Two weeks ago I went grocery shopping with fifteen stickers on my face.
The night before, news had come. It was news about someone I love – the kind of news that etches a mark on your timeline, dividing life before from life after. I was devastated.
I woke up the next morning full of dread. My heart was heavy and my faith was rattled. And it was a weekday, which meant I was on my own to deal with this terrible new reality while trying to meet the constant demands of my kids.
I did not want to be their caregiver that day.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus once said. I was not like him. I was one of the Twelve instead, ready to rebuke and resent the little ones.
I waited for them to wake up, knowing their neediness would deepen my dark mood. They would fight over things made of plastic. They would buck and whine under my instruction. They would understand nothing of my sorrow.
I underestimated them.
As they shuffled into the kitchen, messy-headed and squinty-eyed, they somehow seemed aware of my wound. My daughter climbed into my lap and snuggled with me silently. She asked for nothing.
I made the kids breakfast, and they thanked me.
I waited for the first power struggle – a “No!” or a “Mine!” with arms crossed and heels dug in. It never came.
Something told me this was not a fluke. My children seemed to sense the depth of my heartache, though I did not tell them about it and they did not ask. They just quietly ministered their innocence into my brokenness without understanding it.
Smart psychology people do studies about this kind of thing. They call it intuition. Children are more intuitive than adults, they say, because the world hasn’t yet trained it out of them. They haven’t yet cast it aside in favor of logic. So somehow they innately know the presence of fear, stress, or sorrow, and they meet it with their own brand of comfort.
Maybe that’s why the Man of Sorrows loved the little children so much.
My daughter found a sheet of star-shaped stickers and instructed me to sit. Looking me steady in the eye she said, “You’re the best muvver in da world.” And then, star by star, she dotted my darkness with little lights of her own.
It turns out that there’s nothing small about little-girl light. I suppose that’s because there’s nothing small about the God who gave it. It is tender enough to soothe the sorrow within and powerful enough to penetrate the darkness without. Even to the ends of the produce aisle.
And the servants of the secret fire Were gathered there The embers of the ages Like a living prayer And all at once I saw the shadows flee Shine your light on me
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