I’m learning a lot about “suffering with.” I’m learning about incarnational, emotionally mature ministry by having a son who crawled early. His body is older than his mind, it would seem, but his mind drives him to go, go, go and keep going. But he doesn’t know how, so he propels himself, and he falls. It seems like every Monday he gets a new shiner that takes my breath away.
Maybe it’s because he’s a boy, but likely it’s because he’s my son. As his Yianna said while trying to wrestle a clean diaper onto him, “Ted was not like this.” As Augustine’s mama, when he falls and hits his face, all I can really do is hold him, and kiss him, and sit with him in his pain. Sometimes he’ll nurse and drink the milk I make in my heart. But I don’t lecture him. Because my thoughts are higher than his. It’s in his nature to eat shit in this stage. It’s how he’ll learn to walk and live in the world he was born into by no fault of his own. Just like it’s in mine to sin. And just like that, my mind flashes to Dr. Innes’ Politics 101.
Posse non peccare.
Non posse non peccare.
Non posse peccare.
(Read more here).
Augustine of Hippo (not to be confused with Augustine of Sangalis) talked about the four states of man by describing the ability to sin. First we could sin or we could not (the Garden). Then, we were not able not to sin (the rule of the law in the Old Testament). Now that Jesus has come, we are able not to sin. And someday we’ll be unable to sin. There’s a poetry in the way the Latin non moves around posse (ability, “to have power”) and peccare (sin, “to make a mistake”). Because God is a story teller, the ultimate poet.
He’s also the loving father who doesn’t get mad at me when I sin. He says, “Come here, child. I love you. I know that hurts. That’s what sin does. I’ve taken care of your sin through Jesus.” And I, as a loving Mama, don’t remove all the temptation or danger from Augustine of Sangalis’ 700 square foot world. I let him chew on paper and pet the outlets when the baby-proof plug covers are snugly in place. He can push around the empty wine bottle from my mommy time with Christi, and pull up on the idle baby gate as it leans against the wall, because I’m half a step behind him. And it’d be easier for my mama heart for him to be in a world without danger. But what kind of world would that be for him? In our apartment it’s the 5×5 foot baby play pen. And he cries when he’s in it even when I’m on the floor next to it.
So I stay half a step back ready to catch him (or the vacuum he’s pulled down on top of himself). Ready to kiss his little (and large) bumps and keep him away from Dada’s bar with a sharp “no” and a clap and a jingle of his toy bells to lure him away. I’ll make sure that the real dangers are out of his reach: the cords and the plastic bags and the stairs. When his cries of pain inevitably come with his anger and confusion, I’ll kiss his face, say a pray so he knows that Jesus will also sit with him, bring out BooBoo Bunny, and comfort him. And I’ll continue to teach him how to live and move in this 700 square foot world of ours without condemnation for the way he can’t help but being. Because I’m the hands and feet of Jesus in his life.
I wish more people would sit with one another in pain instead of lecturing and confronting and telling them what to do. “Just choose not to feel afraid or inadequate or left out.” That kind of talk sucks even when you don’t have clinical depression. But I know, I’m the ultimate teller-what-to-doer. It’s scary to let other people’s pain sit there and admit that we can’t do a damn thing about it. The thing my husband has taught me is that most people have at least half a brain and can figure out what to do most of the time. What most people can’t do is sit with themselves and feel their own pain. So we cope. We numb. We lash out. We bury. We ignore. We project. What we can’t do is be the hands and feet of Jesus to ourselves. To really comfort ourselves in our pain. To bind our own wounds while the healing happens in the resting night.
Sitting with others works because Jesus does come. It’s a risk, sure. But sitting and listening while your sister confesses a weird dream (where’s the winky face in wordpress?) and praying with her to receive more of Jesus in the place she feels most lost, and laughing at the weird dream later on your blog because you know that she is not defined by her shame but by the grace and love of Jesus (and because you’re the older sister and that’s what you do) is a risk. (Not too much of one, because I’m out of arms reach and can’t be smacked in NYC). It’s a risk because what if Jesus isn’t who I think he is? And what if he doesn’t come like I want him to? And what if the pain doesn’t go away? What if? What then?
Truth be told, it doesn’t. And he won’t. And he isn’t who I think he is; he’s more. And when my frail eyes can’t see his clean face because my pain is welling up in my eyes and spilling down my own face, I need someone else to come and sit with me. And their presence makes the waiting for redemption and healing and sanctification bearable. And they are the hands and feet of Jesus to me in that moment, so see. He did come.
At the first Hope Gathering in 2014, Diane Langberg said that “We give the gift of Hope when we give the gift of likeness of Jesus.” Who can you give that to this Christmas?