Ellie wakes me. Jacob is already up getting ready for work as I fumble blindly for my glasses on the floor. I walk to her room, stepping lightly on the places where I know the floor creaks. I turn on her lamp because I need to find her pacifier, and she squints from her sitting position in the crib. She wears her pink, two-piece minnie mouse pajamas. I quickly turn off the light and return to the rocking chair, curl her around my stomach, and start to feed her. I notice the rocking chair is no longer making the awful “kah-lunk” sound, and I remember how Jacob told me excitedly yesterday that he had fixed it. I had missed that opportunity to truly say thank you to him; he was eager to share his accomplishment, and I didn’t process my gratitude until I finally sat in the chair. The next time he tells me something like that, I want my sincere gratitude to be involuntary. I don’t want to have to sit in the rocking chair to be thankful that he fixed it. I want to thank God for who he is even in the midst of me not perceiving his blessing.
Ellie’s made a mess of her diaper as I feed her, so I change it. In a matter of seconds I feel simultaneously sad and happy because changing her diaper means I do not have the luxury of putting her back to sleep, but changing her diaper now also means I get to tickle her toes and blow raspberries on her stomach and watch her blue eyes crinkle as she laughs. Most (all?) moments offer us the opportunity to choose happiness over despair; I often instinctively (or perhaps habitually?) choose despair, but I believe the Jesus in me is coaching me to choose joy.
If I left things up to Cohen, no project, paper, wrapper, toothpick, etc. would EVER be thrown away. According to him, every material item he has ever created ought to– at the very least– be put in his memory bin, and at the very best– be laying out somewhere in the house for him to see. I successfully break this rule often, sneakily throwing away papers in the recycling when he is not around, discreetly chucking the minuscule piece of chicken finger he swears he is going to eat, etc.
But today, he asked for one of the things I had thrown away. “Where’s my doctor coloring sheet from pre-school?” he asked. And here is what happened:
“I don’t know.” This was a blatant lie on my part. I remembered throwing it away yesterday along with a host of his other pre-school papers. (He brings home a stack daily.) My spirit was immediately uneasy. I shouldn’t have lied to him. I knew it as the words were coming out of my mouth.
“Where is it?” he asked again.
I changed my answer, but it was still a lie: “I might have accidentally thrown it away,” I told him. Now this response was even worse than the first. Now I’m still lying (It was definitely NOT an accident) and I’m doing so for the sole reason of protecting my reputation/standing with my son (which is just ludicrous.) Cohen proceeds to pull out the recycling bin and dig through it.
“I threw it away yesterday afternoon,” I finally said, “We can’t save everything buddy, there’s just too much.” And as I spoke the truth, a little gate to the Kingdom opened up:
Immediately, he burst into tears. Not just whimpers, full-fledged crying. Ughh. This is what I get for the truth?? I thought. I knelt down to his level. I held his shoulders and I told him “I’m sorry.” And I really was. I think I was mostly sorry I had lied to him, but also sorry that he was so sad. I did not tell him (yet) that it’s silly to cry over a coloring sheet; I did not tell him to waste his tears over something so insignificant, because it was apparently not insignificant to him.
Dallas Willard talks about how our perspective changes as we grow as Christians, how we grow to have God’s eyes instead of our own, much as a child begins to perceive things differently as he/she grows. How often do I cry real tears over things that are insignificant in the scheme of God’s kingdom? Could death be as insignificant as Cohen’s “lost” coloring sheet? I cry over the loss of someone, but in his mercy, God holds me by the shoulders, all the while knowing how silly it is to cry over such things, and says “I’m sorry” anyway?
But the story goes on. Cohen continued to cry and cry. After five full minutes of tears, I DID tell him to stop crying. I told him that the lost coloring sheet did not deserve his tears. And I told him, “You can choose to be happy now.”
What a privilege it is to be a parent, what a lens with which to view God. I believe God reacts to my tears in the same way. He joins me in my sorrow, but he will not let me stay there. He changes my eyes so together we can turn sorrow into joy.