“Buuut, nooooo.” His drawn out whine turns quickly into grunts and groans. His little body tense. His breathing shallow and quick. He reaches out for me in desperation, begging me not to leave. “Mooooooommmmmy!”
I sigh and sit down on the edge of the bed again. “Take a deep breath. Use your words.” I instruct. My voice is gentle, but firm, and I can hear the weariness creeping in at the edges. He calms a little and struggles to find the words. “Are you afraid?” I ask.
“Yes…No.” He shakes his head and the corners of his lips turn down slightly. Then in his matter of fact voice, the one he uses when he’s trying to explain something to me as if I’m the child, the voice he uses when he’s trying to figure something out, “Well, it’s not really that I’m afraid. It’s not like I’m scared something will happen…” He pauses, “It’s different. But, it’s sort of like fear. I just…” His voice lowers, “I don’t want…” He begins to work himself up again, “I don’t want to be aloooooone.”
A sympathetic smile stretches across my lips, “It’s loneliness. The feeling is lonely. You don’t want to feel lonely.”
He latches onto the word right away. “I’m lonely. Don’t leave. It’s noooot faaaaair!”
That term grates on my nerves for what feels like the hundredth time that day. My fatigue begins to win out over my sympathy. “It’s ok to feel lonely. I need to leave now.” I make it half way down the hall before he starts crying and calling after me. I don’t want him to wake up Sage. I take a deep breath and lower my shoulders before going back in. This time I have to make a conscious effort to keep the impatience from taking over. “Thaddeus, I already read and laid down with you for a long time. It’s late now. I know you are lonely and I know that is an uncomfortable feeling. I don’t like feeling lonely either. But, it’s ok to feel lonely. It is not ok to yell and call after me. You might wake up Sage. It’s time for me to go now.”
He begins to work himself up and get loud again, and I resort to the one thing I know will work, “Thaddeus, if this continues I’m not going to be able to lay down with you tomorrow. I’m sorry. I really want to lay down with you tomorrow, but I can’t reward this kind of behavior and I need to know that you will listen and let mommy go when I say it’s time.”
“Nooooo! I want you to lay down with me tomorrooooooow.” He whines.
“And I want to lay down with you too. It’s entirely in your power to make that happen.”
“Buuuut, I’m loooooonely.”
“I know. Try singing a song, or playing a game in your head, or you can count quietly, or tell yourself a story.” I list off a few options, and it dawns on me that I am just giving him distractions. “It’s ok to be lonely.” I say the words again and really hear them. “It’s ok to be lonely.”
I leave the room eventually with this quote playing in my head.
“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
Clear.” - Hafiz
And I realize that I do exactly what Thaddeus did tonight. I throw a tantrum when I start to feel lonely, afraid, confused, or any other number of “negative” emotions. And if I can calm myself down from my tantrum I do exactly what I advised him to do, I avoid those feelings, distracting myself with other things. I surrender my loneliness too quickly as Hafiz wrote.
What if instead I just sat with those feelings? The feelings that are uncomfortable. The feelings I don’t want. What if I was able to make friends with them? Invite them to do their deep work. What if I embraced the discomfort instead of trying to get away from it? What if I allowed these feelings to soften my eyes, soften my voice and drive me to recognize and understand my deep need for God?
What would that look like. I think perhaps it would look a little like Holy Saturday.
This is the work of Holy Saturday, isn’t it? The disciples scared, confused, locked away, huddled together in the upper room. Sitting in the dark, in the unknown, in the liminal space. Sitting with those uncomfortable feelings, sitting with our failed expectations, sitting with the “it isn’t fair” that rises up in our hearts. Sitting in-between death and resurrection.
I pray that whatever liminal, threshold, space you find yourself in would be ripe with hope. That even in the darkness you would feel the strong arms of grace. I pray for grace in the waiting, grace in the uncomfortable feelings you don’t want to feel, grace in the unknown. Grace in your tantrums and grace in your distractions. Grace to sit in the awkwardness of silence. Grace be with you, friends. And grace be with me as well.
Rejoicing in the journey,