Friday, June 15, 2018

lizard love

I’m up at 5am, crying over a lizard.

It’s not really over a lizard, of course. These are tears over death and disappointment and all that is broken in the world; over the way a heart can open up to love and joy and let life in and then death comes and crushes a little spirit, only 9 years old.  He’s too sweet to sit there, hunched shouldered, over a shriveled pet who can’t hold up his head.  He’s too young to hold a box of remains by the side of a hole in the ground. He’s too little to wonder why God didn’t answer his prayer for help when he prayed it. He’s too little to sleep alone after something like this. (So am I.)

Eldon was so excited to be a pet owner.  He bought his gecko with his own birthday money and has cared for him diligently. Just last weekend he wanted to put Mr. Crawley in a box to take to the hotel to show Nana the second she got to town- it’s been months, and he still acts like a proud daddy. He’d build him houses out of Jenga blocks, and he’d carry him on his shoulder. Mr Crawley was his choice for “free time” during homeschool every time.  I remember the proud way he paid for the crickets with his own money; how having Mr. Crawley taught him to love all the reptiles in the world (except the big ones that eat geckos).

And then that night, I knew it was coming. My words to soothe his worry fell flat on my own heart, and I ended up sleeping next to Eldon that night. And I laid there with anxiety about a shriveled gecko and heard to carriage of death rolling by.  In the depths of the night it felt like the carriage was coming for Eldon himself, the little gecko-like boy in my arms. It was coming for a piece of his heart.

After Mr. Crawley died, a  we decorated a box, and we had a little funeral. There were more tears than one would expect for a reptile… many of them were tears for Eldon, really.  “The whole creation groans” daddy reminded us, and we felt it then. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  And I marvel at how the loss of a tiny reptile reminds us that we stand on the edge of eternity, powerless.

Pastor-daddy can’t help but make use of these teachable moments, when the children’s hearts are tender. “Someday you’ll be putting mommy and daddy in the ground, and then … you’ll have each other.. and the hope of Jesus.” And we cry by the reptile grave, clinging hard to each other, and to those promises.

I want to skip this part Jesus; I want you to just come back and make all things new now, just like Marcus said (in muffled words from deep under the covers.)  I am bad at this waiting, this travelling in the valley with the shadows and trusting that the promised land is where you say it is.  And now the dog is snoring; it’s because she’s getting old.  I want to not like her any more, not see her, just close my heart because I know what’s coming. But I also want to go buy another lizard.

The next day Eldon kept holding my hand, pulling me aside with a “Can I talk to you?” and whispering to me about how sad his heart was. “Can we just pray?” he asked. “Will I see Mr. Crawley again?” “Are you sure he was dead? What if he’s under there in the box trying to get out?” Oh baby, didn’t you see his still form and the unnatural way that the life had gone out of him?  

Cry with him, self, and keep breathing. Just love him, and give him Jesus. Where else can we go?

It was not meant to be this way. And we will be limping foreigners here until God makes all things new. But what to do in the meantime? Try to protect a heart , close it off and just survive as long as you can? Or do you keep it open, raw, noticing and loving life in all its forms despite the sucker puch that just came and the other ones that will come?

Oh God restore Eldon’s joy again.
And keep our hearts tender.

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