“Do you like it, Mama?”
Of course I assured him that I like it very much. Truly, nothing delights my mother-heart more than seeing the little seedlings of faith take root and flourish in my children. Ezra knows that the crosses in our home are here to remind us about Jesus.
I haven’t yet tried to explain to Ezra the call to “Take up your cross and follow.” Not in so many words. Little boys can get some mighty quirky, albeit amusing, ideas when you try to explain theology to them. But in small ways, we have begun to pave the way for him to understand. We have impressed on our boys the all importance of obedience; both to us, their parents, and to God’s Word. Little things—”Don’t fuss about being uncomfortable;” “Don’t cry if you get shampoo in your eyes;” “Eat the food on your plate without complaint;” “Drop whatever you are doing and come when I call”—are laying the foundation for obedience to that higher call of their King: “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Someday, they will understand.
I can’t tell you how many times, when commanding my little boys to do a thing without complaint, I have been uncomfortably convicted that my attitude was not any better than theirs. I can tell you that, on occasion, when I was fuming about something, one or the other of them has asked me, “Mama, what you’re fussing ‘bout?” And I knew I was guilty as charged. Children don’t let you get away with anything!
When Ezra was wanting to hang his cross on our bedroom wall, I was lying in bed. Although I had sense enough not to say so, my initial reaction to his gift was, “Do I have to have that here, now?” In all honesty, it is not a pretty cross. It is less than rustic. It is rough with splinters and grimy with dirt. But I knew better than to hurt Ezra’s feelings. At the same time, I had to acknowledge to myself that this grudging, “Must I?” was exactly my reaction to the circumstances keeping me abed.
You see, I am one who loves to be working, to always be doing. If I happen to not feel real great, I usually just keep on anyway. I see no sense in taking a nap when I have things to do; no sense in being wimpy if I can keep going. Every few years, to remind me that I am finite, God lets me get sick: really sick. Sick enough that I spend days, weeks, months, in bed, not doing much of anything. This was one of those times.
For one who likes to always be “doing,” this is tough. Tasks so simple that I don’t normally consider the amount of energy that I expend in the dong of them: sweeping the floor, brushing my teeth, milking the cow, getting out of bed, reading stories to my children, thinking, keeping meals on the table, keeping food in my stomach, going for a walk, taking a shower: suddenly seem monstrously impossible. All of the things I would like to do—the books I want to write, the horses I want to break, the sewing projects I planned to complete—lie undone, completely out of reach of my non-existent energy. I am tempted to complain about my cross: “Not here, Lord, not now…”
This time, my illness carries enough dread over the outcome to halt an elephant in his tracks. It carries enough potential for sorrow and suffering that it is nearly as difficult for me to contemplate as it is for me to get my body out of bed. It is a daily battle to survive; it is a daily battle to trust.
In the fight for survival, I tell myself each day: “Only one thing.” I try to avoid multi-tasking if at all possible. One load of laundry. One batch of cookies. One kettle of soup. I can usually stretch my small bit of strength far enough to get one thing done, but if I let myself start a lot of things, I will probably end up leaving a lot of things unfinished.
In the battle to trust, I have also set myself a single, simple goal. To every day acknowledge to my Father, “O Lord, Thou knowest.” It is not so much the fear of pain that weakens me, but the unknown interval of waiting lying between the present; when I do not know what will come; and the future; when what He knows will come to pass; that drags me down. This one small statement is for me an act of placing all my fears, all my rebelliousness, all my impatience, all my weakness, all my hopes, all my plans, all my future, in His hands. In this I find the peace I need to face the unknown. It may not stop my stomach’s churning, but it stills my restlessness and quiets my heart. And, for now, that is enough. This, too, shall pass.
If He gives me the piercing cup of pain, He will also give me grace to drink it to the bitter depths. If He gives instead a cup of joy, I want no aftertaste of useless fretting to spoil the sweetness of His mercy. So I lie in bed, and sometimes I look up at Ezra’s cross. No, it is not what I would have chosen, neither the decor nor being bedridden. But it is where God has put me right now, the circumstances He has placed upon me. Just as it was my duty as a mother to gladly accept my son’s gift, so it is my duty to embrace this cross. Wholeheartedly.
While Thou art silent, and the winds are shrill.
Can the boat sink, while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?