Our son’s first tooth fell out this past week. And, he has outgrown the socks and pants that we so carefully wrapped for him to open on Christmas morning. As I held his bloody baby tooth in my hand and gathered up threadbare, oddly stretched socks from the floor, I found myself in a moment of grief. He is growing, yes, and it is glorious. And he is changing, yes, and it is hard to lose the little person I’ve become accustomed to holding and loving as a small child.
The other week, I snagged a pair of reading glasses from a display while also grabbing groceries and cleaning supplies. My own eyes had been a bit foggy as I read my World-War-I-lady-detective novels at night, and while I had spent months chalking it up to the end of day malaise, suddenly the text was crisp and clear. It was glorious to see. And it was jarring to realize my eyes had changed.
I think I like the idea of change more than I like actual change itself. I mean, I’m a fairly decent Episcopalian and that is kind of in our DNA. But something about this upcoming season of Lent has highlighted my grief around change in my heart and soul, and with any luck, prayer. I reference the ‘Before Times’ regularly, while knowing we cannot return to them fully. I consider the body I inhabit and how it has changed due to the pandemic or aging or care, and see that it is different than the one I have had a working knowledge and relationship with. I see my children—growing in body, mind, spirit, and sometimes in sassy attitude—and while I have joy in the growth, I find there to be a layer of grief as well.
The story of the Transfiguration before entering the wilderness is where I am right now—Peter clinging to the glowing Christ, asking him to stay as he is. But the glow fades and we are thrust into the wilderness. The deep desire to keep my children as they are and myself as I used to be, is real and true and deep. I often long for the body I once had, the energy I once carried, and whatever youthful presence I may have once exuded.
Every year I do a gut check about what is good for my soul in the Lenten season. As a child, I would regularly give up dessert and sweets, then later I fasted from coffee. While that was good for a season or two, I don’t really need to give up sugar or the way to keep me from being a demon in the morning to grow deeper in my faith.
I need to remind myself to hallow the changes.
The sweet baby smell of feet now give off that slightly tangier whiff of funk when the shoes come off my children. The clothes which fit all our bodies in the Before Times or even last summer are not as comfortable. My eyes, the core of much of my work as a reader and writer, now need assistance. Our lives so easily accessed, believe it or not, without fear of infection, without masks, largely occurring within six feet of one another and in the thrill of the crowds, feel like participation in an irrationally irresponsible history, a story we tell our children who may never know it as intimately as we have.
This Lenten season, my practice will be grieving and letting go. Purchasing a pair of glasses which meet my new needs. Replacing socks and pants and tailored office dress pants which no longer fit these new bodies and roles of ours. Celebrating the inevitable loss of the second baby tooth with lessons on spaghetti slurping. Giving thanks for the lives we led in the Before Times, and asking God’s presence in the lives we are given to live within now.
This is a wilderness journey for me. Maybe it might be the same for you. I know I’m not going to go into it gently or with goodwill because that’s who I am. And also, change is hard. But I am going to go into it knowing that God is there.
God is there in the change. In the differently sized pants. In the shoe smells. In the readers, and maybe even the glasses chain I’ll have to purchase to keep those puppies close at hand. Holding all of us as we give thanks for where we have been, and accompanying us into who we might become.