Supper menu: spare-ribs slow roasted in the oven, turnip and potato with brown sugar and butter, cabbage casserole with tomato sauce and carrots. As an after-thought, I throw in the left-over fish sticks and oven fries from lunch, just in case. I am home alone, and the house is so unnaturally quiet. I stand at the counter and peel the potatoes for supper; the sun is streaming through the windows. It is a glorious winter day, and the world is crisp, fresh and beautiful.
So it seems to me. But images like these can be misleading.
My mind drifts to the events that unfolded this afternoon. A little boy crying, weeping for the passing of a grandfather. The tragic loss of a life cut short, and the disbelief and shock that follow. It is hard for anyone to accept tragedy when a life is snuffed out, but for a child, it is doubly wounding.
I watched him crawl up on his mother’s lap, and her arms envelope him. His shoulders stoop over from the load he carries. Too heavy a burden for a child to bear.
We question “why” a good God can allow such pain. Yet, He does and His goodness is unchanging in the light of our suffering. He is God, and we are not. We are the work of His hands, and blessed to be called sons and daughters.
In my mind, I picture how it was just hours ago. The boy, as he was led from the service, is emotional. It is hard to watch him stumble from the sanctuary. He is led by his mother, and trailing behind is a little sister too young yet to understand. I am drawn to follow them in the hopes that I can help.
I find them in the nursery. The little girl is talking about her grandmother’s hair sticking up when she wakes in the morning. “I can spell ‘pool’,” she says to me. She reaches out to touch her brother’s head, and pulls on the mop of hair that covers his eyes. He does not return to her much in the way of attention.
I sit down beside him and put my arms around his shoulders. I have little comfort to bring, and so I offer him a drink and a distraction. I know this: distractions are just temporary band aids that soothe the soul like pain relievers. You need another one shortly thereafter.
“Do you have a dog?” I ask. “Would you like to colour a picture?” “Can I get you a snack?”
Later, I think of this young boy while I peel potatoes. I think of my own children. How would I handle these hard things? How would it be for my own to experience loss and suffering?
We want to protect, and yet we cannot. God can, and chooses not to. These are mysteries too great for the human mind to understand, but like a child we choose to trust. Trust that a good God knows best. Trust that a good God can heal the wounds that run deep. He can hold us in His arms of love and safety and lead us through the storms of life. He can allow us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We need not fear evil.
Much later, we are outside under the stars. If it was a glorious day, it is an even more spectacular night. There is a dazzling display in the heavens above as a shooting star falls behind our steel shed, much to the delight of my husband, the aspiring astronomer.
We head to the local sledding hill and hit the slope. Everyone is enjoying the fun and excitement of playing outside after dark.
My youngest takes a blue sled down the hill, and she screams with delight as she spirals off down the icy path. I do not see her fall off the sled at the bottom. There is a spotter, and I am alerted that she might be in trouble at the bottom of the hill. I try to place her, but it is dark, and the black of night surrounds her. Yet, I hear her cries. She is calling her Mama from the bottom of the hill, and I run to her.
“I lost my boot,” she sobs. But by the time I arrive, it has already been found and placed on the cold toes exposed just moments ago. There are a few more tears, and she regains the courage to make the long trek back up to the top. I walk beside her all the way.
How like God to show me that I am like my own child. I easily fall and lose my way. And don’t we all. Yet, He does not prevent the falls of life, for they are as much a part of the adventure as the ride itself. Still, He is there at a moment’s call to walk beside us from the bottom of the hill back to the crest where we will doubtless get back on and take another ride.
We make it back up to the top, she and I. In no time at all, she jumps on the same offending sled that led to the previous spill. I join her this time making sure to hold on to the edge of her sled while I use my free hand to push off from the top. We are off like a flash down the hill with no worry about what lies in store at the bottom. It is the ride that makes it all worthwhile.