Bringing Beauty In

A boy pounds a plate with clenched fist. The other blithely butters toast. How do I fix this?

Ann has just gathered sunflowers and declared, "I bring beauty in." But now this. Brother against brother. Mother wondering, how do I fix?

I know this hard song, this strife, though in my house it is sister against sister. The tussle of... what? Growing, reaching, wanting, not yet knowing how to navigate life. Girls discovering they are capable of scratching, hair pulling, even kicking, when Mommy isn't there to see.

How much to take upon myself?

When they were little I took it all. Sent girls to separate corners. Ordered sorry's. Wondered where I'd gone wrong.

Sometimes, for the sake of peace, I still take their struggle upon myself. But more often these days I let them have it out. It is hard to hear them discovering what they are capable of. I stand in the kitchen, hear doors slam, hear hard words. And I don't intervene. This is their journey, this discovery of the human heart and how much we want to and can hurt each other.

In the end, Ann tells her son a story of Jacob and Esau. I tell stories too. I tell stories of me and my own sister, how we loved each other one moment and the next moment pushed each other off the edge (sometimes quite literally). I ask questions, "Do you really hate her? Her? Or just hate what is happening?" I ask too,"What IS happening?" I wait until they have chosen their own separate corners, and I hold them against the darkness, remind them wordlessly what love feels like and stir, once again, a longing for sister-communion. When I remember, I pray.

Then I wait for them to fumble towards forgiveness, bring their own beauty in.

Quote from Chapter 7 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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Blogger Maureen said...

"I wait for them to fumble towards forgiveness, bring their own beauty in": This could be the anthem for what is happening in Egypt this minute.

Beautiful post.

Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Maureen, yes. It is so tenuous, this process of forgiveness. So much works against it. Apology is not enough; there must be compensation.

But sometimes there is no will to accept a fitting compensation. Vengeance makes us push our enemy further than is fair.

So this suggests that before acceptance of compensation must come compassion... and where does that come from when we've forgotten to see the other as human, as in-the-image-of-God?

Even Christians often don't find their way through. It makes me long for Sabbath Rest.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL... this post is beautiful and your comment above reminds me about how forgiveness is actually for the heart of the one doing the forgiving and not the forgiven.

It's hard in day to day life here... I can't imagine, maureen as you mentioned, Egypt... what it will be like there... and how that will all play out in the region.

Blogger David Rupert said...

For years I saw myself as a "peacemaker" doing everything I could to inject peace into every situation, including my own. But sometimes it was premature -- there needed to be some anger and frustration spilt.

In the end, this attitude undid me. The peacemaker was in turmoil himself.

Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Thanks, Cindy :)

David, thanks for your candid sharing. I wonder where this peacemaker urge comes from? For me it has too often been rooted in anxiety over conflict... maybe for good reason because of my upbringing, but as you say, it is tiring and not always helpful to play the Fixer.

Blogger Laura said...

I am still a chapter behind you :). This post gives me something to anticipate. Boy verses boy is never pretty...but...I love how you are teaching in the process of the conflict.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You as a mother...I wish I could watch. Observe and emulate, like I learn most things.

Off topic: Ever read anything by Anne Fadiman? Fabulous. Because of God in the Yard, page 2, I thought you'd like this, from Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down:

"I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one."

(Oh, then again, maybe it's not so off-topic after all.)

Blogger Abby said...

I loved this chapter and Ann, I remember most saying, 'oh, son, so hard' knowing her own struggle to see past all the darkness...

mine are still so little but i know as you have said that they will need to walk their journey:

'This is their journey, this discovery of the human heart and how much we want to and can hurt each other.'

I just eat up whatever I can of those ahead...your insight even as you journey...and then we have that 'missionary kid' and the culture of hiding that we just plead to be able to live counter...

yes, much to think about in addition to the chapter that already made me think a lot.

thank you again for these posts on Ann's book:)

Blogger Em and Lib said...

First - Truly appreciate you stopping by 16balls last week and commenting. reading you comment I realized I'd just received your YARD book so your comment was a love note from Yahweh to me. :)

I am in this same struggle - how much to intervene, how much to let them work out. I have 4 boys - 1/2 of those 16 balls. there are days I feel like if I don't referee they won't stop. But then it's NOT up to me. It's their journey and all I can do is POINT. I'm just the road sign, after all.

And when I remember, I pray too.

Blogger Kelly Sauer said...

I am saving this one...


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