There is an echo in my house today. It’s the beautiful sound of a child’s guffaws reverberating off my walls. I made Little Man laugh again. A hearty chuckle gurgling up from deep within his chest. This is like sweet, dripping, golden honey to me. It’s been a long wait for these moments of exploding joy again. I’ve been sitting by this particular brook for a while now wondering when the water would wash back over us again, bubbling up to the surface and setting us free.
Nothing is worse than the absence of joy. It’s an empty field to sit in. It’s deadened silence.
Little Man used to laugh. A lot. He used to make us laugh and himself laugh all day. He was—no, is— my most jovial child. He used to grab life with both hands and see the best part of it, even in the moments when the rest of us were a bit more sour in our outlook.
Then, one day, Little Man’s part of the family noise went silent.
Slammed tightly shut.
And none of us could find the key.
I didn’t want to settle for smiles now and again. They felt flat to me. They weren’t him. Without happy giggles throughout the house, it felt like Little Man just didn’t even live here anymore. All of us noticed it. My other children asked where he went.
As a mother, hoping for a complete return of Little Man seemed so scary, such a set-up for failure and deep disappointment. But, also as a mother, there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to scale walls, dig tunnels, climb mountains, swim reservoirs, and passionately scream my way back to old Little Man again. I wasn’t going to give up. Nobody was going to tell me this is just the new Little Man.
Absolutely. No. Way.
I wasn’t going to accept that. My God is so much bigger than whatever was choking Little Man. I’d beat the tar out of whatever it was, screaming for Jesus to help me, all day and night until I broke its clutches. I wouldn’t rest until Little Man could break free. I furiously whacked at everything that and everyone who tried to suggest to me he was gone.
We don’t always get back what has been taken from us. I realize that and have so much sympathy for those waiting for that return to normal or the way things used to be. I also know that loss is sometimes so great that it does not reverse. But any parent out there watching a child suffer emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually knows that there is a lion/ess within us with an incredible growl. And suddenly the whole world hears it when we are fighting for our cub. It’s a roar shot straight into the universe.
That is the place I found myself earlier this year. I think mourning or grief of any kind feels like this at some point. We turn blue in the face waiting for joy to come back. We’re often not sure if it ever will.
But a few months ago, a giggle here and there starting peeking through the clouds in our house. Then he started planning for the future again, which psychologically means a return of some level of hope. There were pained, worried, serious looks in-between that made my heart completely stop, struggling not to drown in fear. But then it went from enjoying our company to making his own humor again. And when a heart is lightened, it can finally bounce quickly in response to someone else’s joke. Happy reflexes came back. Joy was more instant. I could almost see the elephant that had been sitting on his shoulders all year growing wings and flying off.
And while we’ve had a mostly full return of Little Man in recent months, my heart still skips a beat at the goodness of the Lord in holding us up through this trial, showing us how to help Little Man, keeping hope and faith flickering like a wick that won’t go out, sustaining us as our hearts ached, and being the center of where our true source of joy is, no matter the circumstances. He was holding Little Man close during this trial, and He was building laughter back into Little Man, but Little Man was also under reconstruction. God used a lot of people and specialists to bring this about, because He loves to do that, but He also put Little Man back together again in ways only He can. I know this because years ago, He put me back together again too.
It’s tempting for us to think the times of deadening silence are the absence of God. The truth is, those are moments when we can see Him more clearly, if we’re looking and our hearts remain open. When laughter returned to our home, we knew what we had been missing. We had new appreciation for what had been taken, by circumstance and struggle—and what had been given back.
Would God still have been our amazing God if this road had been longer (honestly, the journey is not over; we are just getting a better handle on it), or if we had lost Little Man in ways greater than I can bring myself to write out?
Yes, He would have. Because it’s not which answer that comes in that makes Him God to me. It’s the fact He is listening, present, comforting, trustworthy, faithful, peace-filled, and sustaining, no matter the result. I truly cannot imagine walking this road, or any hard road, for that matter, without feeling His palm pressed into mine (because I asked Him to hold my hand and help me).
Psalm 30:11-12 You turned my wailing into dancing; you…clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent….
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) September 21, 2015
Little Man’s battle may not be over. Or another trial could be waiting for us around the corner with a different family member. Struggles are part of the dance of life.
But today I celebrate the return of joy. Because when it’s gone for a long while, we realize how incredibly precious and vital it is.
Psalm 30:11-12, David speaking
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
For more on how faith in Christ helps us weather these storms, kindly refer to blog posts in the Anxiety/OCD/Depression pages of this site and the book Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).
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