For the past three mornings I have woken up with a curiously light heart. The first thing I'll see is either my snoring husband (when he is sleeping, I can see what he looked like as a boy) or our Christmas lights around the doors in our bedroom. I feel warm and covered and I count how many days are left before we'll be in snowy Ohio with our families and flannel pajamas and suffocating hugs. But then I start to stretch and then I remember, and then I sigh and I try to go back to sleep. I remember that I'm in a world where someone shot and killed 20 babies at an elementary school on Friday.
Once I wrote about how my heart is a shelf and everything has its place. This is another thing that has no place. And I can feel it; the angry weight of it and the desperate urgency to PUT IT SOMEWHERE but I have nowhere to put it! I don't know what to do with it! There were babies, with names, and brothers and sisters, and plans. There were probably Christmas presents. There were probably already Christmas presents. Wrapped and ready, even, maybe. Under the tree? Could there have been presents under the tree already? I can't tolerate it. It's coming back up my throat.
Have you ever had the feeling - maybe you're covered up under a blanket or something - when you breathe in, and you know you didn't get any oxygen? I've always wondered how my body can tell. The air doesn't feel any different. Maybe a bit warmer, but there's no less of it. But my body knows it's not oxygen. I balk and cough and lift up the covers. My lungs somehow know to reject what they have no place for.
That's what this feels like. I have no place for this. Not in my lungs, not in my muscles, most certainly not in my heart.
If I wanted to be dead, I could understand dealing with this. If I had already resigned myself to the fact that the world has gone to Hell and that I won't be here much longer, I would be sad, but I would be ok. I'd still crave chocolate and buy postage stamps and wake up able to step into the shower without choking on tears. Because I'd just be waiting. But the problem is, I don't want to die yet. I want to keep living with my precious husband. I want to keep singing. I want to keep finding recipes to try. I want to keep learning at my job. I want to have babies.
How can I want to have babies?
At church last night we sang "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel." Afterwards Aar and I had a funny conversation - he said whenever he hears that song, he wishes it had a more joyful melody. Because it's such a celebration, he said! Emmanuel came! After he told me that, I had to laugh and tell him that every time I hear that song, I only wish it were even more somber. It's so melancholy and aching and beautiful - and even though yes, Emmanuel came, he hadn't come yet to the writers of that song. ("...shall come to you, O Israel.") Can you imagine their desperation? Their hope against all odds? Their hope in the midst of such a violent, hopeless time?
Our pastor prayed last night that God would heal the world, would repair our wounds, would guide us back toward love, would remedy our sick bodies and relationships and minds. I wanted to interrupt him and say - "no. NO. He's not going to, so stop asking Him." Because we have not been promised immunity from the murder of 20 babies, while they were supposed to be eating graham crackers and learning math and daydreaming about their Christmas presents (those presents.) We weren't promised anything too rosy in regards to our life here. Before Emmanuel came, the world was quite unbelievably violent. While Emmanuel was here, it was violent still. Since He left, (rather violently, I might add) the violence has actually decreased - Decreased! To murdered children! - but it's still here, still black with ugliness; still loud and interrupting and horrific and inescapable. And it's going to stay that way.
So like I said before - if I don't want to die yet, where do I put this?
I used to say "Jesus, please come back" in a very soft, very reverent, very non-genuine way. In a very Christianese way. As in - "Jesus, come back, there are hungry children in Africa and other places I don't know about, but also I would really like a Barbie hot wheels for Christmas this year, Amen." Even after 9/11, I didn't really mean it.
I don't want to die, but I don't want to have to claim a world like this anymore either. I don't want to swim laps and cook salmon on the grill while I breathe the same air that people who murder babies breathe. I don't want to walk around and say "Merry Christmas" to people who are also carrying this Heavy Thing, with nowhere to put it. So now I mean it. Now I am the writers of the song. Please come, O come, Emmanuel. We're lost.