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...
...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.