how does God do it?

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He crouches down next to the crib in the dim room lit only by nightlight. Slowly he bends forward until his forehead brushes the wooden slats where our son’s head rests, a dark tangle of damp curls.

They blur together in the dark, father to son.

I watch from the doorway. The broadness of his back, the curve of his calves, the grip of his fingers resting on the tops of his knees – all poised to act. I wonder how he can keep so still, all his attention focused like a laser beam on the sleeping boy in the bed.

We both search for some sign of distress, beyond the bandaids that wrap round our baby’s arm where the wasps stung. All the first-aid guides I’d dug out of the bathroom cupboard while he was screaming in my ear just a few hours ago warned that an allergic reaction could still arrive hours after the attack.

We’ve never had a child stung before, so here we are thrown back onto the shores of brand-new-parenthood, sputtering and bewildered at how little we know. Are we supposed to wake him to make sure he’s not swelling up? Would we be able to hear on the baby monitor if he went into shock? Should we have stocked an Epi-pen at the ready for emergencies like a bedtime bee sting? Are we needlessly anxious?

We have no clue.

So he squats, crouched by the crib, staring into darkness, waiting for what seems like an agonizing stretch of time. As minutes drag past, my mind starts to wander. Back to the newspaper lying on the kitchen table downstairs, the latest article on Syria that I’d half read and flung aside in frustration: too much. Back to our loss, still cycling through my mind in regular sad rhythms: too soon.

And I start to wonder, as I keep watching from the doorway, my own breath held, how on earth God holds it all in tension.

How the divine power which set the universe spinning could ever be concerned with my heartache. How the force of love incarnate could let such evil massacre babies with warfare. How all of our wants and wounds could ever be gathered under the gaze of One.

But as I keep staring at the strong back bent low to peek through the slats of the crib, I wonder if I see some glimpse of how God might watch each of us, the wasp-stung and the war-torn. How such love could laser in on smallest needs in weakest hours and embrace all of us, too, even in the violence we never cease to wreak upon each other.

Because the world has always been this big and this small. Heated debates over bombing and nervous jitters over back-to-school. Thousands screaming over blood stains in the city square and two crying behind a hospital room’s closed doors. And somehow we who dare or dream or deign to keep believing, believe there is a God who is Good all the time.

I cannot – will not – ever fathom how this works.

But finally he turns to me, smiling in the shadows. “All clear,” he mouths in a half-whisper. We sneak back out of the room.

And all week, as I keep brooding over Syria and grieving the small moments that still catch in my throat, I carry with me this image of a night watch. How the strongest can bend low to care about the smallest. How a father’s attention can focus in an instant when his child’s face is salt-streaked with tears.

Maybe the divine is never so distant as our fears would spin us to believe. Maybe God is always this close, right on the other side of where we rest, watching each one, holding a whole world in love’s heart.

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13 thoughts on “how does God do it?

    Marie said:
    September 4, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Oh Laura, this is so beautiful. I am so sorry for your son’s wasp stings. I worry about that too, and I just want to protect my own little one from everything, you know? Just this morning I was standing on top of our bed trying to catch a wasp that was flying around our bedroom (which sneak in occasionally through the window a/c unit) and in between my seemingly fruitless attempts to catch him…err smoosh him, all I could think of was what if he stung Elizabeth? Anyway, I finally caught him, but it doesn’t bring an end to my fear, there are more wasps, more things to keep an eye out for, etc.

    And then I read this…

    “And somehow we who dare or dream or deign to keep believing, believe there is a God who is Good all the time.

    I cannot – will not – ever fathom how this works.”

    And I nod my head in agreement because I will never figure out how all of this works either and although that is extremely frustrating at times, at other times, I find peace in the “let go and let God”. But it is such a hard tension. Again, you write so beautifully about this tension. Thank you.

      Laura responded:
      September 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Thank you so much for this, Marie. I agree: the tension is sometimes life-giving and other times drives me absolutely nuts. I try to lean into the unknowing but this is so hard!! (And I am also glad to know I am not the only mom who freaks out over bees/wasps/whatever can sting – I have such a phobia about them that I flip out whenever they’re around and I worry that I’m passing unnecessary fear on to my kids, lol!)

    nellkalt said:
    September 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I LOVE this!!!

    Let’s compare calendars for a joint family visit? Anthony needs to meet Franco!

    Sent from my iPhone

      Laura responded:
      September 5, 2013 at 6:54 am

      YES! Let’s find a date. Love this. :)

    Lydia said:
    September 5, 2013 at 7:28 am

    This is so, so good. I hope your little one heals with no complications. Here with you, not understanding, not wrapping my head around it – but knowing God is always and all – Good.

      Laura responded:
      September 5, 2013 at 8:27 am

      Lydia – yes, exactly: why do I keep trying to wrap my head around something that can’t even be wrapped around? Holy mystery. And our boy is fine – I should have made that a p.s. at the bottom! ;) We were indeed freaking out over nothing; I only projected my sting phobia onto a tough little kid who was fine in the morning, minus the battle wounds.

    Lauren L. said:
    September 5, 2013 at 8:00 am

    That last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. Our fears do spin us to many horrible places, but maybe they aren’t as far from the Divine as we tend to think.

    Thank you for your words.

      Laura responded:
      September 5, 2013 at 8:28 am

      Thank you, Lauren. My mantra for the last few months has been “God is here, too” and I keep repeating it to remind myself that it is either true everywhere or not true at all. God is here in Syria and here with us, equally close to the center.

        Lauren L. said:
        September 6, 2013 at 8:56 am

        My spiritual director is fond of asking me, “Where is God in all of this?” She asks it when I’m joyous or confused, angry or content. It has become a refrain as I survey what is happening in my personal relationships and in the world at large. Where is God in all of this? Perhaps God is present simply in the act of asking that question, of knowing we need to recognize God in the big and ugly and small and intimate. Acknowleding that “God is here, too,” even when that is hard, pulls us back to center.

    Michelle @ Endless Strength said:
    September 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

    What a beautiful piece. I hope all is well with the wasp-stung, and I am with you praying for the war-torn.

      Laura responded:
      September 5, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Thanks, Michelle. The wasp-stung is well now; I wish we could say the same for the war-torn but that is why we keep praying and discerning how to act.

    rwnielson said:
    September 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    This is beautiful. I often wonder how God can be aware of my little problems when the world is full of such real tragedy.

    KJL said:
    September 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    This is just it, isn’t it? In the moments that I doubt that God could care about my seemingly small problems, all while there is such unfathomable tragedy elsewhere, I say the St. Michael prayer, because it is Satan who wants us to think that God is distant, that He doesn’t care about little old me. But He does–He does because He is everything, and can do everything. He sees your suffering, and that of your little one, and that of all those in Syria, and I believe He grieves all of it.

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