Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joe's Advent Words

I could do some whining about Sophie and Jossie having a stomach bug...again, but I think it would be more beneficial for me to post a note Joe wrote to a friend. I found it deeply meaningful and profound (if I do say so).

I will not pretend that Anj and I have suffered nearly as much as other families that we know. However, our recent experience with Sophia has been coming to a poignant climax during this Advent.

I had thought through my own response to bad news like a serious diagnosis in my own life. I had a carefully planned heroism all worked out. It was fueled by my own critiques of lots of other people and how they had worked through things both well and poorly. When the monster of disease came to my house however, I was not prepared for it to come for my 5 year old girl. I was completely without a plan. I have been left only to watch in awe as she wrestles with things that have bested many older and wiser than her.

She has struggled with behavior problems, she has had a lot of questions and comments about death, she is constantly reminded of her own and everyone else's mortality. She was always a melancholy and a bit of a mini-philosopher. Now she actually wrestles with questions like mortality and the goodness of God. We have begun to teach her about spiritual warfare and standing against thoughts from the enemy. Not something you normally teach at 5. She didn’t pick the fight though.

As children, we are infinite as far as we know. We can hardly conceive of our own ending. Until something happens which introduces life-threatening trauma to a child. Suddenly, their infinity is limited and they are faced with their own frailty.

Here is the amazing thing. From my own vantage point, I can see that this "limiting" disease has caused Sophia's spirit to sprout wings like never before. She has a familiarity with Christ that I have not found in some adults. She does not question God's goodness or fairness. She says (direct quote), "I know Jesus can heal me, but if He doesn't yet, I'll still just trust Him anyway. He knows what to do." I didn't coach one word of that.

There is something of the Incarnation in this thing she is going through. Christ chose to leave His invincibility, to take on vulnerability that we might follow Him to immortality again.

When we refuse the unfairness of the world and live with “happy-faith vision” we stand and watch the dying Christ. Not participating, but wondering what He did to get Himself crucified; how His faith must have faltered somehow.

When we “face the pain” we take up our cross and, in partaking of our own vulnerability, we partake in some of the death of Christ. Here is the deep magic though: because it is the death of Christ at work in us, our wounds are imbued with the hope of resurrection. Our wounds are no longer the senseless, unfair, and hopeless curse that they are to the rest of the world.

Appropriately, at Christmas I find myself following a child through this journey. John Milton wrote in his work about the Nativity that every worshipped demon and false god felt “The dreaded infant’s hand” from the moment of His birth. Even the babe in the manger was threatening to their kingdoms.

The other day, I was in the kitchen making drinks for dinner. Sophia and Jossie were at the table starting their dinner. Sophia decided to take it upon herself to pray before the meal. I overheard her prayer: “Jesus you are SOO big and you are always with us. Jesus you are just so good to us and you love us and you are so strong. Thanks for being so good.” This was not our normal prayer, this was straight unadulterated worship from a tested soul – at the age of 5.

It hit me like a punch in the stomach, brought tears to my eyes and I stopped pouring drinks. I heard the Holy Spirit say this: “That is the sound of giants falling in the spirit. The evil one will rue the day he ever picked a fight with that one.” The Holy Spirit was cheering on my 5 year old in her own battle.

There are still lots of things that are hard about it, but the deep magic has started to take hold. In her strong moments, Sophia has even started to relish the battle. The wounds of Christ have made her wounds mean something.

After watching her, I echo your call:

Face the pain.

Embrace the cross.

Let the death come.

Let the Christ child be born in you again.

Smile, and do it again tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Still Here

We're still here and making it.

Christmas preparations have such a way of taking every bit of mental energy from us, yet it is not what is supposed to be for this season.

Trying desperately to maintain that appreciation and awe of a very special "Silent Night." And, not just worry about if we've bought the right gifts.

How to teach the kids the art of celebration and relaxing, as well as putting others first. Ahh...the pressures of a parent! :-)

More on life later. Much too tired tonight, but haven't completely forgotten the blog.