The birds that winter oppressed are singing today,
We thank the Lord that before too long we–
proud hearts who’ve felt great pain–
will be joyful, too.
Our confidence in Love assures us this is true.
Love’s power is so great
she’ll reward us in ways
we can’t begin to imagine.
—Hadewijch, Poems in Stanzas
As we get closer to Good Friday, the pace of the readings starts to pick up and I get more and more anxious for Jesus. Of course, he must see the writing on the wall, that religious leaders are growing angrier and angrier with him. Simply likening himself to Elisha in today’s reading, he nearly gets run off a cliff. I am like Peter, constantly asking if there is another way.
And then I think about Mary, his mother. Surely she received reports from the field and knew that things were not going well. I imagine she had long conversations in prayer asking God if it was really necessary for her son to put himself on the line like that. Surely there were days when she just wanted to guard his life and her heart and retreat. But as we know they kept on ascending toward Jerusalem.
I cannot hide from the truth, or the pain, any more than Mary and Peter could. As much as I want to guard our hearts (mine and my children’s), I know that that is contrary to our call. I know shutting down and reinforcing our walls will send us on a detour when what we really need to do is grow, expand, ascend.
After my teenager goes to school today, I wander into her room. I do this every once in awhile. I assure you I am not snooping. I don’t open drawers or peer into hiding places. I just look around because I want to know more about her. I want to learn what her surroundings can teach me. Today I see a bible on her unmade bed next to her pillow and a little book of meditations by Therese of Lisieux upside down on her dresser and turned open to a page in which Therese writes:
“It is impossible for me to become great so I must bear with myself and my many imperfections. I will seek out a means of reaching heaven by a little way–very short, very straight and entirely new. We live in an age of inventions; there are now lifts which save us the trouble of climbing stairs. I will try to find a lift by which I may be raised unto God. For I am too small to climb the steep stairway of perfection. In scripture I came across these words uttered by eternal Wisdom itself: ‘Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me’ (Prv 9:4) ” (as found in Simply Surrender: Therese of Lisieux, ed. John Kirvan)
My teenager’s desire makes me cry and I beg God to console her in a way that she will know is consolation because she is so young and fragile and might not be able to bear it if God chose any other way other than lavish love. I trust that God is the most tender with the tender-hearted. I put down the book in hope and love and trust. There are birds outside my window and I listen to their song. They have been through winter. They sing the song to prove it. I close my eyes, imagine us all, birds, teenagers, moms, being lifted… and for a moment, I feel joy.