The Thing With Feathers


imageI had one of those existential days this week where I looked around at the parts of my life that I’m usually good at shoving aside and not dwelling on because they make me crazy. But this time when I tried to shove them aside, they wouldn’t be shoved. They stayed.

I tried to ignore them as I weeded the yard in the 100 degree heat. As much as I love a yard without weeds, I hate the weeding. When I am overheated, I’m learning, my life skills start slipping away. I turn into this person who CANNOT COPE WITH ANYTHING when surrounded by heat and weeds, apparently.

The day continued its steep descent, bottoming out dramatically some time later.

Ironically, Jack and Charlie were behaving nicely. They alternated following me around outside and going inside to flop down on the couch when they got hot. The problem wasn’t them.

It was me.

I couldn’t laugh or shrug off the weird idiosyncrasies that fill our life. They made me furious. I was mad about Sundays being long and horrible. I was mad that our weekends are weird and hard, and that we are so reliant on babysitters to function beyond survival mode. I was mad that I’m surrounded by kid food, and that Jack eats all my fancy cheese that I hide from him.

I was depressed about the ten thousand ways that having high-maintenance kids is limiting.

I said to God, “I know you love me, but it doesn’t feel like knowing this is helping me right now because I have to figure it out myself, or just keep enduring, or whatever, because that’s the way it is.”

Emily Dickinson wrote that “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” And it totally is, I concur, and they shimmer with iridescence. Sometimes, though, the feathered thing feels dead.

At church, my friend Jana spoke, saying that often we think that God will give us a stone or a serpent when we ask for bread. She talked about how we erroneously think we have to figure it out on our own (I wondered how Jana KNEW???) or continue suffering indefinitely. Then she spoke of miracles that she saw in the lives of the people in Kenya who prayed and believed.

“God wants to help us, not hurt us!” She exclaimed.

People, I too have experienced miracles in raising my family, and yet I still brace myself for the stone or the serpent that I expect to fall on me from the sky.

Why do I do this?

Am I so jaded that I can’t remember all the gifts that have also landed on my head? I am jaded, yes, but the thing with feathers does still live within me.

We have hoped for good things, and the gift is that when bad things happened instead, we somehow managed to keep going anyway.

God gets it. He knows.

He wants to help us, not hurt us.

And so he gave me Dutch, and Henry, and Truman. He gave us Jack and Charlie. He gave us friends and teachers and doctors and behavior therapists and prescription drugs and Coca Cola and date night and sleep. He gave us a plan to come back to Him and slough off the sadness of mortality.

Between all of this and the six of us in my family, there is enough temerity and chutzpah, meekness and tenderness, eye-rolling and pissed-off longevity, to see us through.

All of it is a gift, the brimstone and the lightness of being. God knows it is.


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