We teach our children not to ask the question.
In the midst of the questioning that grief brings, my pastor told me not to take one step down the long road of – Why?
I have shut myself off to this word, this deep probing inquiry. Little did I realize the baggage it carried, the labels I had unconsciously attached to it. Plastered like a beat up suitcase with stickers from everywhere it has been dragged along – childish, rebellious, foolish, unproductive, and most of all Dangerous.
But high in the mountains, surrounded by artists passionate, they told us they treasure that word and hold themselves up to it’s light. Their words broke through the static – static always piling up to overrun the truth. Their words broke through…
Why? They said to ask it, daily, hourly, minute by minute. About everything – in every way. Don’t do a single thing without asking . . . Why?
The Sunday School answer of course – for Jesus. But excuse me what the hell does that mean in this broken world, in my heart always run astray? I scream inside through so many days . . . What does it mean? Why? How? What am I to do?
A friend has been in pain this week. I know that hard path, her body numbed to the searing pain and her mind and heart will take time to learn all they feel in this moment. Friends, acquaintances, passerby’s, people are in pain every day, every moment. A husband lost,a precious baby gone, a child run away, dreams shattered, existence too mundane.
I sit here, tea in hand, seventy degrees give or take, running water, food to eat, my babies safe, a man that loves me. Why do I still have a hard time with happiness, gratitude, contentment? Why am I always Meg Murray raging at what life throws her way? Why can’t I smile and say thank you and love? These are the whys I constantly ask and cover up, never spoken, never typed…
so why am I compelled to sit at this keyboard and write it all down, get it all out…
because I know there must be other mothers who wonder – WHY? Why would God give us these good gifts just to take them away or watch them be destroyed? Why even though I love my kids like breath itself, do I seem incapable of actually LOVING them in the trying moments, with my actions, with my speech? HOW did this become my story? Will the laundry and dishes and mess and screaming ever end? And oh God how will I survive when it does? WHAT do I need, what do I do to make it all turn out ok? The What is blasted to us at every turn – more time, a bigger home, a better car, things, accolades, beauty, even truth is sold for a price. But those won’t fix a world right trashed, my suburban existence as riddled with imperfection as the depths of poverty and war are with horror. And How is just as hopeless, since a self help book has never seemed to fix me or the planet we ride spinning on.
Why is the only question that stands against the storm, that isn’t shot to smithereens when you really stop and think. Stop and quiet all the voices. Stop and listen and ask – Why?
Because He loves me.
Because He is good and the story will end well.
But along the way there is going to be a lot of sh##. And alot of magic too if I can just be unselfish and awake enough to see it.
We got the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years at the Don’t Give Up Project. In it Donald Miller tells how he learned to live and tell a better story. My whole life I have been obsessed with story, how did I miss that my existence was one? I’m sure I knew down deep, but it takes brave artists to say the things of truth so they are layed out in front of us as a road we must walk down or deny. So in the book he talks a lot about story and how to live a good story and it’s all very inspiring and I devoured the book like a starving man. When I turned the last page I thought I would be happy, joyful, filled with gratitude and ready to conquer the world. Except that I wasn’t. I was pissed off. And depressed.
I spent the next day driving around, running back to school errands with the face of a martyr, because really Target can feel like you’re being burned at the stake. Where was the magic, where was my grand adventure? How had I gotten saddled with procuring the toilet paper, scrubbing poop stains and trying to fit math into children’s brains? See it’s not the thing of storied legend, I feel silly even typing out my daily activities. I put Perth on repeat and listened to sublime loveliness do battle with the percussion of marching cadence as I drove through the mist. When people remarked on the “rain” I wanted to scream that NO, this is not rain! Rain beats on the window pane and crashes through the sky! I’m afraid to drive in rain and I’m not afraid to drive in this! Rain wraps cozy round you in your home and makes you feel silly for running out and spinning round till you’re soaked. This mist doesn’t do any of these things. It’s not that I hated California and it’s crowded perfection for a moment, it’s not that I wanted danger or comforting. Standing as if chained to the red cart and steering wheel, I just wanted freedom. Freedom to live an unrealistic idealistic story of my own drafting. I wanted it all. Kids and home and family and sailing around the globe and an epic story without any inconvenience or God forbid pain. Can you tell me you have never felt the same? Maybe you haven’t because really I can be quite a ridiculous human being.
Donald Miller says good stories are made of good scenes and I just came back from a time in the mountains where every scene was beyond words good. I want to soak that up but I’m too weak, too tired, too selfish to make my own scenes. When children won’t do their math and dinners burn I want to do the hard work of making magic but all too often I don’t. I give up, give in, a million times a day and then I moan and groan inside about a life lived short of utopia. Donald Miller says utopia isn’t out there, isn’t coming. He says we should all be more Danish, they have lower expectations which makes them happier than us the studies say. God says it another way, love covers over a multitude of sins. Love looks the other way when children snarl and husbands scowl. Love even gives ourselves grace when we fail our own expectations daily. Love gives hugs and speaks soft and sees the blond hair bobbing instead of the baby screeching. Love covers right over wrongs and delves down into souls and spills magic there. “Whimsy” as Bob Goff says, “the nagging idea that life could be magical . . .”
So I come home with my ragged worn out heart and my foul mood. I put dinner in front of hungry mouths and finish my duties before I crawl in front of the computer screen. I scroll through stories, and stories of stories, until my gut is full to bursting. Seasick in a wash of words and pretty pictures – it’s not that they aren’t beautiful stories, it’s that they aren’t mine. Mine holds three rascally boys and one adventuring man. Mine is full of all the unpretty things that you only see in person. My story is drenched in glory I can not even tell. Like how their eyes light up with the ocean’s fire and how we laugh silly over mouths full of donuts every chance we get.
And my story includes teaching my children at home. Yep. Squeezing math and phonics into little boy brains and wanting to inspire them at the same time. Acting out the great moments in history and exploring the vast world of science while making peanut butter and jelly and chasing a crazy baby man. It’s not a story for everyone but it’s beautiful and trying, holding my children close all around me, learning life together. It’s what we have chosen and I couldn’t imagine our story any other way . . . but it’s hard. Really hard. Every day this daunting task holds moments of supreme fulfillment followed by pure frustration and feelings of failure. Starting a new school year I was throwing a fit inside. Thinking that I should be able to rearrange life a little easier and that it’s just to hard to compete this task . . .
because really what made me mad on that last page of a Thousand Years, was a man made in trial, a holocaust survivor saying . . .
“We had to learn ourselves and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must exist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets before the individual.”
A reminder that I can’t rewrite the story. I am not in fact superhuman and the downs make a good story as much or more than the ups. A reminder of the answer to my Why –
To live a good story with my family, no matter what twists and turns the plot may take.
To live a good story and help other’s see and share their miraculous stories.
and with that Why solidly in mind, we had a lovely first day of homeschool this year. Filled with little ups and downs and so much beauty that the magic danced before my eyes.
8-27-12 . 28mm . 1st day of 4th year of homeschooling . morning light indoors