Monday, January 9, 2012

Susie's Gift

I was beginning to think I might leave impressions in the steering wheel, I was gripping it so hard. My firstborn nine-month-old was in the back seat, bellowing for all she was worth and fighting off the nap she so desperately needed. Correction: that I so desperately needed.

Lydah, bless her little heart, was what might be clinically diagnosed as a not-so-good-sleeper. The night prior she had awakened somewhere in the ball park of 17 times, each time needing a pacifier and a pat back to sleep. Sunday morning came all too quickly. We all scurried off to church and I scheduled Lydah’s nap to take place at the usual hour, between adult classes and the worship service, so that I might be able to join the Land of Adults.

Naptime came … and went. My daughter was making so much noise I was sure we'd created a thick barrier between the worshippers in the next room and the Almighty Lord. So I bundled her up in her car seat and rushed her outside, much too proud to take my husband’s offer to stay while he took the baby. This is my job, I reasoned, and I can do it alone.

I drove circles around the neighborhood, and with of my infant's screams my heart pounded harder and my hands gripped tighter. When Lydah finally conked out I’m pretty sure I resembled one of those red-eyed, fire-snorting bulls of Looney Tunes fashion.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my husband and my friend Susie had been scheming to extrapolate me from that car. Upon re-parking I watched my heroically smiling husband in the rearview mirror dash out from the church, probably to tell me he adored me and appreciated me and just to generally give me some love. But I think he must have taken one look at my Looney Tunes impression and decided just to give me some space, because he immediately turned around and ducked back inside.

But Susie was stubborn. She marched out, yanked on the passenger door, and climbed in.

A word about this friend of mine, who was more than just a friend, more than just our pastor’s wife: Susie was the sort of person who told me what was on her mind and on her heart, even if she was feeling down or discouraged or just plain hormonal. And transparency like that is contagious; Susie felt so comfortable being “real” with me that I naturally felt comfortable doing the same with her.

So when our apartment got flooded with cockroaches, I had called Susie to vent. When a friend hurt me with a cruel remark, Susie was there to comfort me. And when I was at my very lowest and cruelest, Susie listened – just listened – without saying a word, knowing that in the silence Holy Spirit would convict and provide answers.

And in this moment, she was shining. Still gripping the wheel with both hands, I poured out to her all of my current frustrations – the sleepless nights, the naptime battles, my inadequacies as a mother. The last thing out of my mouth was, “This child is such a burden to me!”

Those final words, harsh and un-true, hung in the air like a cloud of cigarette smoke. But Susie, a devoted mother of three, didn’t correct me. She didn’t scold me or remind me of all the women in the world who would love to be mothers, but couldn’t. She didn’t point out that a child not napping was preferable to a child dying of cancer. Or promise me the truth: that in one year my child would at last sleep like the proverbial baby.

Nope. Susie just sat there in that steamy car and waited until the storm blew over.

My greatest mentors in life haven’t been the best advice-givers. It hasn’t been so much what they’ve done with their mouths, but about what they do with their ears. Susie had a most un-profound gift: she listened to me, and didn’t judge me. But in a very profound way, she reflected the patient, relentless, enduring love of my Savior, a gift I could never pass up.

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