The other day I decided to gut our upstairs of all of the stuff we have accumulated as we have moved from from one side of the country to the other. I’m not very sentimental. For the most part, I love change. As a mom, seeing my boys grow and mature and experience new adventures is one of my greatest joys. However, one of our sons does not share the same sentiment. So, as I brought up a pile of garbage bags, the vacuum cleaner, a roll of paper towels and 409 in preparation of digging into a mess of toys, I knew this was going to stir up more than dust.
I started slowly. We’ve got the music on. We are dancing and laughing while we separate all the toys into piles, throw away the obvious trash and death shards of plastic from light saber battles. More music, more dancing. Then I go for it…starting with some deformed stackable cardboard boxes that (used to) fit together like large legos. We bought these 4 years ago. They traveled with us from Oregon to Connecticut, then to Texas. Poor things, they had seen better days.
As I carefully stack up the misshapen pieces, it became more obvious I was not organizing them but preparing to get rid of them. My oldest started to cry, begging me to stop, until he was yelling.
“STOP, MOM! Please! Stop. Don’t throw those away!”
“Honey, it’s okay. They are all broken. You guys don’t play with them any more. Don’t worry, I will recycle them.” (He loves to recycle, thought this would calm him down—wrong).
“NOO! STOP! DON’T DO IT!”
I take a breath. “Lord, please, give me words.”
I walk into his room and sit on the floor with him. He crawls in my lap and cries more. I start to say, it’s okay, honey. It’s okay that we have to get rid of these toys. The Lord has blessed us with so much, we need to be thankful for what we have—
“But mom, those are my memories.”
When the shock of the new school year wears off, the routine of life can comfortably set back into place. The ease of structure and order seem to lull me into calm. However, inevitably the brokenness of this world seeps in and shatters this comfort. Creation groans above the hum of sedated suburbia, and the next thing we know Texas and Florida are suddenly under water, the Pacific Northwest is on fire, Caribbean islands leveled and an 8.1 earthquake hits Mexico all within weeks of each other.
In a very profound way, my son recognized the brokenness of this world as he cried for the preservation of his memories. He knew things fail us. And he was mourning for what we all so desperately long for. No more death. No more saying goodbye.
But it’s too easy to hide away from the brokenness around us.
We can pick and choose what we want to surround ourselves with. Now, more than ever, we can be ultra selective with where our eyes and minds wander. Virtual reality, social media, and a constant stream of the next episode only a click away, provide all of us the opportunity to curate their own “reality.”
All these things are great in themselves—but like everything in this world, if we are not careful we become numb and incapable of reeling back what has become an addiction to coping with the broken world around us. This is particularly troubling for us Christians, who have been given a task. A big one at that. All people are born with a purpose, but it is the Christian who not only knows what that purpose is, but is empowered to accomplish it.
However, the “not yet” portion of our salvation that makes the “already” seem to dim in the distance. We are women and men of the Spirit, but we are surrounded by brokenness. Are we watching? Are we listening? And most importantly, are doing something about it? Or are we numb?
One of my mentors was recently quoted as saying, “the Spirit doesn’t come to us to take away the groaning. The Spirit comes to us and helps us while we groan.” Such beauty in this. Romans 8:20-25 tells us we groan within us for the redemption of our bodies, and yet we are to endure. How can we endure? It is the hope for what we have not seen, but for what we have been promised: the redemption of all of creation. By the knowledge of our Savior and His love, empowered by the indwelling of the Spirit, we enter this broken world and love because of our hope.
Are we willing to enter this pain and walk with others and share our hope?
Crumpled on the floor, holding my 9 year old son who has been confronted with everything I’ve been hiding from. Brokenness. Sadness. He will spend the rest of his life struggling between the tension of the “already, but not yet.” My eyes well up, praying for the right perspective. “Sweet boy, I know these are your memories. They are mine too. We have to say goodbye now, but one day, we will be made new—all things will be made new, and we won’t ever need to say goodbye again.” He cries some more. And so do I, swept out of my suburban comfort and immediately into my present task.
Groaning with my son as we wait for the day we may be with the Lord, I stand and help him to his feet. As we await that day, we cry together, knowing God has given us a guide to our groaning. We remind ourselves that Christ entered our world and felt our pain. And we grasp hands, knowing that we are not alone.