It is Holy Week. It is Good Friday.
That adjective, holy? That word, good? They’re not referring to me. I have been an unholy wretch this week.
The house is a mess and I want it cleaned up. So I yell at my kids for the love of everything holy why can’t you put your shoes away so I don’t trip over them and drop Luke on the floor and what is the matter with you that you can’t remember something so simple for the love of GOD?
We go to the library and we’re late for story time and the parking garage is full, except for one spot, labeled compact, and I drive a frigging sofamobile, but I am going to fit in that spot if it’s the last thing I do and when I nearly take off the side mirror on one of the concrete support posts, Jane ventures to tell me that there is now another spot available and maybe I should try to park in it instead? And I yell at her, “Shut UP! Don’t talk to me right now! Can’t you see I’m trying to park?!?”
Home again, I go inside to make lunch, while the kids play on the porch. After a bit, Jane comes inside and I realize it is awfully quiet out there on the porch and I go to see if the twins are okay and they’re not there. I call for Jack, once, twice, three times. He finally runs around the side of the house.
“Are the boys with you?” I ask, heart pounding and eyes wide.
He shakes his head. I panic, start running down the sidewalk, see them, both of them, playing in the middle of the street.
I scoop them up, my whole body shaking, visions of them flattened by a car, of me riding in an ambulance beside their broken bodies hooked up to all kinds of machinery, of me being charged with criminal negligence and sentenced to prison, of my kids visiting me in jail. All this in the few seconds it takes to carry them into the house.
And then I yell at Jack for not keeping an eye on them, at Jane for not telling me when she came in that Jack was in the back yard, at Jack again for laughing when he saw them in the street because it’s not funny young man don’t you understand they could have been killed?
But it’s not them I’m angry at. It’s me. The babies aren’t their responsibility. They’re mine, and oh God, what might have happened because I wasn’t doing my job and why did I yell at these precious older children when I know it’s not their fault but mine?
I could go on. It has not been, shall we say, my finest week ever. And let me tell you there’s nothing like flinging my anger around like so many knives, daggers to my children’s hearts, to make me realize how desperately I need Jesus and Good Friday and all it means.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Have mercy on my children.
It is the first Friday of a new month, which is the day I look back and give thanks for the gifts of the previous weeks.
It is also Good Friday, the day Christians remember the death of Jesus.
When I first realized this juxtaposition, I nearly bailed on the giving thanks part of this post in order to focus on Good Friday. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Good Friday is exactly the day to give thanks.
It is the day we receive one of the greatest gifts of all time: the life of our Lord freely given, so that we may have life and have it to the full. Not that we do (as my life is daily proof), but that life is mine (and yours!) for the taking, if only we will open our eyes to see, our hands to release what we hold too tight, our hearts to receive.
So today, again, I count the gifts, small, large, middling, every one of them grace:
2471. Chickadees calling in the fig tree.
2472. Dark pink buds beginning to open on the Plum Queen.
2473. It’s warm outside!
2474. Christmas roses, dusky mauve and purple-gray, blooming—in March!—beauty behind the garbage and recycling bins.
2475. Ben stomping around the house in his snow boots.
2476. The Table: eucharist, receiving the good gifts of bread and wine, body and blood.
2475. My new job.
2476. This moment, sitting quietly—and alone—on my bed.
2477. Clean water to drink.
2480. Silky pink scarf from Susan.
2481. Venus, bright, and Jupiter, pale, hanging over an upturned crescent moon in the clear blue twilight of the west.
2482. Two radio interviews.
2483. That they’re over. (Thank you, Jesus!)
2484. Hugs from my children, even after I’ve yelled. Especially after I’ve yelled.
2486. Chickadees nesting in the camellias outside the kitchen window.
2487. Good Friday: the cross, the vision that enabled Jesus to see past the pain and the shame (“For the joy set before him [he] endured the cross…”), and the love that held him there.
Won’t you please join me in counting the gifts? You can head over to A Holy Experience and join Ann Voskamp’s gratitude community. Or you can just start your own list: grab whatever paper is closest and whatever writing utensil you can reach, and start naming and numbering the gifts. It will change your life. (And if you do begin a gift list, would you please let me know?)
Photos by Susan Forshey.