Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3)
I don’t usually feel sleepy in meeting for worship, but on the First Day in question, it was a struggle to keep my eyes open. My head drooped at least once and I found myself thinking that I shouldn’t sit on the facing benches if I can’t, at the very least, stay awake. My attempts at meditation seemed more like dreaming, and I had to pull myself back from them over and over again. What was going on?
Meeting continued to be a struggle, my attempts to pray seemed pathetic, and neither the silence nor the ministry helped. Then, unexpectedly, an answer came to a prayer I had not realized that I had offered the day before.
My oldest daughter had been away for two weeks and that afternoon we were going to pick her up. She had been visiting Camphill Soltane, a college for people with developmental disabilities. Elizabeth had been away before, but never to a place that I did not have to worry about her, or try to make go well from a distance. As the first week unfolded, I began to realize that my life felt qualitatively different. It was hard to put my finger on what had changed, but when I finally had time to write in my prayer journal about it, clarity emerged. There had been a dissonant cord sounding in the background of my life—a constant worrying about things not being right for Elizabeth. While she was at Soltane it vanished, and I felt relaxed and more deeply happy than I can remember being for quite some time.
I began to realize that this worrying had taken on a life of its own—independent of how things are really going for Elizabeth. While things could always be better, my fretting did nothing to change whatever might need it, and there are many things that I cannot change, no matter what. How was I going to stop worrying and simply do what I can, letting go of the rest?
I had been hesitant to tell my husband about my worrying because of the rigid roles we have played in this area of parenting. He has been the pessimistic, disappointed one and I have been the eternally optimistic, pleased one. I was afraid that he would interpret my experience wrongly and attempt to confirm the sad "reality" of the situation. I was, however, able to tell him how I was feeling during that first week and then tried to make some time to have a longer discussion over the weekend with him.
When the time manifested, I was surprised at the deep emotion that surfaced making it hard to say what I needed. Grief overwhelmed me as I struggled to share this thought: "I have not dared for the past eight years, at least, to notice that I have any feelings of hopelessness, disappointment, or grief about Elizabeth’s disability, since you feel so consistently negative about it; and I want, I need there to be at least one person who never doubts her worth."
Michael held me as I sobbed for a little longer. Then I listened as he thought out loud about some things he and Elizabeth might do together on a regular basis. I laughed and commented that my rigid positivity has helped to keep his rigid negativity in place; and perhaps that would change if I would notice and voice my doubts and fears. Afterward, I felt more connected to Michael and pleased with things in general, but I was still, unaware, longing for an answer to my plea.
That is, I was unaware until it was unexpectedly answered. There I was, sleepy and struggling in meeting for worship, when seemingly, out of the blue, came, "I have no doubt." No person had spoken; in fact, I hadn’t exactly heard these words. It was as if they simply were, resonating in my body/consciousness. An astonished smile broke across my face and I felt as if a beam of light had suddenly illuminated the dark cavern I had found myself in. Tears, sweet tears of joy and thanksgiving, trickled down my cheeks accompanied by a sense of relief and well-being. Of course, God has no doubt about Elizabeth’s worth or anyone else’s.
Although it is wise and good to follow the example of divine, unconditional love, no human action can ever match or take the place of it. My prayer is that I not forget Elizabeth is beloved by the Creator if not by all creation.