I was surrounded by the sound of hundreds of worshipers and I was having a hard time even opening my mouth to sing a word.
It had been a rough parenting week and we had fallen prey to the fight-on-the-way-to-church trap. I couldn’t quite shake the memory of my child’s angry words or the way I’d reacted to them. I was disappointed for both of us.
But we put on our smiles and walked into church and I wondered what other families were pretending to be okay, too. Just because you can’t see a parent struggling doesn’t mean they aren’t. As the music played, my nails dug into my palms as I fought tears and fretted about this parenting cycle I keep finding myself in: hurting people hurt people.
An unfamiliar sound broke my self-absorbed inner dialogue and that’s when I noticed the wheelchair parked in the row in front of me. I didn’t recognize the family-a mom and dad and a handicapped daughter. The teen girl was playfully trying to put the mom’s jacket hood over her head. I marveled at the mom’s patience in the distraction, even though she seemed weary.
The daughter started thrashing in her chair and I couldn’t help but notice how her parents served and lovingly tended to her. They quietly and expertly worked to add liquid to her feeding tube and held it in the air while the nourishment flowed into their daughter’s body. And they never stopped singing.
I closed my eyes and let the song wash over me.
You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me
The lyrics found their mark and I opened my watering eyes.
But it wasn’t the words or my own pain that broke the dam within me, it was the way the parents in front me, wheelchair between them, threw their arms into the air and sang the chorus with abandon, in total surrender:
After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
I was so moved by their worship to God it was all I could do not to sob. I didn’t know if they were praising because of what they had been through or praying for what was coming; I didn’t know if they were in the middle of their pain or on the other side of it. But I knew in my gut they hurt for their child. Because that’s what we do.
We hurt for our kids.
My husband stood next to me, wiping his eyes. He had also witnessed the act of love and gave me a knowing look.
The crazy thing about pain is there’s not always tell-tale signs or a measurement stick to judge its depth. Someone can look at my family and think we’ve got it all together on one of our worst days. I wondered at the hard road these parents had walked and the uncertain one ahead. Imagining this family’s journey didn’t change mine, but it was the perspective I needed to praise God when parenting is hard. Especially then. Because there is always something to be grateful for.
I wiped my eyes and thought about some sage parenting advice a friend gave me once, “One minute your kids will make your day and the next they will break your heart. Both are normal and one helps us appreciate the other more.”
I don’t know what kind of parenting day (month or year) you’re having. Maybe your kids are making your day (I hope so. Mine often do!) Or maybe their choices or their situation is sort of breaking your heart. Maybe you’ve got a hurting kid; maybe your hurting child has hurt you or maybe it’s a little of both. Perhaps you’re frantic with worry or fear over this symptom, this situation, this season–this prayer is for you:
Some days are just hard. And I need you. Most people don’t know how badly I’m hurting or maybe the just don’t know what to say. But you see me. You know me.
And you know how hard this is.
When I feel alone, you are here.
When I am scared, you comfort me.
When I am weary, you give me rest.
When my arms are empty, you hold me in your arms.
When the storm is out of control, you tell it to be quiet.
When I am ungrateful, you show me what I have.
When I am hurting, you hurt, too.
You love my children more than I do.
And I trust that you will redeem this hard place.
You are constant.
You are only good.
You are Sovereign.
You never forget about me or forsake me.
Thank you for my children. They are a gift from you.
Come to me all who weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28