My 4 year old son and my 9 month old daughter have already taught me much about myself and life in general. I have learned of the depth of my love, the width of my patience and the height of my endless joy. I have learned to see the world anew especially through the eyes of my son. I have recaptured my creative side in making up stories with my son at night, drawing and coloring all that he imagines, and even molding fantastical worlds with play-doh and moonsand. Through my daughter, I have learned to laugh even in the most serious of moments, and to put down my laptop and Blackberry to focus on what is the most important in life, the attention that she oh so demands. And finally, as I enter into the final week of Lent and Holy Week, she is reminding and teaching me of something else.
You see, my daughter is teething. It is the time when her sharp little teeth are breaking through her tender gums. I hear that if adults have to go through this process, none of us would be able to bear it. She is feverish, in pain and just downright uncomfortable. I remember my son going through this process, but it wasn’t so bad for him. For my daughter, it has been awful. Her normally happy go luck disposition, laughs and smiles are gone. She is cranky all day. She has problems with naps and especially sleeping at night. Just last night, my wife and I had to take turns for three hours just to put her to sleep for the night and of course, she would still wake up 4-5 times throughout the night. And isn’t it just perfect timing since my wife and I are both pastors at separate Presbyterian churches during one of the busiest ecclesiastical times of the year.
I can honestly say that I am suffering. No I am not equating my suffering to Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week, and my wife is definitely worse for wear since our baby girl only cries out for her mother, but I am suffering nonetheless. There is the lack of sleep, the sore and tired back from carrying her constantly, a patience that is running thin, the crunch time of the busy week ahead and the lack of “cave time” that I desperately crave and need as an introvert. Oh I am suffering and can’t wait for Easter for the most obvious of reason that Monday comes right afterwards and I can take a little breather from work and in hopes that my suffering daughter might be over her teething and onto happier times.
During these hectic church seasons, I at times forget to take the time to breathe and journey through the liturgical season myself. In creating and helping our faith community experience this season of Lent and Passion Week, I either ignore and/or forget to experience it for myself. But this week, it is my daughter who won’t let me forget. As she suffers, I also suffer along with her. I suffer mainly because of the residual symptoms caused by her teething, but in caring for her, I also journey with her in her pain.
One of the most amazing experiences that I have had in my life was when I participated in a group that practiced the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius for 5 months. It was during my third year at San Francisco Theological Seminary, when I was immersed in an internship at a local church. The exercises began in Advent and ended with Easter. The 20 of us gathered together for 4 hours each week to learn from and talk with each other about our experiences of the exercises and how our lived lives connected with the Jesus of the Gospels as he lived it. Being a Presbyterian all my life, I have always known and celebrated the liturgical calendar, but I had never fully and truly lived it until I experienced these exercises. I remember Lent being the most difficult time as we delved deeply into the darkest of places in our lives, our community and our world.
As I enter into Passion Week, a prayer for myself is to not be a bystander during this time as if I was just reading a story or viewing a movie. It is that I would fully enter and participate in the Jesus story even in his darkest of times. So I want to thank you Isabella for your gentle and not so gentle reminders.