The past couple of nights, my husband didn't come home from work until late, because he was taking a CPR course, required by his side job of teaching karate. This meant that, after the kids were in bed, I had to do our normal evening chores by myself.
Usually, I read to Adam while he picks up the downstairs, and then he reads to me while I do the dishes. We've found that the incentive of what happens next? in the novel is a good prod towards the what needs to be cleaned next? of our housework.
But I was by myself on Ash Wednesday, so there was to be no skirmish in Spain or space battle over Lytaxin or heroics of the Redcrosse Knight for me.
So I thought I'd listen to a podcast for company while I got our living area ready for the next day, clearing the detritus inevitably left by the playing of four young children.
But, somehow - and maybe it was remembering that it was the beginning of Lent - I felt drawn instead to completing my chores in silence.
So I did, even though I didn't want to.
Usually "why?" and "can I have?" and "Mommy" obscure my background thoughts, and I only get to hear the thoughts I take the effort to think, rather than the ones that are just floating around, unnoticed.
So what was there? An old love song, and one I didn't even like, playing on repeat in my head.
As I did the dishes, I frowned, hearing this old pop song repeat, then repeat, then repeat again.
So I changed the channel. I started singing Michael Card's "Holy, Holy, Holy" as I scraped food scraps into the trash and wiped down the table.
Soon I found, as I made a sandwich for my husband's lunch the next day, as I washed out a sippy cup, that I was grateful for the food I was preparing, grateful for the utensils that are used every day to feed my children, grateful to have this work - tired as I was - because it was good work, and it meant that we had enough to eat, that we were all here, that we were all safe. The silence that had at first revealed the noise in my mind now, after I had refocued myself on the holiness of God, revealed a rhythm of gratitude in my heart that played not in opposition, but in counterpoint to my exhaustion. The light-headed feeling of sleep deprivation that has plagued me ever since I started getting up early again no longer felt like an oppressive fog, but seemed suddenly like a fine and refreshing mist that the light was shining through.
When the chores were finally done, I turned on some music, finally. But it was Michael Card, singing the song that I listened to over and over in the hospital, In the Wilderness. ". . . in the wasteland of our wanting, where the darkness seems so deep, we search for a beginning, for an exodus to home, and find the ones who follow him must often walk alone . . ."
It made tears come to my eyes, because though I am not still where I was last year, I am still in the wilderness. The loneliness of the hospital has been replaced by the loneliness of RSV quarantine, and the physical exhaustion of twin pregnancy has been replaced by the physical exhaustion of twin parenting. It is progress, true, but it is not ease.
". . . the windy winter wilderness can blow our selves away . . ."
I sat down, propped my chin in my hands, and stared at the icon of Christ that's on the wall above our kitchen table. I found myself staring at his face and telling him that I loved him. I felt like I do when I find myself staring at my husband, that man who is dear as my own self, whose face I have memorized but still love to look at and whose very flesh I am. Jesus is like that, only more.
". . . but he gives grace sufficient to survive any test and that's the painful purpose of the wilderness. That's the painful promise of the wilderness."
I am glad I was silent for awhile.
peace of Christ to you,
". . . wandering in the wilderness is the best way to be found . . ."