As many of you know, we’ve had some health uncertainties with my wife the past month. Surgery is scheduled for a non-cancerous tumor next Wednesday. A friend stopped by my office to pray with me tonight, and he suggested Isaiah 49. The servant song I’m familiar with. Likewise the “can a woman forget her child” passage at verse 15. But this bit I’d never noticed before stood right out for me:
The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing:
“The place is too crowded for me;
make room for me to settle.”
Then you will say in your heart,
“Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away
— so who has reared these?
I was left all alone
— where then have these come from?” (Isaiah 49:20-21)
In these difficult times, formative things do happen. I think less of actual children (my own is happily healthy) and more the other fruits of life: my marriage, ministry in the parish, writing, and music-making. Will I look back on these days of difficulty and see the thread of God in my life? Will I look back on the crappy holiday season of 2011-12 and wonder, “Where has all this grace come from?” Will God’s graces be too numerous, too much to attribute to my own hand, my own workings? Isn’t that the point? God works in all of this, especially in bereavement and barren places.