Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dreading, Bitter and Sweet

Bitter and sweet.

Life is bitter and sweet.

Isaac turned 16 this week, so I am sitting in Barberama, a beauty parlor in Portland.

He is getting dread locks.

As I watch, “Chainsaw Mary” is working away on his hair...

(Click pics to enlarge)

...while Jeremiah and Grandma are looking at his yearbook...

and Mommy is gushing over the resident dog, Marley.

It is kind of sweet.

My friend, my pastor, led a great service this morning. It was on Mark 5, the story of Jairus’ daughter.

He talked about how we need to be desperate. In desperation we seek God. He spoke of Jarius’ desperation to save his dying daughter. He spoke about what it is like to hear the words: “She is dead.”

He said some of us have been told such words.

I’m one of them.

I heard those words at Willamette Falls Hospital. I’ve been led to a stainless steel table to see my child lying naked and alone.

I had already known he was dead. I held his lifeless body at the end of the driveway on that December day nearly fourteen years ago.

My friend was speaking about how desperate times can drive us to pray, drive us to God. My mind, and then my heart, went to that memory, still a sharp thing in my heart, and the tears were suddenly rolling down my cheeks. My wife squeezed my hand.

It is kind of bitter.

So I’m in this reflective mood in a strange setting, tapping away at my laptop. I’m floating within this strange mood, within this pounding music and the smell of hair products. People drift in and out. Purple hair, dreads, conservative and wild. Women with their boyfriends. Women with their girlfriends. People who would not fit in well at church.

This is life.

Tiny Ridley Knox scampers from his owner, leaping on my chest, giving me kisses.

Bitter and sweet.

My son will be an adult in a couple of years. Getting dreads is a step toward finding his own way, his own style. (I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I know I grew my hair pretty long in the 70s and that annoyed quite a few adults.)

He wants friends so much. He wants to stand out. He wants to fit in. He doesn’t know what he wants.

He wants dreads.

So, today I am dreading. Or rather, Chainsaw Mary is. I’m just paying the tab (well, half of it, he is paying the other half).

I love him. He is growing up and will soon be on his own, the day all parents look forward to, and dread. Bitter and sweet.

A bitter taste is usually an indication of something alkaline, perhaps poisonous.

I’ve tasted a lot of bitter things... the day my dad tried to kill my brother and I... getting fired from a job I loved... my son burning down our church...Willy’s death.

Such bitter experiences make sweet things sweeter.

They also make us desperate.

I think desperation can be a good thing. This morning, during worship, I felt the drawing near of the Holy Spirit. It makes me desperate for more.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the spiritual health of our church. There are many indicators of change... that we are doing more than rebuilding our physical church, we are rebuilding our spiritual body as well.

Bitter things can lead to sweet things.

I think my pastor is right. The bitter cup of my child’s death was a draft that purged much of the nonsense in my life. The bitter cups bring me to my knees, poisons that make me sick enough to vomit up the sickness within.

So even when life is sweet, the bitter aftertaste can return. It is a good thing. It reminds me I am fallible...

...and why I remain desperate for Him.


Anonymous said...

Myrrh, one of the gifts brought to Christ as a babe, is bitter, and was indeed a bittersweet gift for Mary to accept, for it was a burial resin. Imagine receiving a kingly gift of myrrh for your beloved little newborn.

I'm so sorry about your losses.
Dear God, life is hard. I'll keep you folks in prayer.

I love your son's dreds.. :-)

May God bless and ease you.

Lorna said...

People who would not fit in well at church.

this makes me so sad. They are as loved by God as you or I are ... yet we make the threshold to God so high, cos the threshold to church is a huge barrier.

It's time to do things different ... but I don't know what :(

thanks for taking time to stop by my place. and congratulations on the 16th birthday. My son reached that milestone last spring and yes it's a time of change. Fitting in and not. Hard for us all. Boundaries become blurred and being a parent is suddenly even harder again...

thanks for another thought provoking post

~m2~ said...

dreads are way cool, will -- what a wonderful post, a thought-provoking testimony of your Spirituality, honest and pure.

