Effort and Mercy
I sit on the couch at the moment, something I don’t usually do during school hours, but today is different. It’s day three of sick children home from school, day three of life in two worlds as we keep the healthy ones moving and nurse the sick ones on the couch. This means, of course, more time sitting, holding, reading than I usually do. It’s also provided time to think and for that I am grateful.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog lately, about why it is that I seem to have lost my voice, why so often I sit down to write a post and never publish it. I’ve been writing here for 4.5 years now and it’s been such a blessing in my life. One of those blessings has been the process of “finding my voice.” Yet as this calendar year has progressed, I find myself sharing less of life and mostly posting pictures of my sewing. While I love quilting and it makes me giddy to be part of that online community, there is a part of my heart that weeps a little at the clamps that seem to be on my heart when it’s time to type. I have always felt a desire to use my blog to encourage myself and others and I feel I’m failing in this goal.
Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with someone who helped resolve a problem facing one of my children and as I hung up the phone I was amazed by the outcome. I wondered how it was that things could be so simply solved, aware that a more difficult solution would have been just, wondering if perhaps a dis-service was being done my child through an easy resolution. Until I remembered reading this quote last week:
“No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.“ – John Ruskin (emphasis added)
I walked through my kitchen as that last word struck me profoundly. Mercy. The power of it and a sense of what a gift it is rushed through me and all my wondering was replaced with profound gratitude for mercy expended in my child’s direction. A heartfelt desire to have that gift for me, as well, followed closely on its heels.
I’ve always known that our family is full of imperfections, but somehow believed that by the time they were grown we would have managed to overcome the worst of them. This week my oldest son started a new job and not seeing him for 12 or more hours each day has been strange. It has also helped me identify something I’ve been struggling with, something which has contributed greatly to the clamps that have silenced me so much. It’s sobering, humbling, and a little bit frightening to be so near the point of sending a child out into the world, an “adult”, realizing that you probably won’t overcome or fix everything you wanted to master while they are still at home and under your influence. The continued struggle and ongoing battles have made me quiet. I question myself more, not because my values or beliefs are at risk, but because I don’t know how to make someone different of myself when all I have is me to work with. This year my imperfections have felt like my enemies rather than things that make life better, lovelier or more beloved. I have felt discouraged when my efforts seem to bring no material change. I have recognized I’m in the middle of an ongoing but largely imperceptible transformation and the slowness of it has made me almost desperate with frustration. I feel like I have little to add to life’s conversation because all I really know is “get up and try again tomorrow and try to believe that in another 20 years you will see a difference.” And this, while my children grow at warp speed.
These words keep playing in my heart: “that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.”
I am good at effort. I can do that. I will work at mercy, as the tiny taste I had yesterday was so delicious to me. I think of this blog, of my relative silence, and consider that perhaps I can contribute to the conversation of EFFORT as one of life’s blessings and goals.
I noticed the above leaf this week and was so intrigued by it that I paused to study it. The dry and crumpled edges such a contrast to the supple center, the red and yellow with a white vein in the center. Such an imperfect leaf, and yet I preferred it to the more “beautiful” leaves nearby. As I studied it I was reminded that imperfection is beautiful in its own way, and resolved to live my imperfect live with eyes open to its beauty, and with faith in my Heavenly Father’s mercy. Maybe that will help unlock my heart…