I awoke this morning to find my bed covered in moaning children, all of whom were covered in alarm and distress about the traumatic and insupportable discomfort of this head cold. One plaintively recounted the filling up of her ear, another the inability to breathe at all, another the pounding headache of death, and so on, through all six of them. They gazed at me in, I would like to say mute suffering, but there wasn’t anything mute about it. On the contrary, each was more than articulate about the horrors of the night.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “That sounds terrible.”
They gazed at me in dismay. Is that it? No more? Won’t I be leaping up to make all the suffering and pain go away? Unfortunately not. In fact, I have increased their miseries a hundred fold because the piano teacher came after all, even though they are all dying. It’s going to be so desolating, lining them up in the ground, lovingly lettering “Here lies a child, killed by a piano lesson” over each one. I will weep and mourn. It will be tragical.
Today I’m thankful for sarcasm, without which I myself would not, so far, have been able to survive motherhood.
Not that I enjoy persecuting my children. No more than God probably enjoys persecuting me. But there is some sort of curious fascination to be had in standing watching a child freak out over something, as one might say, non essential. The shape of a certain cup, perhaps, or the way the shoe lace won’t perfectly tie, and so we can never leave the house ever again, because it doesn’t work, and life has ceased to have any meaning.
Not that all of life’s traumas are equal to a shoelace that refuses to be tied. Death, for instance, far outweighs nearly all the frustrations and horrors of ordinary life. That one was so unsurpassable that God himself came, in great suffering even, to untie the terrible knot.
‘I must be dying,’ I might say, having stubbed my toe on the vagaries of my day. But then, when I might actually be dying, I’ll be more than willing to plunge my head into the sand pit of denial and conclude that everything’s really ok. I make the very small into the very great so that when the very great comes along I have nothing left to cope with it.
I’m sure this is not what Jesus means when he says you must become like a child to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Observe any number of children writhing on the floor because the paste has run out and you will Know that that’s not what he means.
Fortunately for most of us, time, which is also a gift from God, produces perspective. You lie back on the floor to wail but then sit up and try the lace again and it turns out to be fine. Your mother stands there and gazes at you, folding your laundry, sardonically congratulating you for managing to pull yourself together. And the next time you maybe don’t make quite as much of a fuss. Or maybe you do. But it doesn’t matter, because God is still God, and your mother is still your mother, and plenteous grace abounds.
Still though, I’m pretty sure this cold is going to kill Me, even if it doesn’t kill the children. But until then, pip pip.