Thursday, April 29

A Decent Little Cottage is Good Enough for Me

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on and extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.

The past three years of my life have been very difficult ones. Up until then, things had been going along quite happily: twenty-six years of a loving marriage, four bright and healthy children, a lively household in a cheerful home, an always adequate income--too many good things for me to list. I knew I was unusually blest, even when I took my many blessings for granted.

All that began to change just about three years ago, and for the past three years my life seems to be made up of many difficult things strung together with the occasional short reprieve of something close to normalcy in between. There is much joy, too; but it is joy in sorrows. I can always feel the strong and gentle hand that leads me; but that hand is not leading me out of trials, but straight through them.

I won't list all my burdens for you. Some are big, like illnesses and deaths and accidents. Others are smaller, like taking what used to be the responsibilities of two people onto one set of shoulders, like doing tasks I've never had to do before and that I'm not particularly good at, tasks I must take on for a reason that always reminds me that my heart has been ripped open. The grief is the biggest one of all--that tightly knotted bundle of what feels like terror, but is really grief, that often lodges itself right beneath my diaphragm while I am sleeping. During the day, it unwraps itself and falls away, only to collect itself in its wadded little package again sometime during the night.

This week it's little things again: canceling planned activities because I don't see well enough to drive right now; not being able to take my daily dog walks because my eyes are too sensitive to the springtime sun even with sunglasses. Little things, but things that take away what seemed more and more like a return to the normal life. Things were righting themselves, only to be knocked down again.

So I am being built into a palace, but if the master builder were to ask for my input on the blueprint right now, I think I'd suggest we downscale to a decent little cottage instead.