Like the sweeping arc of a lighthouse beam, illuminating, for one glorious moment, some unutterably lovely scene, a beautiful season of life will soon end for our family. Our six grandbeans can no more race the three hundred steps between their parsonage and our home, the shortest legs pumping like pistons, arms flung wide to embrace us. For the next year or so, they and their parents will live in the country an hour or so away. After that, only God knows. We hope not too far.
For nine years, we’ve loved living only one street over from our beans and their parents. Close enough for me to steal a hug on my way to work sometimes, a child or two on my way home. Even when one or more of them visited almost daily from the next street over, the delight I felt at seeing them never faded. Now, the village and the church in which Kendall ministered for a dozen years already feel hollow to me. Vacant, like their soon-empty parsonage. Like my heart.
The past almost-decade, this priceless God-gift, will forever gleam in our memory (and in the archives of my scribbles), but it will never return. When we moved here a few years after they did, I hoped we should share the village for fifteen or twenty years. But who succeeds at grasping life and clutching it tightly?
I’ve too often, in desperation, attempted to freeze a precious transient season. However, like exquisite butterflies, our days will not be caught. God never intended that. We can use them, number them, make them count for eternity, but we may not keep them. To keep a butterfly, one must catch and kill it. Pin down its wings. To fully enjoy it, we must simply thank God, open our hands and release it to fly.
No one gets a pass over life’s many sorrows, so many of which arrive as the cost of being loved and loving well – if imperfectly. I consider them a gift, for God teaches us things during grief. His presence is never more apparent than on our seas of loss; even those that, like this family parting, seem infinitesimally small when weighed on the scale of global tears.
It will get better. I will get better. Find my smile again. God has showered us with other gifts and opportunities to enjoy and savour. And on those days I most keenly feel this domestic sadness I remember that Jesus Christ, Lord and Master of all Storms, invites me to trust him to row me safely ashore.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain wise hearts,” Psalm 90:12 reminds me. We pray for wise hearts to use each day well. For healed hearts for us all (especially the oldest beans who also find this transition hard). And for the reminder that God can make every season, even those we didn’t expect or invite, lovely in its own way.