Maybe it is age. Maybe—more likely—station in life. But I feel my gaze softening these days. My heart seems nearer the surface. I keep wondering if I am becoming sentimental.
This is not a new concern, and I began writing about it last spring, but somehow my half-formed thoughts never made it to the surface, never made it into a piece that felt whole. They still don’t feel whole, exactly, but now that my second daughter has been born–three weeks ago tomorrow–these six-month-old thoughts feel like a relic, like notes from the periphery of a world that I have now entered more fully.
Here is what I wrote last spring:
My daughter is eighteen months old now, a little person. She refers to herself as “baby.” This is the closest thing in her vocabulary to a pronoun; if she wants to do something herself rather than having it done for her, she says, “Babyself.” But she doesn’t seem like a baby to me anymore. Sunday night she fell asleep in our bed. She often does. My wife fell asleep too. So I lay there in the dark, listening to them breathe. Noting the nearness of these two people whom I love, around whom my life seems to orbit these days, a small trajectory.
It was Easter, and we had spent the day with other people whom we love, friends whom we hadn’t seen in too long. This after gathering to worship. Church, for us, is not an obligatory holiday ritual. We go with joy. We speak the liturgy in loud voices, and sing, and believe without irony. The day before, walking in a muddy field, we had heard a meadowlark. And we saw a bluebird, the first of the year at our northern latitude. And this morning, tiny nascent buds on trees.
All of this feels dangerously sentimental. Tired, and used, and familiar in all the wrong ways. It feels like something that, if I encountered it in a creative writing class, I would balk at. Or, at least, I would scour the world of the story for trouble. I would tell the writer that there is not enough trouble. And I think I would be right, but maybe I would only be shortsighted. Likely, I would be being hypocritical, it seems. Because I certainly don’t want trouble. Who does?
Lying there last night, it also felt fragile. We felt vulnerable, like it wouldn’t take very much to undo us. And I would be no help, and neither would my sentiment. And it’s not that I think God would be no help; it’s just that I think he has bigger plans than I do. I think that he doesn’t really build lives without trouble, which is maybe why I don’t believe it in fiction either.
These days, when I hear about trouble, I do not feel brave. When I hear about disease, and tragedy, and death. When I hear about things like children dying, small bodies breaking against the hard and sharp and cold edges of the world. I do not know how people recover. I do not know how lives are put back together.
On Easter night, we lay together in the bed, breathing in the dark, terribly happy and terribly vulnerable. We three, the center of this small eddy of quiet in a world that is larger and more terrible than I am ready to admit. In a world that is made and governed by a God whom I love but whose purposes I cannot fathom. Who is larger than we are by far.