I remember a night when my first son was almost 3 months old. We were in the darkness of his room, his little body still small enough to fit in the crook of my arms. I had just nursed him in the rocking chair that sat in the corner, as I did every night before bedtime. I sang him Edelweiss, as I had done every night before. But instead of his eyelids slowly growing heavier, his body relaxing and falling into sleep, as he had done every night before, his big blue eyes stared right back at me. His mouth breaking into a gummy grin at the start of each new line. “Small and white”, smile, “Clean and bright”, smile.
I wanted to give him an exuberant smile in return, let out a resounding laugh at his silliness, but I didn’t. I was so worried that he would think it was “playtime” instead of bedtime (darn those good intentioned baby books, of which I’d read too many). Our home had been bustling with visitors that week which had me convinced he was overstimulated and sleep-deprived (my dear friend likes to tease me about this obsessive concern I had, when we reminisce about being first-time moms. “You were always saying ‘Oh, he’s so tired,’” she’ll joke with me, “even when he just woke up!” I wish I had seen the humour of it all at the time.)
On this night I was worried he would take a long time to settle, so I didn’t linger in the moment. Even though I desperately wanted to. I didn’t tell him how much I loved him, how proud I was of him, how beautiful a gift he was in my life. I didn’t sing another lullaby so I could look at his sweet face just a little longer. Instead I quickly kissed him on his forehead, placed him in his crib, and retreated to the living room.
Did he cry hours upon hours? Did I spend half the night awake in his room trying to settle him? No. He didn’t make a peep until morning. All of my worrying had been for nothing.
All of my worrying has been for nothing. Though it has robbed me of much. Worrying is a thief of joy, of love, of gratitude. My mind, when focused on the right things, is one of my greatest assets. But if I let my thinking go astray, my thoughts can be my own worst enemy.
How many moments did I rush through, or push away, that offered me happiness and delight with open hands? The kind of happiness we crave in life. Not the fabricated kind, dependent on layers of make-up, money, or fad diets. But Holy happiness. Imperfect glimpses of our perfect Creator.
Some of us are so tied up in knots that we can’t see the good staring us in the face. We have trapped ourselves, for so long, inside cages walled with fear, distrust, and insecurity. We rush through life blind to joy’s existence, hardened so we cannot receive. I am learning that Love is the key that will open the door and untie the knots. Trust is what will keep us free.
One day recently I was tackling the disgusting feat of cleaning out the compost bin. In between fits of gagging and breath-holding, I scrubbed. And as I scrubbed I noticed a little rainbow of light dancing on the inside of the bucket. The one lined with mold and scum and God knows what else. It took me a moment but I soon came to see that it was the sunlight reflecting off of the diamonds in my wedding ring. There in this dirty, disgusting, undesirable place was something beautiful. Holiness has no boundaries, I suppose. It reaches everything, everyone. It can help untangle even the most knotted of souls, the filthiest of hearts (yes, even mine).
And when Love has softened our hearts, we will start to see the good. It might come in the form of a smiling baby in our arms one night, or watermelon juice dripping down chins at the kitchen table. It might be the moment you’re stirring the bubbling red sauce on the stove and you catch a giggling blur of plaid and denim zooming past you on the floor. It might be the sound of a toddler practicing his roar, a bite into a fresh strawberry, the brilliance of a sunset on a drive home or a tiny flicker of light on a compost bin. It might even be the gentle conviction that you need a change in heart.
That burst of real, tangible, Holy happiness, Pure delight, is there for us in so many moments. When you are finally free, if only for a second, from the lingering disappointment over the size of your thighs, the state of your closet, free from that ever-present need to prove something, be someone you’re not. When you let go of all of your doubts and fears. In that moment, you just are. Holy and wholly happy. In that moment, a piece of God is being revealed. Will we stop? Let it reach us? Allow this truth to soak through our bones and deep into our souls?
When it is time for my oldest to go to sleep, after we have read him his books and said good night and are halfway out his door, he always calls to us and says “But I don’t like long sleeps.” It’s one of the handful of tricks he has to extend the bedtime process. To keep us in his room for just one extra moment, to have just one more conversation with us. One of these nap time conversations went like this:
Me: Well you don’t have to have a long nap, you can just have a short nap and come out of your room when you wake up.
Him: (confused as to how he will ensure this sleep is in fact a short one and not a dreaded long one) But I won’t know when I will wake up!
Me: (stating the obvious) Yes you will. Your eyes will open and you’ll be able to see.
Thank God, I am waking up. I know I have, because I can see the gifts of beauty handed to me day after day after day. Gifts given joyfully. They may not be large or grand, they may appear in places of darkness or pain, but I am beginning to understand their power. Their power to change me. Their purpose to turn my gaze from earthly things, which my eyes are so often set upon, to what is truly, and Holy, good. To the things of Heaven. These gifts pull me closer to the Giver, like the star that led the wisemen to Jesus so long ago. These gifts stir in me a desire to know Him more, a passion “to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
When I sense delight, it is teaching me something about what I was created for, where I am headed. Reminding me that though this beauty I see before me will soon fade, how much more is in store for me, and you. If our hearts are open. If we will stop striving, and rest. If we can let go, and trust.
This is Amazing Grace. And the sound is sweet. I once was blind but now, I am beginning to see.