During the first nights of this year, I lay beside a feverish child, checking her temperature through the dark hours with two thermometers and a practiced hand.
The air in the guest room around midnight was so cold that I tucked the crackling duvet up around our ears; at four it was so warm I rolled it downward and rustled around restlessly for a few seconds — or eons, being in that elastic space of time that marks the wee hours. Mentally I drafted an apology to my parents, who had stayed in that room for two weeks over Christmas with nary a word of complaint.
I turned back to the small sleeping daughter whose face burned red with the fight her body was mounting against strep, and gently swept her hair away from her temples.
Preschool would be back in session in a day or two. She would have to miss the first week back, but I’d simply be grateful if the fever broke by the fourth day, as the nurse had said it should.
A whisper rose from my lips then, to the only One who could hear, and in it I heard the changes He had brought about in the preceding year. “And yet, this isn’t an interruption.”
According to my calendar I was supposed to wake to my alarm in two hours, comb birds’ nest tangles out of two little girls’ hair, and pack cheese and an applesauce pouch and a napkin note into a butterfly lunchbox. But a different task was at hand: a long night’s exercise of watching over my child without caving to worry, and trusting through thousands of breath-prayers that her Shepherd and Creator held us both and was able to give us peace. I felt the grace of the difference. That night passed for me in a way it wouldn’t have in 2017 or 2016.
On most days I lay my plans to the best of my ability, and then there are many days — whole weeks and months of them sometimes — in which my Father seems to come in and shift the track, saying, “Not there, but here. This is the work before you today.” And in the midst of whatever challenge or hardship or inconvenience that follows, I see that He is answering both the prayers that I’ve raised in my holiest moments and the prayers that I am still too immature to ask.
I am often the ignorant child playing happily amid my middling aspirations, content to ask for no more than healthy children and a good book and a cup of tea; He is going about the breathtaking (and monumental) business of making me more like His Son. Always.
This week, I’ve been looking back on our Lent. Somehow it doesn’t seem a coincidence that Y had to fly out on a one-way ticket in the first week. I wrestled with insecurities I didn’t know I had during his two absences, abandoned half of my pencilled-in plans out of necessity, and watched the beauty of our Lord’s daily provision — and daily kindness — meet us each day.
I am glad to have him home now, glad that we’re all together again, though my prayer journal continues to swell with petitions for all kinds of needs among our friends and family and ourselves. I am deeply glad that this very week we will remember the death and resurrection of our Lord with silence, and yearly bouquets, and the raising of many glasses to our unassailable hope in the risen Christ.
But this week, I also want to remember that the disciples thought that the palm-strewn road into Jerusalem was the beginning of a triumphal takeover. It was precisely that, but the King’s road to victory led first to Calvary. It didn’t erode or slip aside into it; it led there. There was work afoot that the disciples scarcely dreamed of as they cleared the way for Jesus on the donkey and drew their swords in Gethsemane, but it was the central work of their lives, and indeed of the whole of Creation.
He was clearing the way for glory, though they could only see it clearly when they looked back on those days.
So it is with us.
Thus I’m learning, bit by bit, to lay down my plans when my Lord says, “This is the work of the hour”; learning to say, in trustful return,
“Then let it be done well.”