We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
- Anaïs Nin
One of my favorite Christmas songs has always been “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I love the words. I love how it tells the tale of expectant longing for Christ’s first coming, and drives us to long for the second. But I also love it because it’s in a minor key. I have a soft spot for songs in a minor key. I grew up loving music for many reasons—one of them is how music is evocative. Music makes us feel. And as one who feels deeply and also tends towards melancholy, a minor key suits me.
A couple of months ago we had the stomach bug in our house. Whenever a parent mentions the stomach bug, collective groans of sympathy usually follow. Adults don’t fare well with the stomach bug. Barely verbal toddlers do worse. In rapid succession, all of our non-infant children succumbed to the stomach bug’s fury, and I was left weak, cranky, and dousing Purel on my hands every few minutes.
Few things confront you with your lack of God-like abilities like a multi-child case of the stomach bug. Someone is left to suffer alone when mommy can’t get to everyone. When one kid is sick, the others are left to fend for themselves. When multiple kids (and the parents) are sick it’s almost like Lord of the Flies.
One year ago this week I thought I was beginning to miscarry a baby. I had all the signs of miscarriage. So when I sat down on that ultrasound table it was with 100% certainty that I thought I would hear “there is no heartbeat.” I didn’t even pray for a heartbeat. Instead I prayed for grace to face another miscarriage again, to pass another dead baby—again.
But God had other plans for this baby. These plans were far beyond what I would have dreamed up. In many ways, these plans would have been my worst nightmare.
He had plans for this baby that I feared was dead.
“We are all just limping towards the finish line,” Daniel said to me a few weeks ago after we were talking about the great loss a friend had endured.
If you live long enough, you will find that this world is a dark and scary place. Very few Christians make it to glory without first walking through some deep valleys. Year after year, God breaks us and strips us of all self-sufficiency. He humbles us and brings us low. He gives and he takes away, and we beg for the grace to bless his name in the midst of it all.
We are a people of second chances. Even when it’s hard, we are prone to forgive those who sin against us, hoping that maybe they will treat us differently the next time. We give our children chance after chance after chance to obey (or try again next time). We give those who break the law second chances to live life differently. Second chances, in many ways, are built into our souls. We want them for ourselves and we grant them to others.