So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Colossians 3:12-15 NASB
‘Do you have children?’ I asked. It was the staff Christmas party, and I’d been talking about the preparations around our house. Just small talk, you know, the conversations with folks you like (if you’re me, anyway), but hardly know. Hence the question. I was wholly unprepared for the response: ‘We had four children, but our eldest child died…’ Four years ago, I think he said, and continued about the other three in a way that directed the conversation toward the living.
I thought to myself afterward that it is true, that saying that everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. There is always more to be known, more experience and complexity than we think. I think this especially with folks my age and older, but I remember my teenage and young adult years vividly enough to recall the anxious and vast interior landscape I inhabited then. It’s only in retrospect that those years are carefree. In the moment–at least I think for many–there are cares enough.
Becoming a mother shifted that landscape like a movement along the mother of all fault lines. (No pun intended.) All the geographical features of my inner life had to trade places, and make space for the Big, New Reality: a child. And aftershock follows aftershock, as my heart and mind adjust to the new terrain. Before children, I might have been accused from time to time of wearing my heart on my sleeve. More than once, I have been called a ‘bleeding heart’ liberal. But now? To keep my heart as close as my sleeve would be a great accomplishment: it has left my body and gone outside to kick a football; it naps in the next room; it plays downstairs with tanks and dolls.
I cannot imagine living without it; can’t imagine what life would be like were a part of my heart to die. But that’s motherhood, after the example of the Mother of God; that’s family. Sometimes I think I see what it is that is so special about families, why God chose a family to be the space in which to come among us. If I have glimpsed it, I’ve not managed to find the words for it. Something about the way our hearts get parceled out and mingled together; something about the company one so needs in battle; something about the way we learn to bend and straighten, as we must, to make space, to give strength.
I know I am a long way, we are a long way, from that familial holiness that Mary and Joseph and Jesus display. Praying for more grace in 2013…