All dressed for church
waiting for our ride
because Mama doesn’t drive
—never got her license:
I get too nervous, she says—
so we wait while she watches
through the picture window
where I see our reflection:
Mama, little sister, and me
against the empty street beyond
after a while she says
you might as well change
we have been forgotten
her voice is strange
and when I look up
there are tears
sliding down her cheeks.
–excerpt, “Picture Window.” Draft poem, F. Haley
On the first Thursday of each month, a group of us teacher-writer-blogger-believers post spiritual journey reflections. Today Chris Margocs hosts our gathering on her blog, Horizon 51. We are writing around the theme of “waiting, with a side of hope.”
Earlier this year I wrote those lines above, remembering the scene from long ago. My mother had asked another church member to please stop by and pick us up. We waited, and waited…until my mother understood the ride wasn’t coming. And cried.
I might have been six or seven. I wasn’t too upset about changing my clothes (likely a dress made by my mother) and not going to church. But I was sorry for my mother’s sadness. I couldn’t understand being forgotten.
My childhood pastor once preached on Isaiah 49:15: Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
I couldn’t understand that either, at the time: How can a mother forget her child? It seemed impossible, inconceivable…
Decades later, as a mother and grandmother myself, I decorate for Christmas with exceeding great joy because of the new baby in our family. As I plan and wrap and make preparations, humming along to holiday music, I can’t imagine ever forgetting my sons, my little granddaughters. I would cease to be me if I did. They’re such joys. Layer upon layer of richness and fullness on all of my days. But mothers can forget. They do forget. There are mental health issues. Addictions. Illnesses. Diseases. Destroyed relationships. A number of things can separate a child from a mother’s love and from her memory.
The Apostle Paul wrote: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
How this links to God’s promise in Isaiah: I will not forget you.
Christmas is a reminder of exactly that.
We are not forgotten; we are not alone. The prophet Isaiah, again: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (7:14).The Gospel of Matthew repeats this prophecy as fulfillment in the first chapter detailing the genealogy and birth of Christ: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (1:23).
Words that resonate. God with us. Every day, all the time. How long a wait it was—around eight centuries—from Isaiah’s prophecy to the coming of Christ.
A long, long wait…but we were not forgotten.
That church member from long ago apologized profusely to my mother for failing to pick us up that day. My mother, I presume, graciously forgave. Whenever the weather was nice, we walked to church, my mother, my little sister, and me. I couldn’t know then that my childhood pastor would ordain my future husband to the pastorate one day. I just walked along, hoping Mama would take us to Hardee’s for lunch afterward. The Looney Tunes glasses we collected from those after-church excursions remain in my cabinet to this day, much as memories rest on the shelves of my mind. They are a treasure. I do not want to forget.
My childhood pastor would eventually tell me that when the church’s bus ministry began, my mother was the first person to sign up. No more waiting for rides that might not show. God provided the vehicle to get us where we needed to go.
He always does. In the fullness of time.
Even now, I hear the distant chiming of those church bells of years long gone:
hear my humble cry
while on others Thou are calling
do not pass me by.
He hears. He is here. He remembers.
So do I, Mama.
one of my favorite Christmas cards
with thanks to Chris and all my dear Spiritual Journey friends
a blessed Advent to all –
the first candle lit on the Advent wreath this week symbolizes hope