Lately I’ve been keenly aware of the swift passage of time. Poised by God’s providence in the middle decades between childhood 1.0 and 2.0, I feel deeper and more frequent the circular draw to more of what matters – meet the children.
“Johnny, we hardly knew ye.” 1
The plaintive lyric of that Irish melody became the lament for an American president gunned down in his prime of life. That man was John Fitzgerald Kennedy aka JFK.
I was in first grade when the principal came into our classroom and spoke to our teacher. We watched as she broke down in tears.
We were six-year-olds with no idea why our teacher was sobbing, until she collected herself enough to say, “the President of the United States was shot and killed.” Naiveté jolted into awareness.
“Johnny, we hardly knew ye” mournfully expressed hopes and dreams that died that day within him. And, in the heart of a nation who for a while knew hope’s emotion and buoyancy in a changing world. “Johnny” was 46. Forty years of life older than my measly six (truly…I had the German measles at four), but it was an age much too young for dying. There was still so much to unpack, share, come to learn and know who he was.
A SLOW FAST FORWARD
Fifty-five years later I found myself in a different classroom…an ocean cottage in stormy January.
The week before, my husband and I had watched The Greatest Showman 2 on the big screen. It wasn’t enough to be gripped with the storyline. The ocean we hadn’t yet gotten to came to me – as an internal watery surge as the lyrics to This is Me rang out. My emotions were a soggy wave-in, wave-out mess.
In the cottage ten days later, I Skyped with my counselor (because sometimes the counselor needs a counselor with skin on) and blubbered my way through the issue that the movie’s song had surfaced. I kept referring to it as See Me – only to later discover its true title and that see me isn’t even in the lyrics.
Nonetheless, that’s the refrain I heard playing over and over in my heart and mind as memories began to roll like film credits. All the times I had not felt seen. Or known. Or celebrated for who I am now, not who I remain in someone else’s memories of me.
As a result, I was driven to book Skype time on our getaway, something we would otherwise be loathe to do. We take getaways to get away, but one can’t get away from oneself. In solidarity with Holy Spirit who was intent on doing a dual deep work in a common area of relationship, the chief counselor booked time too. We were spent before, with some liberation after – like sponges wrung out of absorbed excess.
The counselor asked me toward the end of our time if I wanted to release what I had been holding on to. A belief held so deep within that it took a mis-lyric’d song to dislodge it and allow the tide to bring it beach-side. She closed with sharing a mental picture she kept seeing – that of paper dolls connected together. She had no idea, but God knew the significance of why my heart heard see me. Storyline, time, and distance all converged.
MEET THE CHILDREN
Childhood is the foundation on which our lives are built. No matter how age-wise adult we grow to be, I believe that buried deep, but which often spurts out sideways, is a desire to be seen, known, and celebrated for the individual person that we are. That desire we all possess begins with our family and expands outward.
Long before the ocean cottage and in the months since, more of what matters – meet the children has been heartfelt and mind-filling. The movie and cottage ‘classroom’ in quick succession caused me to know that if I had this deep need for legitimacy lurking in the recesses of me, so have multitudes upstream and downstream.
Following those streams, though, is another story for it involves others’ stories, too. Like any river’s flow, where it meets resistance it may disappear out of sight for awhile. Or it may persist, eventually breaking through stone or saturating sufficiently that the barrier gives way. No single river can adequately meet the children in the same way, with the same approach. It calls for a wellspring of life that gets unclogged in order to meet the child amidst all the children.
Do rivers grieve as they resource life-giving water to land that would otherwise remain a dry desert? At times.
GRIEVE MEETS GRACE
Sometimes grieving appears on the surface to be selfish and me-oriented. It may be. Our heart determines.
To the degree that it falls to the side of resentment, pride, and defensiveness in order to protect oneself from really being seen and known, for fear that no one will celebrate the real you…well, that’s a major clog. No one can unclog you for you. You must. Others may help along the way, but they cannot do for you what you must do for yourself. Namely, surrender. As believers, there is One to whom our surrender is due. If we’re caught in surrendering to the carry of the current or digging in our heels in order to not surrender, I doubt we have surrendered on that caught point. How many caught areas of non-surrender have mounted up in life?
These are hard questions indeed. I know.
To the degree that our grieving falls to the side of grace, Holy Spirit can reveal to us the Christ that indwells us.
We grieve the loss incurred through death, like the mourning moan, “Johnny, we hardly knew ye.” Yet there is another shade of grieving when it involves the still-living in whom there is more to see, know, and celebrate.
There’s got to be a way. It is a problem of proportions God has equipped us in our spirit to solve.
There is a way. It is with Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.3 For the now living, before we’re not.
Will we navigate our individual more of what matters in a successful bid to meet the children? God knows it will cause us to grow in ways we never imagined if we will try. Not by our might or power, but by His Spirit.
~ Gracefully Free
You can read more in the More of What Matters Series
1 Irish Folk Song and title of a book of memories written by two of JFK’s closest friends and advisors
2 Story of P.T. Barnum of circus fame, entertaining the world with ‘curiosities’ – different people, each with their own heart
3 John 14:6