieces, to carry us faithfully to the end. I am giving in to the ache; it drives me to my knees, because to whom else can we go? It is not without fear, and I wonder if I have ruined my daughter already, with divorce and a broken family and a behemoth of uncertainty.

He shakes his head. I watch the leaves rise and fall in my teacup. My friends shake their heads.

It doesn’t work that way. The Kingdom does not work that way.

He works in the tension, in the less-than-ideal, in the place where we are bowed low. He has carried me. He will carry her. And perhaps this is the greatest calling of motherhood--to pick her up and place her in his arms, and walk together into the unknown, leaning into a goodness that does not fail.


  1. Amen and amen. Just beautiful. I echo the prayer in Heb 13:21..."May He equip you with everything good for doing his will."

    Love you Midge.

  2. I love reading these. I wish you had oodles of books I could read.

  3. Thank you Louise. Thank you Michelle :)) Your kind words mean so much to me! You don't even know. And Michelle, maybe one day I'll write oodles of books!!!

  4. This is so beautiful. I love your words & your dear heart.


I would love to hear your thoughts.