Tuesday, March 8, 2016
I came across that quote when I was in college, and I remembered it today as I sat down to write, thinking over the ways life has jarred me lately. It feels silly to call the last few months jarring. Nothing tragic or truly difficult has happened. It's just been life on double speed, with enough tangles and frustrations to tilt the scale toward hard. The pressing, the tugging, the balancing act always near toppling - all of it has exposed the liquid in my cup for what it really is.
It's those nearest us that get to see the drops spill, one by one. They catch the bitterness or sweetness in their arms as they stand by.
When Aaron and I got married seven years ago, I prayed that our marriage would be something different: a story that spoke of God, a long song of hope, a real life laboratory to prove the existence of forgiveness, long-suffering, redemption.
But the months fold into years, and at times, we're just two people getting by. Folding underwear and begrudging the socks left outside the hamper. Putting the kids to bed and watching re-runs of The Office. We take on extra commitments, as we have in the last few months, and the silent grudge about the socks turns into a rant. I'm tired and stressed and picking a fight becomes my default.
I remember the wife I wanted to be as a dream in the night. It's a foggy storyline that I can't quite make reality. The gaping distance between who I want to be and who I am. All that bitter water on the ground, waiting to be turned into a puddle sweet.
And so, last weekend, it was just another stressed-out night, me forgetting that I needed to make a meal for a family at church, dropping the lasagna noodles into a boiling pot at nine o'clock and throwing punches at a pile of french bread dough. Aaron came into the kitchen with his laptop and set it on the counter with a grin. "I tried to put on You've Got Mail, but I think we lost the DVD," he said. "Sleepless in Seattle is your second favorite, right?"
You've seen it? Black sky dotted with stars, music. Annie and Walter at the family Christmas. Sam, on the bench, talking with Dr. Marsha about his deceased wife on live radio. "Maggie, my wife, she really...I mean, she loved...she made everything beautiful."
I glanced at Aaron. His eyes were wet. He reached over and grabbed my hand.
She made everything beautiful. I swallowed those four words and they echoed in my caverns. Me, I make things complicated and tense. I make mountains out of molehills. But to be a woman who moves through life turning the ugly into beauty, the bitter into sweet, to be a woman who watches her Savior and moves as He does, I want that.
One line from a 1993 Tom Hanks hit, and God undoes me.
At church the next morning, my heart still soft and sorrowful, my dad preached from Exodus. Often, he said, we look at our sin and say, "Well, I've tried, and this is as good as it's gonna get." Like the Israelites in the desert, we'll wander around in the muck and never spring for the Promised Land.
In my seat, I thought about how I have sinned and sinned against my husband, passing the buck to hormones, or feeling weary, or best of all, "being honest." God has more, my dad insisted. God leads us out of our sin. He is the God of the great exodus. Moving us out of sin, moving us into holiness.
My cup drips the waters of Marah, and I feel stuck in ruts I've scraped deep for too long.
Not too deep, He whispers. Not too bitter.
My dad on the stage, he pleads with us to believe that what God did for His children then He does for His children now, and I can't stop picturing the Red Sea, cracked right down the middle by the hand of Jehovah, all that water surging skyward.
God knows what to do with water. He knows how to change water to bring His children to freedom. I will ask.
Empty this bitter cup, Lord, and fill it up sweet.