I had to tear my 4 year-old son away from one of his favorite things this week. Every Tuesday night our church gathers for what we call Community Night. Hudson has grown to love this night. He follows the high-schoolers around, pretends to preach in the microphone on stage, sneaks in treats at the food table, and his absolute favorite part is playing foosball with the high-school students after class is over.
We tried making it through on Tuesday but he was sick and one very scary small step away from a total meltdown. I told him we had to leave. I desperately wanted to let him stay but I’d have to turn in my mom card if I allowed my ailing son to stay up late running around sneaking in treats while every second his face grew more flushed with fever. I braced myself to break the bad news. He didn’t take it well.
He cried the whole way home. Normally I would try and calm him down, distract him, or even punish him for escalating to full on brat-hood. But for some reason I felt like I should let him cry it out, let him be sad, let him sink into it. The tears fell. And no matter how well I explained the reasons for having to leave early, the tears continued to fall even harder.
About 10 minutes into the lamentation process, he paused for a moment in his car seat and wailed the following statement with such agonizing sincerity,
“Why is this happening to me?”
I can’t explain it, but I truly felt his pain. It sounds so silly. What is the big deal about missing one Community Night, especially when life could be so much harder? But when he let that cry out from the depths of his soul, it literally reminded me of the men in the Old Testament who would tear their robes and wail in agony as they lamented over something tragic. It was a cry from the loins, from the gut of his humanity, from the place where reason doesn’t exist and only pain does.
I’ve seen Hudson sad, upset, mad, and bratty. All of which could be solved by a little distraction, tickles, or punishment. This was different. This was the first time I saw him truly disappointed by not only life letting him down, but by life just not making sense.
Have you been there? Have you been in that place where no matter how much it makes sense to other people, or to God, it makes no sense at all to you? Where the pain goes irrationally deep and the cure is absent – truly absent? Have you been in that place that no matter how good other parts of your life are you just want to cry out from the depths of your humanity in a thousand tears,
“Why is this happening to me?”
I’ve learned to sink into that place. To stay put and let the tears fall. To let the irrational words exit my confused heart, “Why is this happening?,” knowing the whole time there is no answer to that question. You may ask, what is the point of asking questions you will never get answers to, or expressing pain that you should know better than to allow to inhabit your heart?
I would say the same thing I said to my son. Because someone cares. Because the truth is that there are times that life is so agonizingly disappointing and there are no satisfactory explanations to that suffering. But just like I care about my son, God cares about us. Just as Hudson wasn’t alone in that moment, we are not alone in ours.
I reached my hand back to his car seat, held his in my own, and said, “Hudson, I don’t know why this is happening (even though I did. He was sick – duh). Sometimes there aren’t answers to our toughest questions but I’m with you in this. We’ll get through this together.”
I can’t help but be reminded in these moments that if my human love reaches that far into the unseen reaches of my son’s heart, how deep can God’s divine love reach the depths of my own? If I only let Him. If I only believe He cares enough to try.
It’s hard to let someone be with you in that unspeakable, irrational, and desperate place you find yourself in. It’s hard to believe it even makes a difference. But I see my reflection in the eyes of my son as they dry on my loving shoulder. He is naïve enough to believe that my love will help him through the confusion and agony. I am naïve enough to believe that my heavenly Father can help me through mine. At least I want to be.