God gives each of us … a life. Some get a life with a lot of kids, others with one, others with none. Some get marriage, some don’t. Some are given sickness and pain, others are given health and relative ease. Some, riches; some, poverty. Some are asked to live in the same house from birth to death, others are asked to pull up roots time and again. Some receive their life with gratitude, some fight it every step of the way. What else is there but to do our daily work and laugh as much as possible while we await what’s in store?
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Each life has its own trials, and with those trials, its own brand of pain. There are painful things about singleness that I will never know, and also about marriage that my single friends will not know. There is an ache in those who are left and those who are leaving, and though connected by the same event, the feelings are in themselves distinct. I’ve been given a transient life, me and my family. I can sometimes fool myself into thinking I wanted a rooted one, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking all that is wrong with my life could be fixed with staying. (Those who are living out that calling have plenty to contradict that, I’m sure — not the least of which is dreams of going!)
In the last year in particular, God has nudged me along in the process of acceptance for the particulars of my life. He has helped me to take a clear inventory of things and be okay with the impermanence, the temporary, the letting go. (Next step: being okay for what that means for my children!) He has helped me to see that there is no such thing as greener grass — it does not exist. The place on the other side of the fence, the porch of your neighbor? It is often the vantage point from which your neighbor looks at your life and aches with desire. No life is without pain, no calling is without cost. Understanding that can bring joy to the most frustrating or mundane of circumstances. Accepting what my life looks like, with both the things I wanted and the things I did not want, is amazingly effective at leveling the playing field. All other grass across all other fences immediately loses its radiance and dewy luster, which frees me to look at the color and detail of all the things within my own yard — all the things that were previously ignored or unnoticed, covered over by envy or fear. It also helps me to see my neighbor’s life for what it really is, to notice the particulars within their fence, and respond with compassion and empathy rather than a distant jealousy.
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One thing I have to work at accepting about this calling to a transient life is the lack of family heirlooms. (Words will be our remembrance, my husband has said.) In this next move to Tokyo, we need to reduce our things by about half, and something not making the cut is our rocking chair. We bought it for $20 from Nebraska Furniture Mart, along with our first couch, when we found out we were pregnant with a honeymoon baby. I was so excited to sit in it and gently rock while I nursed my first baby. Each of my four babies was rocked endlessly in that chair, sometimes in gentle wonder, sometimes in frustrated exhaustion. It is a piece full of memory and emotion, yet totally impractical for the next step of our lives, living small with a family of six in the big city.
Through the years and the babies, the padding has thinned, the sliders have developed a consistent creak, and the fabric pattern has gone out-of-style — but even so, I’ve shed tears over that rocker, exclaiming as I cried, “But I don’t even like it any more!” It is a testament to the strength of our attachments to this world. I find it interesting that God has created us to basically live our whole lives in this in-between state, forming bonds and subsequently relenting them, until all is fulfilled in Him. Truly, whatever is next must be the real life, more substantial and permanent and interesting than anything we have experienced here. This rocking chair is another chance for me to relent, to say to Him, “My hand is open and You can have whatever You please.” For me, sometimes the bigger things are easier to give; its when He asks for the small, the minute, that I start to feel overwhelmed and think, “Even this?! Why do you care about this?” I rarely get an answer, it feels mostly to me that He is giving me a kind, fatherly smile that says, I know better than you. I don’t understand why He needs the rocking chair that I imagined I might sit in with my grand babies someday, saying, “Your daddy, your mommy — I rocked them in this when they were babies” — but He does.
Still, the strangest part is that I don’t even like the chair.
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A few days ago, I received a message in my inbox from an acquaintance. In the chaos of the move, with stacked boxes and people coming to take things we didn’t need, the rocking chair disappeared before I was able to give it one last, thoughtful rock. I even thought about taking pictures of each kid in the chair, but it was too late. In this message, though, was a picture of a young father holding his newborn baby in our rocking chair. The mom, her face in the corner of the frame, was smiling big. It was too perfect to be true: a family of three, fresh at the beginning of this long labor of love, had received this chair from someone who had come to our house. The message read simply, “Thank you for this chair.” And I thought, I couldn’t have written this story any better if I had tried. It was a beautiful end to this chapter, given by a loving Father who delights in us.