Earlier tonight, soon after he went down for bed, my baby started whimpering, then crying, then almost wailing in his crib, behavior that is completely out of character for him at bedtime, so, pulling out my earbuds and setting down my paper, I went straight into his room, scooped him up in my arms and pulled him close. Instantly, he quieted. Then, tucked in together in the dark of his room, gliding back and forth in the same chair in which we’d logged so many hours nursing, I kissed his head, patted his back, told him everything would be okay, momentary comforts that assured him of the very presence that had been, has been, would be, keeping him as he slept. There in my arms, his breathing slowed, his body relaxed, his eyes closed and, when I set him back into his crib, his tiny curls hitting the bed sheets, he didn’t make a sound. While, just a few moments earlier, he’d been unable to see us, the truth was, we’d always been able to see him. When he didn’t know where we were, we were near. Even in darkness, we were with him, hadn’t abandoned him, loved him still—just now he believed it. And that, in microcosm, could also accurately describe me.
Back out in the living room, Tim on his laptop and a foreign action flick on the screen, I settled into the makeshift art table we’d positioned near the TV. The same wooden table Tim built for me five Octobers ago, while I was in Chicago finishing wedding details and he was getting ready to come up and meet with our friends, now turned towards the screen. I had paper and watercolor paint and a mess of art supplies splayed all over the table, the first time I’d taken them out since we moved to this house, over two years ago. I felt like painting, who knows why, maybe just for the pleasure of it, just to play, so there I sat with my paint tray and brushes and phone, listening to podcasts about writing and art even while sometimes glancing up at the TV. Because listening to one particular recording made me curious about the song it referenced, next I was dipping my brushes alongside a YouTube version of “More” by Andrew Peterson on repeat:
“This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain.
“A thing resounds when it rings true
Ringing all the bells inside of you
Like a golden sky on a summer eve
Your heart is tugging at your sleeve
And you cannot say why
There must be more.”
I cried when I listened to these words because, to quote the lines, they were “ringing all the bells inside of” me. They were like quiet mornings on the back deck listening to the branches sway or Tuesday evenings in a circle engaging with women who bear witness to the spirit of Christ inside their hearts. They were all the autumn pictures streaming online, like my friend Kate’s breathtaking Minnesota feed these days, or two hours with my dear friend, her husband and her son this morning, and seeing Rocco happy in the arms of the one I love so much.
They were our anniversary date Saturday night, on the back deck, lights above us, music playing, the nicest meal we’ve cooked all year sitting on our plates. They were Sunday morning listening to the words of John 10 about how nothing snatches the ones who are His from his hand. They were a song about God’s faithfulness that immediately followed those words, with lines like “never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you ever leave your throne, you are faithful, God, you are faithful,” being so sweet and precious to me, I could barely get them out. In short, they were a signpost in a sea of signposts signaling the same reality I am ever learning and relearning again: the One who loves me is near, I can trust Him, He is good, He is always good, His severity as His abundance is a mercy, a true gift, and I don’t deserve any of it at all.
My friend Sarah Kate Branine has a beautiful post up on her site right now where she mentions a Paul Tripp quote about prayer meeting at the intersection of surrender and celebration. With that in mind, she says, “One of the barest truths of [Romans] is this—be thankful! How had I missed it before? This kind of thankfulness isn’t blind or irrational; it calls us into deeper relationship and beyond our ability to understand. It doesn’t hide from the hurts and losses of reality; it faces them and still says: Father, you are good and only have our good in mind. Thank you for this (Romans 8:28-29).”
So much of my life I have been (and likely will be) just like my precious baby who, in his limited capacity to see, cries out in fear and hurt, asking the very one who’s near to come make himself known. Are you there, Lord? Do you see me? And you know what? He does it. The marvelous, wondrous, tear-creating reality is this: He shows Himself, and He does it in a hundred providences, deeming nothing too small or big. He is there, He’s been there, He’s with me, He’s never left me. Indeed, true comfort, He’s loved me all along.
A few notes:
Our anniversary dinner came straight out of the incomparable Ina Garten’s book, Back to Basics. With friends this morning, we ate this season’s third pumpkin pie, recipe and crust tutorial here. The referenced Andrew Peterson song is from this album, and the podcast that mentioned it was this one. Also recommended if you’re in a podcast mood is this.