Today we're taking a little break from the norm. I hope you enjoy a dose of fiction.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
Janie knew when she heard the door slam it had not been a good day. The slam was followed by the crash of Michael’s backpack on the kitchen table and Michael muttering something about a “stupid kid”. Welcome to the teen years, she thought. Who knew the drama would begin so soon after he hit the magic number thirteen?
“Hey, how was your day?” she asked, holding her breath for the answer.
“Just great,” he said, as he untied his shoe and kicked it across the room.
“Johnny Nichols, that’s what happened.” Michael grumbled.
“Now what did he do?” Janie asked.
“He keeps jabbing at me with his stupid cracks until he sees me turning red, then points it out to his buddies and laughs. I hate that guy.”
“Now, Michael. . .”
“Mom, would you rather have me punch him out?” There was no need to clench his fist to make his point. It was all ready.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Janie conceded, “but you’ve got to find a way to let it roll off your back. You can’t let it bother you so much.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Have you prayed about it?”
“That’s what I don’t get, Mom, I have. I pray about it every night before I go to bed and every day on my way to school, but nothing changes. I don’t get God.”
“We’re not supposed to “get” God, Michael, we’re supposed to trust Him.”
“How? How am I supposed to do that, Mom?”
“You listen and believe Him when He says, ‘One day you will see what I see, My child. Press on.’”
Later, both sat at the kitchen table, she with a stack of bills, her checkbook and calculator in front of her, he with books scattered across the table. They were mirror images of each other, both leaning their heads on one hand, their gaze concentrated on a sheet of paper in front of them, a pencil tapping their cheeks.
It’s not adding up, Lord, Janie thought. How are we supposed to get through this month? Am I missing something?
I don’t get this, echoed Michael’s mind. Why can’t homework ever be easy? He screwed up his face and erased his last answer.
She sighed and ran through the figures again, with no change.
Why, Lord? We do what You ask. We try to honor You. Why do we always have this struggle? Her thoughts were interrupted with a grunt from her son. She looked up to see him tearing a hole in his paper with his eraser.
“What’s the matter?”
“Why do we have to do this stupid homework? When will I ever need to know this?”
“Do you need some help?”
“Sure,” he slid his book to her, “you do it.”
“You know I can’t do it for you. Then you’d learn nothing.”
“I’m okay with that.”
“I’m not. It’s not the best thing for you. Do you need some help?”
“No,” he admitted after a deep breath, “I know what to do. I just don’t want to do it.”
She slid his book back to him, “Give it another shot.”
“Okay,” he said, flipping to the next page in his notebook, “but why does it have to be so hard?”
“One day you will understand. Keep going.” As the words left her mouth, Janie was compelled to look at the pile in front of her. “I get it, Lord,” she whispered.
Walking into the nursing home, Michael leaned in close to his mother and said quietly, “This place always smells funny.”
Janie smiled, but said nothing as she deliberately made her way down the hall.
“Hey, Mom,” she said entering a dimly lit room. The woman sitting in the chair squinted her eyes and stared at her.
“What do you want?” she asked, stuffing her mail under her thigh.
“We’re here to visit, Mom,” Janie said patiently.
“We wanted to see you.”
“Why? What do you want from me?” She used the newspaper to cover the cards sitting on the table next to her.
Janie noticed, but chose to let it pass. “We don’t want anything from you. How are you today, Mom?”
“Who are you?” the woman hollered.
“Mom, it’s me, Janie, and Michael came along today too.” She pointed to her son, standing sheepishly behind her.
“What’s he want?”
“Just to see his grandma.” She motioned for him to say something.
“Hi, Grandma,” Michael offered.
“Hmph.” She crossed her arms and looked in a different direction.
“We brought you some Lady Fingers. I know how you like them.” Janie opened the package and set them on top of the newspaper.
The woman stared at her, then to the cookies. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt anything,” she finally said, and helped herself.
“It’s a beautiful day outside. Would you like to take a walk?” Janie suggested.
The woman looked at Michael. “Is he coming?”
“Okay, lead the way,” she said grabbing Janie’s arm with one hand and the Lady Fingers with the other.
They walked for a while and then brought her back to her room.
“Goodbye, Mom. I’ll check in on you tomorrow,” Janie said kissing her cheek.
“Now who are you?” her mother asked.
On the way home, Michael was unusually quiet.
“Something the matter?” Janie wondered aloud.
Michael shrugged his shoulders and stared out the car window.
“What is it, Michael?”
Michael ran his fingers through his hair and looked solemnly at his mother. “Why do you do that, Mom?”
“What do you mean? Why do I do what?”
“Isn’t it hard for you to see Grandma like that?” Michael asked.
“Yes, yes it is.”
“Then why do it? She doesn’t even know who you are. She wouldn’t know the difference.”
“I love her, Michael. I want to see her. Besides, God tells me to honor my parents. I honor her by visiting.”
“But she doesn’t know you.”
“Does that change what is right?
“But it’s hard on you, Mom. I see it. You act happy, but your eyes are sad.”
Janie parked the car, clicked the radio off and turned her body to face her son. “Life is full of hard stuff, stuff we don’t want to do, Michael. Jesus asks us to do things that are difficult, but we aren’t alone. It’s like your homework. I’m there to help you, but you still have to do it. The hard things help us learn to be better, to do a better job of pointing others God. You have to go forward and endure.”
“How do you push yourself to do it, Mom?”
“God tells me One day it will make sense. Don’t stop. I do it for one day.”
The house was quiet. Michael was in bed. Janie looked at her calendar, shook her head and jotted something on her “to do” list. Then she started the dishwasher, folded the last load of clothes from the dryer and decided to call it a day. Walking into her bedroom, her body was weary, but her mind was working overtime.
“There’s so much to do, Lord,” she prayed, “How will I get it all done? Help me do right by Michael and Mom. Show me how best to serve them. Show me what they need. And then there’s the whole money thing. Sometimes it seems like too much.”
At the sight of her bed she dropped to her knees.
“I’m so tired, Lord,” she continued, “What do You want from me? I’m giving You all I’ve got.” Her nose started to burn and a lump formed in her throat. “I need You, Lord. I can’t do this without You. Why does life have to be so hard?”
When she could contain them no longer, the tears began rolling down her cheeks. Her head dropped to her hands and she cried softly until she was startled by a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you okay, Mom?” Michael asked quietly.
“I’m fine, honey,” she said, briskly wiping the tears away, “What are you doing up?”
“I couldn’t sleep and saw your light on. Everything will be all right, Mom.”
“I know, honey, I’m just tired.”
“One day, Mom. You have to keep going for one day.”
“Hmm?” she asked, still trying to gain her composure.
“One day we’ll understand. One day it will all make sense. One day it will be clear. One day we’ll see how the hard times helped us learn. We can’t see it all now, but one day. . .”
Janie stared at her son, then grasped his face in her hands and kissed his cheek delicately. Her eyes began to sparkle and a smile crossed her lips. Turning to sit on the floor, she pulled Michael down next to her, put her arm around him and peered into their future.
“One day,” she muttered, “imagine that. . .I can’t wait.”