God bless you and yours. you are a great dad and are doing a wonderful job; yes, it actually can get a bit more difficult as they grow older, but things change and become new over and again.

(maybe it's time for max to try dreads again...his 17th is coming up :)

jel said...

I don't know what too say!

but thank you ,

please tell Isaac happy birthday!

God bless you and your family~


Jim said...

Happy Birthday, Isaac. Did you watch good so you and your Dad or Mom can do the locks next time?
I can remember being there, doing that sixteen thing, five times. Bitter and sweet is an apt name for it. Yours will be more pronounced than any of mine were because of the diversities and hardships being experienced in the child raising time of your lives.
Hang in there guys!

Ame said...

amazing how that happens - chemical changes that sweep through us so turbently and rapidly that we find ourselves weeping in the sorrow of the aftertaste of the poison. your words lift off the page and i taste, too, your bitter sweet. and i understand, in different ways, bitter sweet.

very beautiful picture.

Cinder said...

thanks for this post!

i pray you and yours will be flooded with His riches blessings and love this week.

Jada's Gigi said...

beautiful post...may we always remain "poor in spirit" that we would be filled with Him...
and don't worry about the dreads...this to shall pass...:)

Anonymous said...

God's embrace to you and yours. this is the topic that first conected us in the blog universe...and i think that bitter sweet is the only way to express it; i say cruel life with occassional sunsets.

Looney Mom said...

Wow. Your posts are always so deep and challenging. We really do need to be desperate for God. Too bad it takes crisis and tragedies to bring us to that point. I'm so sorry for your loss and the painful memory.

And Isaac's dreads are cool. What cool dad for letting him do it.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Isaac!!

Through the many different bitters I have unwillingly swallowed over the years, I have not had to taste that of losing a child. Even if I had, I still wouldn't know YOUR pain.

I wish one of our abilities was to be able to burden anothers pain. I would shoulder of yours what I could bear if I could.

All I can do is cry and pray.
And I do.



Faith said...

Happy Birthday to your Isaac!!!!! He is quite the handsome young man! They grow up way too fast though.

Anonymous said...

He looks nice in his 'dreads.' Your post resonates deeply in my own desperation this very day. Ah, so maybe desperation is good.

I'm glad I dropped by.

Squirrel said...

Happy Birthday Isaac!
I know exactly how you feel about them growing up and it being bitter sweet. As you know my youngest child turned 15 the other day and got his ears pierced. For the past few days I can hardly look at him with out crying. I am so proud of how he is growing up to be such a wonderful young man, yet I desperately miss the little boy that he was. You and your wonderful insightful post!! You got me all teared up now! :)

G~ said...

this post leaves me... well... speechless, CS.

just speechless.

Kathleen Marie said...

This is so amazing and speaks right to my heart. My youngest is 15 and wants to get his ears pierced. I said OK as did his Dad.

Yes, the bitter things in life help keep us close to God and to family.

Your son is a very handsome young man...I pray he stays close to God.

Amrita Singh said...

I am a 45 yr olkd single Christian woman from India. I have also suffered a oot in my life, but thank GOD FOR ALL MY TRIALS. My suffering has shaped me. I feel for you my brother. what you say is true

Anonymous said...

happy birthday, isaac!

hi, CS. i missed reading your posts. been away for some time and i'm so glad to be back. =)

God bless you and your family!

donna said...

Happy Birthday Isaac...(I am a bit late)...and continued blessings to you and your family Will.


Garry Weaver said...

Thank you for this post. I am struggling with words that express just how it touches me, but I can't seem to say anything better than...Thanks.

wilsonian said...

CS- I don't want to say anything to diminish the pain you still feel... but I just have to say it: What a cool family you have, when everyone (including grandma) goes along for dreds! That kind of wild, supportive family community is just amazing.