I swim in the abyss of memories. People and places I cannot return to, and few know.
It is a morass I voluntarily enter, knowing it will hurt, but needing it still. Someone should remember these things.
Birthdays used to be happy occasions, full of cake and memories of years gone by. Now, birthdays are just full of memories of years gone. And places gone. And people gone.
Home, once lost, can never be regained. Another home can be built, to be sure, but what has been cannot be again. It is gone.
There is hope. But hope for the future does not remove loss from the past.
When does one grow up and forget their childhood? Thirty-five? Eighty-five? I think never. Something deep and strange happens when the heart goes back. When pictures show you things you remember feeling more than seeing. Like the faded painting on the wall – of water fowl and cattails — that I haven’t thought of in decades. My mom loved that painting. It feels peaceful, silently overwatching a family grow up, and then leave.
Another picture shows my late mom and dad in the kitchen, but what I see is the blue metal bowl with white speckles. It was part of the country kitchen I grew up in, the one with glass doors looking out upon green, or brown, or white, depending on the season. I see that bowl and hear the clank of metal spoon upon metal bowl, and I feel at home. No one else had metal bowls.
Oh how mysterious is the snapshot that elicits such emotions!
I look at the photos slowly, seeing the details. Looking for the background. The memories swarm, and I let them. Something deep within is washed by these shadows of what was. I need this cleansing. I need to remember my moorings.
I won’t be getting a call from my mom on my birthday. She won’t be telling me she’s proud of me, or asking about the grandkids. I won’t hear about how her journey with God is growing and changing.
My dad won’t ask about my work or ministry. We won’t talk about books or hawks or how tall the grass is.
A Pacific separates me from siblings. Time separates me from everything else.
For the time being, I am time’s subject. Moving at its pace, regardless. But time is God’s subject, and at the end of all things, time itself will be changed, and we will reign with him “forever and ever.” Time’s thermodynamic authority will be renounced, along with its painful propensity to separate. No longer will time rob and decay, slowly pulling like gravity on the soul.
God will finally do something I never could, although I was told to often enough. He will redeem time.
And he will relocate.
In a physical, undeniably earthly way, he will come home.
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3)
And when he gets here, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
He’s longing for home too.
So, in my drownings and darkness, perhaps I am brushing up against the heart of God. Perhaps I am tasting his tears too.
I will never go home again. Until I do.
And that home will last forever, and not just in snapshots and pixels. It will last forever, in three-dimensional space, because of him. And all those longings, elicited by memories of home, will in turn be satisfied.
I will belong, with my own place at the table.
I will be at peace.
I will be wanted. There will be a mutual desire for presence. I will desire to be with God, and he will desire to be with me.
And then I’ll find my mom and dad and a blue metal bowl, and we’ll sit and talk forever about work, and grandkids, and maybe even grass.
And we will be,
10 thoughts on “A Lonely Birthday”
Thanks for the timeless encouragement.
You’re welcome, Dana. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the space to grow and develop in this ministry of encouragement!
Written from the heart. It’s so true but so many others have walked those memory lanes and wished our moms and others could share face to face with our children, grandchildren and even now great grandchildren. Yet, we are so blessed in His love and grace to share beyond ourselves.
“To share beyond ourselves.” That is a high and dangerous calling indeed! May the grace of God be with us all!
Reblogged this on Communicating.Across.Boundaries and commented:
My friend Jonathan wrote this beautiful piece today. I hope it resonates.
“For the time being, I am time’s subject. Moving at its pace, regardless. But time is God’s subject, and at the end of all things, time itself will be changed, and we will reign with him “forever and ever.” Time’s thermodynamic authority will be renounced, along with its painful propensity to separate. No longer will time rob and decay, slowly pulling like gravity on the soul.
God will finally do something I never could, although I was told to often enough. He will redeem time.”
Thanks so much, Marilyn. I know you get this, deep down in your soul, and I’m thankful for your friendship…
I remember your Mom and Dad, before you were born we were friends…precious ones with a wonderful love for the Lord, joyful as their family grew…they have gone before us and are already home…you are in my prayers. With love, Roz
Thank you so much! It is always such a gift to hear from folks who knew them…
Wow! Your post touched places in me that I haven’t had words to speak. Thank you for articulating the somehow strange beauty of the losses, … its bittersweet stuff…. thank you for helping our cross cultural workers say their stuff too…. for too long its been stoic-ly held inside. Bless you. Karen
It is a strange beauty indeed. Thanks for the encouragement, Karen, and Happy Friday!