Photo: I set out to fix my driveway yesterday during nap time (when I had a million other things to do) because the melting/refreezing cycle has made my driveway an ice rink. My goal was to make some traction spaces… maybe spread some sand. But the barn wouldn’t open (despite so much effort). So, I took this picture and sent it to my husband. Subject line: “Tonight: You.”
I didn’t write about it on Monday because my mind was full of other things, but I found myself at church on Sunday. By myself: no babies, no husband. It was… strange. I’ve never gone to church by myself before. I’ve always been accompanied by a parent/grandparent/husband/babies. It was an empty feeling, being alone in a small pew, the only color in the entire building (a funky feeling altogether different)…
but I am not really writing about that. I want to write about the sermon. Which was about Lent (because it’s Lent) and what the observance is about. Basically, the pastor pointed out that Jesus, in his 40 days of wandering in the wilderness, was, in essence, offering a tithe: 40 days is (approximately) 1/10th of a calendar year and a tithe is supposed to be 1/10th of your earnings. Observing Christians use this time to reflect, some choosing to sacrifice something for this period. And my pastor ended with a quote from a book and reflected on early Christian pilgrims and their loving faith as they chose to leave their home for a promised land they’d never seen before. “Why leave the safety of the hearth?” the book rhetorically asks. Who leaves the safety of the hearth and the home to go on a great quest? For faith or for anything else? But especially for faith? “In the face of love, what you risk is what you value,” the book decides. “Hearth and Quest become one.”
It was a compelling thought for me. Each of us lays something important down at an alter in our lives. Some of us do it daily in holy contemplation. Some of us do it daily in necessity. Some of us do it for the ability to stay connected to other people. Some of us only have to do it a few times, in the hope that the precious sacrifice will yield something great in return.
But what I’ve been thinking about this week is what happens to that valuable thing that we risk. Who handles it and how? I’m not thinking about the literal sacrifice at a sanctified alter given to God (or Gods). I’m talking about the sacrifices that we give for others and to others, and what is given in return.
In the face of love, I choose to risk time. Time, for me, is precious. Not because I’m dying, but because I’m ambitious. There are things I want to accomplish, in my life, in this decade, in this year, in this month, in this week, in this day, in this hour. I feel time. I always have. And in the face of great love, I lay time at the alter of my children and my husband every day. I give to them my days in service: to get up to cook, clean, do the laundry, to cart from place to place, to manage schedules and wipe bottoms and entertain and keep engaged. I do this because I deeply love them. I do this because though I value my time, I value their ambitions and pursuits more. So in the face of love, this is what I risk.
And all week, my Quiet Thoughts have been about how the sacrifice is received. Little boys under the age of 5 don’t understand what I’m doing or why, so their sometimes lack of appreciation cannot really be received with much weight. But then there is the fight that I had with my husband yesterday about doing a little snow maintenance on the driveway. The melting and refreezing of the 2-4 inches we have on it has made it an ice rink, and I’m having a hard time getting the car in and out of our parking space. The walk from the house to the driveway is also an ice block. It’s hard shepherding little boys to the car without it being excruciatingly slow and slippery. Three days I reminded my husband to do something about it. Three days I was blown off. “I can get up the driveway,” he told me. “I guess your threshold is different than mine.”
And it took at least two fights to get it done. And even then, getting down the driveway was a miserable experience this morning. So I went to Ace, picked up a tube of sand, savagely broke it open with the sharp part of my ice scraper and started growling and shaking out sand like a crazy woman. It made a tight morning less productive and miserable. Meanwhile, I’ve been made to feel like the nagging annoying wife when all I wanted was a little help keeping my tight mornings running smoothly (but not slippery). Matter of fact, when I am done writing this blog post, I have to go back out there during this precious no-baby naptime to finish what he half-heartedly started. Though, at this moment, I’ve accomplished nothing I’d set out to do (for myself) today (other than this blog post. So… uh… 1 out of 5 things done).
I’m not just writing a blog post because I’m angry at my husband. Marriage and partnership are like dancing, and even the most graceful partner will sometimes step on the other’s foot. I’m writing because sometimes marriage, and motherhood especially, means that you place your most valuable thing on someone else’s alter and then watch it as it is discarded for nothing. Or ignored. Or you place it on the alter and then the people behind you snicker as though what you’ve placed is simply never going to be enough to appease.
Like how I was told no less than three times this week (in three different ways, some nuanced, some not) that I have “a lot of time” on my hands. “I wish I was just home all day. I’d get so much done….Don’t you just get so much done? I mean, you’re just home all day. It’s gotta be wonderful.” Uh huh.
Or that I’m about to waste a huge chunk of my life because I choose to stay home with the boys. Exact quote: “You were so ambitious in high school. I thought you were going to rule the world by now. What happened, girl? It’s never going to turn out for you now. You had the keys to the kingdom…” It was a lot this week. This was a lot. This winter has been a lot. I’m ready for everyone and everything to be nice again.
In the face of love, dear reader, what do you choose to risk? Is it time? Is it skill? Is it culture? Is it pride? Is it future? Fortune? Everyone lays down something precious at some point. Some of us lay something down daily. Have you? And how is that precious thing received?
And when someone lays something down on your alter, do you notice? What do you do with it?
It is Friday. A cold Friday. A Friday before spring, with strong sun that only gets stronger. Snow is melting this Friday. Birds are singing this Friday. Though there is much to be annoyed about still, there are signs of Spring’s slow return. And so, dear reader, I wish for you a hopeful moment: the ice dam melting, the snow finally yielding to ground, the feeling of warm sun on your face. I wish you the appreciation of your sacrifice to someone you love, and I wish you the opportunity to show your appreciation for someone else’s sacrifice. I wish you reflective time, productive time, a moment to meditate and plan for the wonderful days ahead. I wish you something warm and wonderfully made. I wish you the wisdom of knowing that love is bold, beautiful and great work, and the joy of knowing that someone, somewhere chooses to love you and take on all that such love means. And I wish you the joy of knowing that you are worthy of such love.
Until Monday, take care.