The tangerine fire-glow of sunset reflects off my neighbor’s windows and lightens for a magic moment my kitchen table. That table which no sooner set is cluttered with dirty napkins, spilled spaghetti and abandoned as quickly as it was joined by a screaming baby and a busy four year old. The girls linger and talk but they too outstrip me as their father takes them upstairs to get ready for bed. I am alone when I witness the holy transformation of menial horror into divine and absurd splendor. And I ask myself, why am I not blogging regularly? This is why I wanted to write in the first place. I wanted to be a witness of the beauty in the midst of chaos. Too much recently I have instead been drowned by the despair of chaos. I have been taking myself much too seriously and wondered – deeply wondered what I am doing in my life.
It is all too easy to be overcome by despair. As Kierkegaard warned the despair of meaninglessness and death is real but worse than blissful ignorance if it does not drive us to the merciful face of God. It is easy to be in despair when there are so many magazines and blogs and podcasts about blissfully croqueted, felted and scrap booked lives. When I see the world though the frame of someone else’s camera it is easy to believe that someone else’s life is well ordered right and pleasing. She must be stronger than me. Perhaps she is more talented? Even Diane Gilleland of the CraftyPod confessed recently to falling prey to that epidemic of crafter’s envy and the ensuing despair.
My husband bought me my own alchemist’s box. He did not give me the Nikon for me to transform the grime filled corners of the house into a fabricated golden world. He gave me such as sweet gift so that I could gather up reference photographs in good weather for the weary months of cold winter evenings when I long to draw and paint. Once I held the camera in my hands I began to see how so many women create the splendor that is Pinterest and women’s blogs. Oh the glory of a frame and what it can conceal! Even I with my four preschool children can sweep up one small edge of the house and snap delicious shots as children fight and scramble in the background.
These photos could never capture the beauty and horror of my kitchen table. The strange wonder of sauce stained cups, matted parmesan and the crumb laced butter all baptized in a heavenly glow. It is as if I too like Mary have been met, “Hail, full of grace, you are highly favored.” I am highly favored because of He who has visited me; the Holy Ghost himself has come upon me. Although I am shamed daily by my own impatience and ungratefulness I am made chaste by the blood of Christ and although my heart harbors hate and bitterness towards my husband and children I am filled with the love of Christ. I behold the apocalypse of spaghetti night as my husband assists with zippers and toothpaste tubes upstairs. Some nights I have patience as we put them to bed, some nights I don’t. Some nights it is strain to kiss them when they keep calling and nagging. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
Sometimes I fear that I am wasting away in this season of toddlers like Charlotte in her web after she has laid her eggs. Will I wither in the winter’s merciless frost? Am I living only to pass on my DNA to an endless parade of procreation? Then I remember Abraham and Sarah. I remember that they lived their lives not knowing how early in the story of God’s salvation they came. They lived and had meaning then as well as now. Who knows why I exist? I certainly don’t. I don’t tell the story. I am not even the main character. However, since there is a storyteller and I am here in the story I do have meaning. I am real and here by plan and by purpose. I am unique and precious in the sight of my God but I am also one minuscule part in a fantastic divine epic of the Church. My tiny note will sing and end, but Oh God let it sing hope!
That cruel despair that rages against me, that evil doubt that poisons me, that is not truth. Death and the inevitable end and pointlessness of all things is not truth. I cry out with Bach, “Trotz dem alten Drachen!”
Defiance to the old dragon, defiance to the vengeance of death, defiance to fear as well! Rage world and attack; I stand here and sing in entirely secure peace! God’s strength holds me in watch; earth and abyss must fall silent, however much they might rumble. (translated here from Bach’s Jesu, meine Freude)
And then one of my doubts is assuaged. What was the use of my Liberal Arts education when all I do all day is change soiled sheets and play Solomon to bickering preschoolers? If for nothing else it was worth it so that I could know these words Bach wrote. If for nothing else I can sing of that hope to my children. By God’s grace they will sing of this hope to a people yet unknown that this sure hope was accomplished by Christ alone. This then is the joy of Easter – there is indeed life after death even now by the grace of Christ Jesus!
Praise the Lord for my children. Without them the table would never have been messy but without them I never would have known how weak I am. Praise the Lord for my husband and his prayers for me. Without him I never would have had this sanctified moment to witness the tangerine splendor and hear the voice of God.