How Much That Ache Would Grow
She’d said it to me one night as we sat there in the sunroom of the house I’d grown up in.
“You think when your kids get bigger, you’ll stop worrying. You don’t. Their problems get bigger, and you worry bigger.”
Almost eleven years past this conversation, I can’t remember what prompted it. But I remember well the ache behind the words as she spoke. As I snuggled my first child, I nodded, assuring her that I understood. Hadn’t I cried with this little one when I snipped her finger nail too close? Hadn’t I taken her to the doctor for the least thing, heart pounding in chest? Hadn’t I breathed deep to hold back the tears as they pricked her tiny feet for blood or as she received her first shots? Didn’t I take her in with every breath, every heartbeat? Love her until it ached?
I wonder now what my mom thought then? Did she want to tell me how much that ache would grow? Did she want to tell me that the insistent cries of my newborn would become the quiet tears slipping down a preteen’s face?
And that those tears would water the ache in my chest, making it take root and grow?
I imagine in her wisdom, she knew I wouldn’t understand until I’d experienced it. So I’m guessing we just sat in companionable silence like so many other nights. She in her own thoughts, thinking over the houseful of babies, toddlers, preteens and teenagers she’d raised. And all the hurts she’d felt with us over the years.
And me rocking my baby, thinking I couldn’t love more…or hurt more than I already did for this little one.
But I was wrong. The ache grew.
It grew to include three more children. It grew past snatched toys and scraped knees. It grew to encompass the tear stained cheeks of a child crying that someone didn’t want to be their friend anymore. It grew as I learned that experiencing loss through the eyes of a child was one of the most bittersweet experiences of life.
It grows still. The ache continues to wrap around tender, pain filled moments.
When a child pours out his heart in halting words, that he likes different things than his friends, and he doesn’t understand their play. And he just feels stupid all the time.
When she holds in her pain, but I can see it in her eyes and in the way she sulks. And when an unbidden tear slips down her cheeks, she finally confesses the hurt. The girls, the trusted friends, who’d hurt her in front of others. Made her feel dumb, embarrassed.
The ache wraps around these moments, like I wrap myself around them in an embrace that just wants to make it go away.
Because even though I know how fleeting childhood is…even though I watch it slipping by so very quickly, I also know how interminable those days of finding yourself seem. I know that in those moments you really do feel friendless and unloved.
And for that I hurt. I ache.
Because suddenly I look ahead, and I see the wisdom of my mama’s words. There is more ache to come. Oh, there is so much good to come too. But there are some big, inevitable heartbreaks. And I flinch as if I can feel the sting already.
I know with a certainty that sets my jaw and leaves me whispering thanks to a God who doesn’t leave me to do this job on my own, that I will continue to ache with my children. And that I would do anything to save them from these aches. Save me from the ache.
But that would be an injustice. And deep down, I know it. Because in my own walk, the biggest heartbreaks are what turn me to the only Healer that can mend me. My kids too. They will grow and learn and mature from the very things my mama-heart wants to save them from. Our God is so much wiser than me.
So I sit with the girl. She shields her face with her hair, hoping I don’t notice the tears still slipping. And we pray, whisper-prayers, asking God for a friend. Asking God to not cause bitter seeds to grow in her own heart from the hurtful words cast at her. We ask Him to give us patience and eyes to see with His vision.
And I pray throughout my day for a little guy who has been gifted by His Father. To show him that his differences can become his strengths. That these things he loves so, the words and music, can bring so much glory to His Father. I whisper out little prayers on breaths asking for Him to show me how to show His Son to my son.
And I know that’s the truth, has been the truth all along.
While the worry gets bigger, the ache gets bigger- there is only one thing to do.