It seemed a day diabolically calculated to deprive me of rest. You see, I really do look forward to the Sabbath. Last night I sped through four loads of wash, and the children vacuumed and mopped the floors. Toys were put away and the house put on a peaceful air. It’s easier to rest when there aren’t visual to-do’s all over the place.
It was a night of brief sleep; the boys were up early and would not be quiet, waking the baby who woke us far ahead of our bodies’ clocks. They were all keyed-up to go to a free Nascar race today with their dad, and they peppered their enthusiasm all through the house in noisy chattering, dirty breakfast dishes, shed pajamas, and mindless chaos.
Fine. They were out the door and I had a mug of coffee in hand and then there she was, my daughter absolutely brimming with expectations about our day together. She wanted to have adventures, do all sorts of special things, have a friend over, etc. I sipped my coffee and with pleading eyes and a raspy morning voice said, “Please, honey, I’m not ready to be sociable. Just let me drink my coffee and ease into the morning.” Because my soul was crying “rest” and she was shouting “do”, and I just couldn’t.
I tried to explain to her, that I worked hard and long for six days and needed some rest this day, this special day where I wasn’t measured by what I did, but rather measured the kindness of God, His goodness, His holiness by pausing from all that hustle and bustle. She did not understand, where the expectations had swollen, now there were storm clouds of resentment. How had I failed so very much by seven in the morning?
The baby has had a chronic diaper rash that makes every diaper change a scream fest. We’ve tried EVERYTHING and the pediatrician shrugs it off and prescribes yet another cream, and she isn’t there in the middle of the night when he’s crying in pain with open sores oozing. I can feel her it’s-just-diaper-rash condescension and it galls me. So today it flared up bright and fiery and made for one miserable baby and one miserable me. The morning nap didn’t happen, so I counted heavily on the afternoon one for both our sakes. We got through lunch, where the underweight baby threw most of his food onto the floor, the floor that used to be clean. Time to rest, oh please, God.
I would just close my eyes and start to drift into much-needed sleep when he’d cry again, or my daughter would wake me for something, over and over and over. So many emotions at once; compassion for my sore-bottomed baby, anger at being constantly awakened when just on the verge of rest, and incredulity that I couldn’t just for one hour be let to sleep in peace.
What a hard, unrest-full day. Hours that passed crankily and disjointedly by. I can see that I had prepared my day of rest, but wasn’t prepared for suffering, wasn’t prepared to be so disappointed in my pursuit of a restorative nap, a quiet, joyful day. I had my hands full of my expectations, too full to accept what God was giving me in these hours.
And was He giving me something?
Ann Voskamp, the author of “One Thousand Gifts” and the blog A Holy Experience calls it “hard eucharisteo”, giving thanks for the hard things, being thankful even in suffering. It’s a spiritual discipline; a hard-won soul reflex of looking for ways to praise even when what most wants voiced is complaint or self-pity.
It’s looking up and over the hard thing; looking past the dark toward the light made brighter. It’s realizing that deep valleys make the mountain peaks so exhilarating. It’s the sorrows and harassments of life which make peace and joy and blessings so soul-thrilling when they come. It’s the contrast.
It’s the hunger right before the Thanksgiving meal, it’s the bone-weary tiredness right before the deep night of sleep, it’s the harsh cries of the baby before he surrenders to rest. And in the tyranny of those hard hours He gives us His promises like life lines, like flashlights to guide us through the darkness. He asks us to remember His presence, in both valley and peak, in both abundance and poverty, in both peace and unrest. He is strengthening the atrophied muscles of perseverance, long-suffering, and praise-at-all-times. These are gifts He gives when it seems He’s taken the good stuff away.
And the baby is now resting deeply and I can see that he won’t have a diaper rash forever, and I can see too past these hours and forward, laying hold of the life lines of His promises, I hope.