Hope can seem elusive. It’s shadows are long ones draped across the landscapes of our lives but often instead of perceiving an invitation to adventure chasing toward the light, we hesitate at the darkness of the shadows, as though it is a darkness to be avoided.
Children and adventures seem to go hand in hand, they are good at leading the way. I often need their help.
Before I ever had children and was really still a child myself I met my future husband who told me he had a design for a cross in his heart to represent persecuted Christians. I felt my heart burn within, at the goodness, but I didn’t know what it would mean.
We had met, not long before, at a Voice of the Martyrs conference. Living over 600 miles away from each other we shared treasures over the phone, sometimes he even read stories about the saints of old to me before saying goodnight.
Saying goodbye to him, was like no feeling I had ever experienced. He was the other half of my soul, but I didn’t understand that yet.
The first gift he gave me was the story of the “little flower”, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She once wrote,
“For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus…I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers…I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me”. -Thérèse of Lisieux
Twenty years later we have been married seventeen years and have the gifts of six children beneath our roof.
We all sat still around the lunch table the other day as the mysterious shadows of hope played upon my heart like the shadows that come through the windows in the morning while the sun rises behind the trees. It felt like no adventure to try to explain to them the news of the day, a storyline playing out on the stage of a world that doesn’t recognize Jesus.
When you are quietly sitting across the table from a 14, 13, 11, 9, 7 and 4 year old, headlines sound different.
I laid the recent news out on the table and watched their faces fall and their mouths whisper the question, “…but why?”
Those shadows felt like darkness then.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1
What does faith look like now? In these moments? Gratefully, it often is as easy as stopping and listening.
“Who wants to pray?”
If the whole world in our house had not quieted the way it did, you might have missed the little heart that answered my question. She went right to it, and it was not lengthly:
“Lord, comfort them…comfort them. In Jesus’ name”
There was no need for more right then.
In the imagination of my heart, and hope of my soul, part of me was transported, present, at the sides of those grieving. I know we all were.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, … to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” —Colossians 1:24-26
What kind of world did I think I was going to live in and what kind of home did I think was going to be built when a man I felt so compelled by told me he would one day produce a cross with the word “martyr” in its title? I didn’t think. I didn’t know how to have vision for this future, I didn’t understand yet.
I remember hearing peers say they had chosen not to have children, they wouldn’t, “…bring children into a world like this.” I had recently read Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his words felt like they were echoing throughout my entire being,
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
It took a year before Jay could move across those 600 miles and we inhabited the same state. In that time many phone calls, and letters and pieces of art passed between us. One held these words, along with a pencil sketch of Jesus on the cross with Mary and other onlookers bent to the ground:
“For years I’ve attempted to capture the cross, how it ‘really was’. But in all my striving I’ve forgotten a very essential part of the cross.
The death? No! The blood? No! Christ? NO!
I’ve forgotten the beauty of the cross, how I was there dying with Christ.
And how He called out to me from the cross to join Him there.” —Jay Myers
I wanted to know, by heart, what he wrote of but I never felt sure I did until the birth of my fifth child. And I didn’t even realize that until sometime later after the birth of my sixth. But, then it hit me.
“My life” finally joined to “His death”, IS LIFE. The life I always wanted but didn’t know it yet. The other half of my soul, but I didn’t understand it yet.
Through the children’s eyes I get to daily experience the wonder of this. Through the fruit of my womb, the fruit of my death, come the simplest, most powerful prayers: prayers of faith, hope and love. But none of those without death first, without dark shadows of mystery.
We’ve got to hold on to the beauty of those mysteries and adventure into them, not shrink back.
Something in me now knows even Mary, mother of Jesus, grieving there knew something of the perfection of it all. I feel her heart must have burned not only in grief but in joy of the complete wholeness of it all. There she beheld the design that was itself, though cloaked for the moment in death, the reality above all realities, HOPE. Yes, faith, the faithfulness of God, these things are His love.
The children know that these things are His call to us to be with Him, there.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” —1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Praising His faithfulness and Seeking Him with you today friends,
Raynna, for the whole family
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