The inspiring church service I wrote about earlier had a turning point toward the end that I didn't mention. Our music director was talking about the Parable of the Sower and what kinds of things hinder our walk with God. He zeroed in on the weeds that choke the life out of us. One kind he called "weeds of regret." My eyes filled with tears.
My life is full of regrets. I failed at the one thing I most desired to do well--mothering. A couple of years ago Arielle was taking piano lessons two doors down from the home I lived with my four sons. I would drop Arielle off and then Liana and I would spend the time walking around the beautiful old neighborhood, passing my former house. I would look up at the windows and see vignettes of my former life in my mind. Even the yard brought floods of memories--the side door where we tethered our springer spaniel, the forty red maples we planted as seedlings on the hill (now a forest), the flower bed under the mailbox where my tulips opened to the sun every morning in spring. I saw my boys playing street hockey in front of the driveway.
As Liana and I walked, I noticed the streets were empty of children, now grown and gone. So many ghosts here! On every block I saw a familiar home. One, where Home and School meetings were often held, my neighbor's house where we would enjoy coffee after the kids walked to school. I remembered the weeping cherry tree in another yard, and how I wept when my best friend moved away to Cincinnati. I saw the brilliant Japanese maples I always admired and wished to have. The trees have matured, now lush and full. Liana and I walked the hill I used to cruise on my old red bike, sometimes racing with the boys. Damien's buddy's house, so familiar because I was always taking that boy home. The sidewalks know my feet because I had walked them so much-- back and forth to the elementary school, back and forth to Cub Scout meetings, or around and around just to spend time with a friend or a son. Then darker memories came. The swimming pool we ran to first to search when a little boy went missing. Another friend's house, the one I escaped to when my marriage was falling apart.
Recently I drove down the main road leading to the neighborhood and was struck by a sudden, intense yearning for my four rowdy, precious little boys. I so longed to turn into the driveway at my old house, walk up to the front door and be greeted by their small, smiling faces and excited voices. Sadness and regret overwhelmed me. Children do grow up, but it was more than that kind of pain. This was a story that ended too abruptly. We moved out when Jon was only 12. So many more years we could have had with all of us together as a family. We all still bear the scars of that ugly time. In the deepest, darkest hours of the night, I replay those horrible days.
At our wedding, Fred and I asked Dominic to read Psalm 103. It seemed so appropriate to start a new life with those words. "Praise the Lord...who forgives all your sins...who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love...He does not treat us as our sins deserve..." My God has forgiven me. My boys say they do. But I can't forget the pain I caused them.
After several years of traveling through a dry, desert place, God brought me back into a relationship with him. He gave me treasured gifts from the other side of the world--my two daughters. I look at them in awe, amazed that my God would give me another chance and such undeserved joy. Shortly after Liana was home, I came across this verse: "Be glad, O people, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before." Then, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you. Never again will my people be ashamed." Joel 2:23-26.
The passage is about God restoring his people after they have turned away from him. I saw my two girls in these verses. My first daughter, Arielle, born in autumn, has a Chinese name that means "merciful rain," the kind of miracle rain that comes after a long drought. Liana's name means "spring is here." The earth has been replenished with life-giving water and has come alive again with warmth and new growth.
The weeds need to be pulled. Our music director said they are a heavy burden. "Lay them down and don't pick them up again."