She lifts the clunky lid of her travel cup, moving it up and down on its hinge so that it talks to me. I answer in a gruff and low-pitched voice with my water glass, and she laughs.
“This is what Jennie did at school. Her cup talked to Connor’s cup. It was funny.” Lucy flips the lid down again, and her eyes crinkle as she remembers playing with her classmates during the school year.
“And then… I made my cup talk too, but she said my cup doesn’t talk, and her cup and Connor’s cup only talk to each other.”
She says it the way she tells me about other happenings and thoughts, so a beat of time passes before I picture the scene and understand what she is saying. I look sideways at this little daughter.
“And… how did that make you feel?”
Then — this small girl, whose bravery and cheerfulness I have watched unfurl since the day she was born — she pauses, and carefully lets out words I never hear her say. “It made me sad.”
Her face crumples.
She curls into my side in that same instant, and I hold her there, heart aching for her, my chin gently cupping the top of her head. Later we might talk about what she can do if someone starts a game and says there’s no room for anyone else — perhaps she could start her own? — but right now, I hold her.
I know she didn’t have to tell me any of it, especially how she felt. I’m so glad she did.
We sit together in silence, because all I want to say is best conveyed in the quiet that tells her that I hurt with her.
“Hurt”: one of the latest and most useful new words in Little Jo’s vocabulary.
“Hote,” she tells me during lunch time, holding out a nicked finger under her tiny furrowed brow. “Hote. Hote.”
I bring a wet paper towel to wipe the salt out of her wound. Her raw skin is exposed, and I know how it must sting. I catch her looking at me as I grimace, and I tell her I’m sorry as I go upstairs to get the alcohol wipes, ointment and bandages.
“This will sting for a second,” I say, and her eyes follow my face as I swab with the alcohol pad. She still yelps, but she’s seen something in me that makes it bearable, and quickly I wrap the bandage around her finger. “All done.”
She isn’t even two years old yet, but it made a difference to her that I saw her pain and wanted to share it.
I am not good with hurt; my instinct is usually to downplay it. Some, I know, do this to deny their inflicter satisfaction; I do it to convince myself I can move on, and that I’m okay. I’ve encouraged my children in this direction for the same reason, and I do want them to be able to pick themselves up and brush themselves off when they fall.
But there is something else, too — something I’m learning as I hold the hands that scrape up splinters at the playground, and the hands that are pointedly crowded out by other children who are petting a rabbit after a magic show:
Hurt that is seen and carried brings healing.
I wonder at this. I know it to be true, and feel it to be true with the memory of each footstep that has ever taken me nearer to God as a refuge.
But from where I stand as a parent, trying to outfit my children with all the articles of a strong faith — surely a stiff upper lip and steely determination are reliable equipment for today’s world?
And then I remember Jesus letting his tears fall with Mary’s and Martha’s own, even though he would raise their brother from the dead before the end of the day. Bible scholars discuss the complexity of Jesus’ weeping at length, but one of the reasons always mentioned is that he shared in their grief. He knew what would happen — and still, he wept with them.
This is the Jesus who came to walk among us eye to eye and face to face, to know what it is to be tempted, to feel the shackles of death closing in on mortal bodies.
He came, and though he knew his coming would break the chokehold of darkness on all men, he had compassion on them. Splagchnizomai is the word in Greek: compassion. He suffered with them.
To be moved with compassion (from Latin compati — “suffer with.”)
He suffered with the multitudes who came in droves, bringing their sick. He suffered with the listeners who were so desperate to hear his words that they followed him for three days and had no food. He suffered with a woman who had lost her only son.
So if I bear the privilege of being my children’s first glimpse of Christ, then, God willing, let them see the Love that meets them at their eye-level, and suffers with them. For he works not in the way of superheroes, swooping in to save us from catastrophe and vanishing as we stagger to get our balance alone on solid ground. No — He sees us and the burdens we carry.
Even though he will break your bonds and drive out your fears and do things beyond what you could ever ask or imagine, first, he sees your hurt.
And it matters to Him.
Those things which we think hard as we follow Christ — his call for you to follow, his call for you to leave things behind, his call for you to trust him, his call for you to believe his love for you — there is no getting around the fact that they are hard. But his words will fall differently on our ears if our eyes have first met his in the pages of his very Word.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
– Isaiah 53:5
For there, in that Word that testifies he is the same in our 21st century today as he was in that Roman yesterday, we find —
He hurt with you before you knew how deep your hurt ran.
So much so, he chose to be wounded in your place.
Seeing your hurt, carrying your hurt… so that you might be healed.
*”The Prodigal Son,” painting by Anton Robert Leinweber.