It’s bed time. My daughter is screaming her head off downstairs in the bed that’s been hers for the last four weeks. She insists she’s not tired. I insist she is. I’m not sure who wins when I walk away feeling like a bad mother who is torturing her child while she screams and cries herself to sleep.
Inside, I know how she feels, and part of me wants to throw a fit, too. In two days, we’ll be headed back to Pennsylvania, our present home, after spending a month in Illinois, our past home. And it’s not that I don’t want to go back; it’s just that I feel like I’m being ripped in two again.
We went to a first birthday party tonight for my cousin’s son. Family get-togethers are rare for us. We usually make it home for Christmas; occasionally for my husband’s family reunion. Otherwise, for the last two years, we’ve missed a lot of family functions. I was almost giddy to be able to participate.
In the last month, I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, my mother-in-law and my grandma. We had cake and ice cream as a family for my birthday. Dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Lunches with Phil’s parents. Park days with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. A day in Chicago with my brother. Breakfast and dinner with my parents most days.
Those are just the memories with blood relatives. I have as many with friends and like-family.
As our daughter gets older, and more attached, the leaving gets harder. She’ll ask for Nana and Papa for days. She’ll wonder when we’re going to MeeMaw and PaPaw’s house. She’ll want to go to the park with Uncle Zach and Aunt Charlotte or see the fishies with Uncle Chris. And my heart will tear a little more when I tell her why we can’t do those things.
But we have to leave. We have a house. And jobs. And responsibilities. And church family. And friends. We have a life in Pennsylvania, too. A life God has called us to. A life we can’t turn our backs on because if we did, we’d end up like Jonah — running from a God who always knows where to find us and how to get our attention, who relentlessly pursues us with His love, who knows what is best for us.
Still, sometimes I’m angry. Or confused. And I wonder why God would do this. Why would He take us so far from family to accomplish His purpose in our lives? Why cause so much sorrow when we have to part? Why call us to this path?
When I voice those cries, He simply says, “Trust me.” Like I know that sleep is beneficial for my daughter’s growth and well-being, He knows that this time of our lives is necessary to make us who He wants us to be.
These verses from Luke are the theme of our journey thus far.
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'” (Luke 14:25-27, NIV)
Hate? That’s such a strong word, but that’s how I think it must look to people when we pick up and leave, taking our parents’ only two grandchildren more than 700 miles away. Fortunately, none of our parents would say that of us. In some way, they must understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. If so, maybe they could help me understand.
I fear that someday I’m going to lose it on a well-meaning congregant. Someone is going to criticize something we’re doing (practically a given) or will want us to change who we are (probable) or expect us to do or be something we aren’t (also likely), and I’m just going to want to scream, “Do you know how much we’ve sacrificed for you?” That’s how it plays out in my head, anyway. I don’t think I’d ever actually say it that way out loud.
Sacrifice isn’t a competition. We all give up something to follow Jesus. I guess I’m just feeling the weight of it more these days.
This whole divided heart issue (wanting to be in Illinois while at the same time wanting to be in Pennsylvania) is a vivid reminder of the daily struggle we, Christians, have between the spirit and the flesh, heaven and earth.
One of my favorite Jars of Clay songs is “Worlds Apart.” It musically illustrates for me the pull between two worlds. Some of the lyrics that touch me the most are:
“I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die
“All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me
“Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart”
Really, I could have quoted the whole song. If my life had a theme song, I think this would be it.
My daughter’s asleep now, I think. No more crying and screaming, anyway. She gave in to what she needed.
So, too, shall I.