It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the “peace that passes all understanding” from Philippians 4:7, and even now I would say that I require daily, if not moment-by-moment, reminders that this world is not my eternal home. For a while I told myself that the anxieties born along with my children would subside. I would name a milestone and anticipate the alleviation of my worries, only to find more fears lurking around the bend.
There are many scriptural passages that speak to these kinds of anxieties, but my favorites are animal-themed. Consider the “little foxes” of Song of Solomon 2 who steal the grapes at harvest time; at every major moment of joy in my life, I have been beset by these little foxes, burdening my spirit with worries about losing the blessing instead of being thankful for it. Then there is the verse from 1 Peter 5 that compares Satan to a roaring lion. Sometimes I can almost picture the little foxes and the roaring lion prowling around my home after dark.
I remind myself again and again that there are critical differences between wisdom and worry. The first is godly and considers the context of the present with good judgment for the future. The second displeases God with its foolish disregard for the moment in favor of imaginary catastrophes. The first gives thanks to God; the second tries to wheedle and outmaneuver God, rushing to lead when it ought to follow humbly.
Part of the problem with parenting, or even existing, in our culture is that we manufacture so many worries. Collectively, we are ceaselessly striving for a success whose definition is ever changing. No wonder we worry. No wonder we do not feel peaceful. And that was my problem for such a long time, a problem that I still work on, though at least now with the knowledge and help of the Holy Spirit.
I can’t wait to feel peaceful, or to find peace somewhere within myself. I can’t expect the world to give me lasting peace, because it only offers up more worry. I have to submit to God for the kind of peace that doesn’t make sense to this world. It’s the man standing still in the storm at sea. And when I fail, which I inevitably do, I need to submit again and again and again.
I submit myself and my children. I pray for God to wash my mind and heart in the blood of Christ. I pray that God pours the blood of the Lamb over my household and the household of my godchild. It’s a Passover prayer that begs God to leave our homes peaceful even when the city around us is beset with grief. I can almost hear the lion roar as I pray.
Perhaps these demons of mine are what make Mark Epstein’s piece “The Trauma of Being Alive” so clear to me. Epstein writes: “The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”
We cannot expect life to be peaceful of its own accord, and the more we try to “get over” our wounds, the more we fail to integrate them into the story of our lives — often the defining moments of our lives. There’s a reason the English call childbirth “being delivered.” We use delivery here in the United States and think of pizza, but their expression hearkens to deliverance — a release from trial, though perhaps only into the trial of living.
Samuel Beckett makes a similar statement in Waiting for Godot when one of his characters muses: “Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries.” We, like Christ, are born to suffer and die. Or perhaps I should say that we, with Christ, are born to suffer and die. The trauma of the cross defines us, and to “get over it,” we can only die, to ourselves and to this world.
It would be easy to end there, and that would please the little foxes and the roaring lion. And yet the blood of Christ washes over the story and reinterprets our narrative from the perspective of the empty tomb, where we wait out the storms. We are born to trauma. We are wounded and scarred. But we are triumphant.