Their laughter pulls me from my bed. The world may be burning down around our ears but my children are delighted by the snow whirling down outside with a vengeance. They pull their snow gear on in anticipation, eager to start the day. I realize in a few short years, months? I won’t be able to protect them anymore from the horror we wake up to day after day. To me, the snow looks like Canada’s version of God’s tears.
My heart clenches painfully all through the morning routine. I practice the holy sacrament I do daily of letting go. When they get in the car when they get out. I want to protect them from everything, but I can’t. I want to give them the answers, but I don’t have them.
I become every mother. Every mother who has had to hear their child is lost or hurt. Every mother who has had to stand by and watch their child cause harm. I ache to control my children in ways I can’t even control myself, but they aren’t mine to control. I don’t own them. I don’t even own their choices, only my own. Only my own.
Just yesterday I sat in church. Lyrics running through my head. “Dear me, this is a letter to the girl you used to be.” I used to believe I knew the answers. I believed it was easy. Then I grew up. I saw pain. I saw suffering. I heard words that didn’t match actions. I couldn’t do it anymore. The philosophy stuck though. If I could just find the right method. The right parenting book. Make the right food, say the right words, do the right things. I could control my world.
With every futile attempt, I swirled deeper into failure until little by little my clenched firsts began to unfurl. “Whoever you are, wherever you’re at, you’re welcome on the journey.”
When the chaos rages it’s not my job to make everything better. I can’t control the pain. When I let go of the ill belief that I even possibly could, my hands and my heart are freed. They are free to touch those around me as we sojourn together. When they stumble or are struck, I don’t chase the rocks. I lend a hand to steady. I bind up the wounds.
My faith that was as shiny as the customized bible covers I toted around has been shredded. The snot and tears have broken down the fabric time and time again as I have wept. Wept for realizing I can’t control all the things. There are the tears of others as well. When friends have suffered and cried and bled I’ve offered what I had. I’ve shared my ragged tear stained faith in the quiet dark moments. More of “let’s cry together” than “let me wipe your tears.”
From early on, whenever the bread and wine were served in the practice of communion, I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I wrestled through every opportunity pastors, preachers and reverends took to list the requirements of coming to the table. I never felt adequate. It became a symbol of all the ways I was a failure at my faith. Instead of being the symbol it was meant to, that everyone is welcome at the table, it became a point of exclusion. There were rules and rulers and I didn’t measure up.
On this Sunday the words are different. Whoever you are, wherever you are at. Come to the table. Participate in an age-old sacrament. As I dip the bread in the wine goblet I force myself to look deep into the eyes of the fellow traveler as she says “bread for the journey.”
Tears well up. The path is rough. I’ve left the meadows behind. The air is thinner up here, the shale crumbles under my feet. I wonder why I want to climb the mountain at all when the meadow behind is so lovely. Sometimes I see a log at the side and I rest. I look behind me and realize just how far I’ve come. I take in the bread because Lord knows this journey requires any sustenance we can take in.
I can’t fix the world and it’s so tempting to wrap myself in that truth like a blanket. Pull it over my head and not crawl out of bed at all, but then I see what is right in front of me. Three beautiful souls aching for love and nurturing. I may not control them but I can fill them. I can pour love and kindness and truth into them. I can create a safe container for them to learn and discover. I can process the pain with them and show them what love and vulnerability look like.
When they fall I can help them get back up because love isn’t finite. It doesn’t end with the receiver. When we feel like we matter, when we feel safe and supported we can pass that along.
Bread for the journey. Whoever you are, wherever you are at there is room a the table.