May 26, 2015
The last few weeks have brought their share of sadness in the lives of many people I know. Diagnoses of cancer–in family I love, in children my friends love, and stage four in a young mom I know, just two days after the birth of her fourth child. The death of children in unexpected accidents, and the deaths of parents due to unexpected medical issues. Several friends have children facing serious health complications, some of them life-threatening. Several friends are plagued by the grief of having lost children years ago. Several friends are longing to have or adopt a child, and instead are facing one obstacle after another, and their arms remain empty. There are too many people in my life that I cannot greet with a simple “hey, how are you” because the answer to that question is too complicated, too painful. Every day, when I look at our girl, I am faced with the evidence of sin, the brokenness that results when a child’s security is taken away.
I don’t have boxes for these things. None of them should be happening. None of them follow the “normal” way of things. Children shouldn’t die before their parents, joy shouldn’t turn to suffering, hope shouldn’t be turned to disappointment, the season of parenting young children shouldn’t be marred by sickness and death. Shouldn’t…Says me? Says everyone? Are we wrong to say it?
I sometimes find myself longing for the simplicity of childhood, a time of feeling safe and protected, and invincible, and full of hope. But childhood is not always a magical time of happy innocence, and our girl is proof of that.
I think that often, it’s not actually the past I’m longing for, but the future.
Here we are, on this broken planet, in these broken bodies. Everything in and around us is failing; time erodes both our bodies and our environments. But inside of us are our souls, these little pieces of eternity lodged in mortal vessels. We’re in this world, and we suffer the effects of it, but we are connected to eternity. We feel nostalgic for the simpler idyll of our earlier days, but life has never been perfect. Maybe it’s a kind of backwards-nostalgia we’re feeling, a looking forward rather than looking back, to the familiarity of the place we really belong. My soul, being eternal, already knows what heaven is like, and the rest of me is longing to know too.
Our girl doesn’t have a warm happy childhood to wistfully reminisce about, but still she wants that. It’s wired into her to want that, just as it’s wired into all of us. It’s the knowledge that something perfect has been blemished, that something whole has been broken, that something that should be is not.
The relationships we have here are wonderful gifts, are even pictures of our relationship with God. And yet even they are only shadows, seen in a mirror dimly, and to those whose hope is in heaven, the gaining and loss of them anchors our hearts more fixedly there. And so we ache for the past, and for what has been lost, and also for the future and the healing to come.