In late December last year, we had a houseful of Christmas guests, one of whom was my old mother-in-law. We were having a crisis that most in the family, in the bliss of Christmas, was unaware of, and my mother-in-law was at the centre of that crisis. My husband and I had been struggling to save his mum who, in her old age, seems bent on choosing any rose-strewn path – the wider, the better. Her choices in life have brought us a lot of deep suffering, and very often, I have struggled to love her, to pray for her. That Christmas week, the moment she arrived at our place and alighted from the car and quickly made her way past us into our home, I had to bite down the bitter disappointment that she couldn’t be more of a beacon for us. That even in this old age, she was choosing paths that did not lead to heaven. That our struggles for her, especially what my husband was enduring and suffering for her, didn’t seem to be helping.
Despite my acute disappointment in her that day, I decided I would keep my tongue well out of the way at the back of my teeth – for the sake of my husband. He had surely noticed his mother’s mood and it would be wounding enough without my adding another caustic edge to his heartache. So, for the first few busy minutes of photos and hugs and squeals, I let Mum be. But when lunch was served, something moved in me and I went to make sure she was taken care of.
That was the tone for the rest of the day and even into the next. I kept an eye on her but generally kept out of her way. There was no anger in me, but I didn’t trust myself to not fall into red pits because I was very tired and Mum had a penchant for getting a rise out of me.
One afternoon, lunch over, everyone relaxing in quiet corners, I went to have a short nap to recharge for dinner preparations. Oddly, so tired though I was, my prayer for inner quiet was answered in those cloudy afternoon hours where the yellow~blue winds sang restless notes among the trees. Into that quiet I descended and began to pray for a special peace in all hearts gathered under our roof.
I fell asleep.
I had a dream.
I dreamt of a room in my home being flooded to the roof. It was just this one room. Unlike my old dream from years ago where I saw a terrible, filthy torrent rush into our town, this water was as clear as crystal, and it was only in my home. I worried about what damage this water would do to our furniture.
Then, I opened the door to this room, this same water drained into where I was. I managed to catch a glimpse of the room where the water had come from, – and I saw very clearly that the water had not damaged any of the furniture.
Then, this water knocked me over.
It then flowed out through another set of doors that opened out over a peaceful garden.
Getting up from the floor, I went to those doors, and there in the garden, I saw Mum with my husband. I saw her as I have not for so very long: at deep peace. She was gardening with my husband by her side and it was a picture of a mother and a faithful son who loved each other heart and soul.
When I awakened and asked God what it meant, I felt these words written on my heart:
I knew then that this year would be very hard. One room in the house being flooded could perhaps mean that some weeks would be harder than others, and that I would be knocked off balance, that I would fall, but like the water in my dream did not damage the furniture in the room, that the suffering would not hurt as much as I feared.
But the suffering was needed to save my Mum.
Then, I remembered the water, and how clear it was. When I asked God why the water was clear, speaking through my godmother, He told me it was hidden graces. Graces that don’t seem like graces at all. Graces that come in the hardest packages. I understood anew then that, that is what suffering is – a hidden grace. I would be knocked over, momentarily overwhelmed, how many times I know not, but each one would be a hidden grace because the pain I endure would save someone else.
The grace of reparation.
Nearing the end of her brief stay with us, one night, I took photos of the family, and there was one of Mum watching the kids in the family crowd around a board game. When she had returned to her own home, I had a look at the pics and at this one of my mother-in-law. She was looking away, focused on the teens, and she wore the beginnings of smile. I then saw something in the photo that I hadn’t seen earlier – the first sparkles of joy.
Joy that wasn’t there when she first came.
In the weeks that followed, in the daily chats with her, we realized joy had indeed returned to my mother-in-law. It gave her strength to walk paths different to what she had always chosen. It flooded her with love for some people she had taken for granted. It made all the Christmas struggles and pain worth every hurting morsel.
God’s Light had come into Mum’s old heart once more.
Grace of reparation.
Early this week, a colleague’s antics unpleasantly ruffled my day. I tried to stay above the muck that follows a wounding but it wasn’t easy. As the hours rolled on, despite my efforts, it seemed like I was losing this battle to love and forgive.
Then, I prayed to be given the strength to bear this minor hurt for my sins.
And that too failed.
The day came to an end. I was puzzled and discomfited as to why all the ‘right’ prayers seemed to fail.
When the new day broke, Someone gently took my mind back to Christmas of last year. To my mother-in-law’s initial aloofness and the reason for it. From there, my mind was led back to my Water Dream. And the dream took hold of my mind. Even as the hurt from the previous day remained, it felt like the memory of the dream was the more powerful.
I then received an email from a dear friend. Its stark words revealed a deep suffering that had deepened even further recently. My heart ached for him.
Suddenly, the Water Dream formed out of the mists before me again.
I had a sudden inspiration: offer my hurt over my colleague for this. Suffer it for this friend close to my heart, thousands of miles and many countries away.
The moment my will fused to this, I felt strength and clarity return. The strife~winds that had rattled my inner windows departed. I went to my day with a new purpose.
My colleague added a few more nicks to her repertoire against me, yet, no blood did they draw.
I knew then that the Water of Reparation had won. I had been overwhelmed but momentarily.
As was promised.