It’s not yet Christmas, but just the same, my thoughts are on Emmanuel. This name of Jesus is possibly my favorite. While I tend to associate it with Christmas, when he first entered to be with, I’m learning the value of His with-ness all the time. “With” is such a concrete thing for a God who often feels far from concrete.
I am the oldest of five. Two of my siblings live near me in Alaska and two live elsewhere. The oldest of my little sisters lives on the other side of the world. She moved there a few years ago to follow the call of this God who is with. The trouble? We’d only become actual, soul-deep friends a handful of years before that. All through our growing up years, there was competition and antagonism and finally in our twenties (a surprise gift from the Giver of all good things!) our hearts connected with a depth I never anticipated. And now she lives in a place that is 10 hours ahead of me, so very nearly literally halfway around the world. We can talk frequently because living in the future is magical. We know what is happening in each other’s lives and with each other’s kids. I see pictures of her toddler that has springy curls nearly identical to the ones my oldest sported at that age. I see the baby who is just a couple months ahead of my youngest. It’s almost the same as if she were here.
But I miss her company. She is not with.
There’s no hanging out on my futon, drinking tea while discussing everything and nothing, interrupted more than once every sixty seconds by our collective six children. No impromptu playdates at a park or McDonalds. We talk. I know a lot of small details of her life and she knows a lot of small details of mine. We understand each other. But we don’t have the chance right now to do life together.
Emmanuel. With us. In the day-to-day, mundane, boring details. He sees. He is with, and not bound by distance or time zones.
Life as a stay-at-home mama to four (Kindergarten and down) is often a solitary and unwitnessed experience. I make a million small decisions, mediate a million small (or large) disagreements, answer a million questions, all before lunch. Most of the work I do is invisible. Laundry gets folded, then dirty again. Dishes are used as soon as they’re clean. Toddlers need the same limits enforced over… and over… and over again. And between all of these things, the baby needs fed. Basically nothing I do stays done for very long. It’s a good life. It’s the one I dreamed of more than twenty years ago, when I was barely older than my biggest is now. But still, lonely and unseen sometimes.
Except it isn’t. Through all of that, there is One who is with. Emmanuel. He sees.
Two weeks ago, my right (dominant) hand was in a partial cast for a week following a minor surgery. One morning that week, my toddler boy woke up with something… not right with his gut. Not to be too graphic, but I threw those footie pajamas away.
There is poop seriously everywhere and I need to figure out what to do. I look around for an adultier adult, but there is only me. Me, on not nearly enough sleep, with a screaming six-month-old and my dominant hand in a non-removable absorbent cast. Fan-freaking-tastic. In the bathroom with my right arm in the air and my left hand trying to clean up the unbelievable mess, with my six-year-old helpfully trying to keep my six-month-old happy and my four-year-old less helpfully stealing my phone and ferreting it away under her bed, with my little boy crying because he has poop all over him and doesn’t really like the handheld shower head (sorry, kiddo!) I’m at a complete loss and feeling very much alone.
I was not alone.
I remembered in that chaos. Rather, He tapped my shoulder to remind me he was with. Emmanuel.
I cried out to Him. I left the bathroom for a second with all the noise and my arm still over my head and hollered, “Jesus! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO HERE!”
He was there. More than that, he had an answer. Not an all-encompassing Big Answer like He sometimes gives. Nobody walked through my door with hands to help and I didn’t have a game plan for handling this crazy, but I suddenly knew the next thing to do, so I did it. And then I went back out into the living room and hollered again. (I realize Emmanuel is with, even—sometimes especially—in the bathroom, but my poor boy was already freaking out and I didn’t want to alarm him further.)
“OKAY, JESUS! NOW WHAT?!?”
And on we went. One step at a time, with noise and mess and absolute entropy, I lived that one crazy morning out with the One who is with.
And it was fine. Eventually everything (including that cast I needed to wear for another several days) was clean. The children were fed. Laundry was begun and books were read. What I most needed that morning was Someone with me, both guiding and bearing witness to it all. I needed company, not in an abstract “exchange details of the day from a distance” way like I do with my sister, but in a “hang out in the mess” kind of way. I needed Emmanuel. And the same Emmanuel who came through all the mess of birth into all the mess of our world did not disappoint.
He never does.
This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.