The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33: 27
September marked the opening of yet another chapter in our small world here. Our second child left home for college and we learned anew the quiet ache that visits the heart when someone so loved is no longer at home.
The day we left our girl in her residence hall and drove back home along winding roads through rural enclaves, it felt as if so much of the colour had gone out of the day. Still, with each turn and bend, I gave thanks over and over to the Almighty for all we had faced to come through to this happy day. It was not a thanksgiving that needed to be coaxed out. It flowed out, unhindered neither by sadness nor of longing for just another day together.
By the next day, I seemed to have somewhat recovered, as did all the others in the family. There were duties to go to and chores to be done, for even with one now away from home, all the remaining members under our roof were no less precious, deserving every bit of love in my heart. We cooked and cleaned together, and by nightfall, laughter had returned to our enclave.
We’re alright, I thought to myself. We’re doing better than I expected.
By Monday, though, something was clear. I wasn’t doing as great as I assumed I was. While I could cook and clean for the family and do a number of other mundane chores around the home, I had been struggling with my studies from the day we returned from the drive to the university. I was still stuck writing the same paragraph from the previous week. There was no progress and worse, I could not remember nor make sense of what I struggled to read each day.
I had assumed that since it was our second experience with children leaving home for studies after our son left for college last year, we’d weather it better, but as I discovered that Monday night, “practice” does not always leave you better prepared. Even as the periwinkles by the fence burst its pinks impossibly and the zinnias bloomed out skirts in new colours, a light pallor lay determinedly over my heart.
Speak to me, Lord, I prayed. Give me a sign as high as the skies, I said later, asking for God to show me what I needed to do that I wasn’t doing then. I could have waited for the clouds to pass over but that would mean more days of not being able to study and write.
Then, this morning, my godfather texted me a Bible verse.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
For some reason, the verse curled around my heart. My godfather is a deeply prayerful man, a man given to giving more than asking for anything for himself. In recent years, he has journeyed with me through the depths of the darkest valleys. Together, although continents apart, we have all come through, blessed by his Josephian faith in God, his unwavering courage to do only what God wills of him and his never drying streams of love.
So, when he sent me this verse out of the blue, without being privy to the news of our child’s departure and of our sadness, my heart took immediate heed. Like a child, I yielded fully to the truth that verse testified to, even as I felt there was something more to it.
Shortly after, I left for a drive to the next town with my husband. The car needed some repairs and there was a grocery stop to make. But more than that, it meant a short break from home, a languid drive along which to work through knots and to tuck thoughts into the passing skies.
On the return drive home some hours later, I sensed something within me. A lightness missing in recent days had returned to roost. Windows within had opened again. Sweet September breezes were slipping in, gently twirling, touching the spaces salted by the sadness of missing a precious and deeply loving daughter.
By the time we turned into our driveway, going past the old pine trees arching into each other, I understood what the verse my godfather sent me had meant for the day.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms
No matter how trivial our sorrows may seem to the world or even to us, even in the face of worse pains and griefs, the smallest cut still matters to the God who made us and watches over every second of our lives. No matter what the world at large would have us believe, no matter how many times even those within our circle of life admonish us “for troubling God over minor issues”, the truth is nothing is too trivial, nothing that happens to us is unimportant to a Father who fashioned us to be who we are and who loves us beyond words.
In missing our daughter, I chose to immerse myself in thanksgiving for all God has done for us and for our girl. And that is always the right thing to do.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5: 18
However, what I didn’t do but should have was to go to my heavenly Father and tell Him the truth: that I was hurting over my eldest daughter. That even as I was genuinely thankful for all He had worked out for us and brought us through, I was also hiding behind my thanksgiving, using it as a buffer to stop the pain from reaching deeper into my heart.
But the God who made me from His love and blew His breath into me must have known that I wanted to come to Him but didn’t know how. So, putting out His hand, He took hold of my thanksgiving and drew me towards Him. And thus, thanksgiving became the bridge that took me across the Jordan of this heartache, towards the everlasting Arms of a God who was waiting to to tell me that He saw everything.
One to whom even the weight of a mother’s small sadness matters.