I nearly trip over the guitar and the tubes of paint and the piles of clothes and the cords running like river tributaries on a map on my way to the bed to wake him up. I almost twist my ankle getting there. Is it my job anyway? He’s old enough. He shouldn’t need me to wake him every morning. Isn’t that the alarm clock I hear blasting on the shelf? How can I hear it from the next room and he not hear it five feet away? So I snap, and he mumbles amidst the piles of curly hair. As I trudge away, I realize the guitar, which had been a Christmas gift, is dismantled. I sigh, shake my head, and find my way to the sanctuary of the laptop.
I find an email from the prayer chain. A little boy is in the hospital. A little one we know. The news is a bolt right to the heart. Time stops and sounds hush as the spotlight of my attention comes down around this little one in the photo on the screen, baseball cap over his cropped hair, big grin. In the days to come that smile may fade a little as fatigue overtakes him from all the tests and treatments to get the white blood cell count down and his platelets and his strength back up. In the next photo, there’s Mom and Dad. Dad wears a paper gown and a hair net, protecting his son from his germs. Mom’s wearing a big smile. I search her eyes for exhaustion and fear. I don’t see their traces. Yet. It’s only the first day of treatment. I wonder how she’s holding it together so well. I would be in pieces on the floor.
This mom, she’s a friend of mine. She was the one who prayed with me that day in the store. We were both there to buy food, but I had received heart-shaking news and walked the aisles like a zombie grabbing boxes and cans of who knows what and dropping them into the cart, going through the motions. My head and my heart elsewhere. And then I came around the last aisle and there she was, this mom with her little pigtailed girl in tow. Are you all right? she asked. I’m sure it showed on my face. That it had been the longest shopping trip. That it was about to be a very long year. No, I’m not. And there it was. My feelings all spilled out in the aisle in the grocery store. Clean up in aisle 7. She hugged me right there in the store as she prayed for me. Right there in the store. My brokenness and the gift of her attention, her intentional blessing washing over the cracks in the tender armor of my mother’s heart.
And now there she is in this photo with her little boy and her husband, trying to hold it together, holding onto each other and more little ones at home and their faith in divine promises. My heart goes out across space and time, trying to touch hearts that are hurting as mine once did and does again in sharing their pain. The only way to hold her from here is supernaturally, hands folded, knees on the floor amidst the clutter of dashed dreams, or were they merely expectations? I widen that spotlight of my attention out to those on my immediate stage left and stage right. Starting with the one upstairs who dismantled the Christmas guitar.
A couple days later I went to check on the status of my son’s room. It was still a mess, but my guy had reassembled the guitar. Before he did, though, he added his own flourish, his own color. That sweet boy in the hospital likes to play ball, my special guy makes art. I’m glad I had retreated to my office that day instead of blowing up about the clutter. It gave me a moment to breathe, regroup, and remember my priorities. Even with the tubes of paint scattered on the floor and the paint stains on his good pants, the mess doesn’t seem so messy. At least that mop of hair is still resting on the pillow in his own bed. He’s here. Why does it sometimes take a crisis in order for me to appreciate the very fact that my children are even present with me here in this life?
This precious family on my screen–the one I’m praying for–they remind me not to sweat the small stuff. Amidst earthly plans now sanctioned to a corner somewhere and tubes carrying the good stuff in and the bad stuff out, prayers going up and challenges coming down, it may look like a mess, but sometimes clarity comes in the hospital room or the teen’s bedroom or even in a grocery story. And sometimes it’s a friend who gathers up all the tears we have spilled on the floor that offers us a glimmer of heaven.