As a kid, I still remember the magical feelings that stirred up around the start of summer break. The anticipation of two and a half months of freedom felt like a potential eternity of freeze pops, sleepovers, family vacations and lemonade stands. Scorching hot days spent living in your bathing suit and peaceful, dreamy nights camping under the stars.
My oldest son just finished kindergarten and as the school year wound down I was pumped for summer. More than ready for moments like this:
I was simply going to crush it this summer. Freedom from The Schedule and the forecast of warm weather gave me visions of waking my kids up each morning by pulling back the curtains in their neatly organized room. With the sun streaming in, a hot cup of coffee in hand and a smile on my face I would announce the summer-y activity for the day. Their sleepy eyes would light up and we’d inevitably break into a dance party followed by a pillow fight, lived out in slow motion and forever engrained in their little minds.
“Wasn’t Mom awesome during the summer of 2015?” they would say to each other in 20 years.
Yes, kids. Yes I was.
Now rarely (if ever) do my mornings look like a Folger’s commercial. In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen my kids move in slow motion is if we have to actually be somewhere on time. But in my head this all seemed legit. Life in the summer is just BETTER. It owes us good things. It was going to be magical. Right?
So I thought.
Except that this summer so far has been pretty much like the other seasons minus the school schedule. Mornings mean my kids have a propensity for crankiness and smelling like pee. Clean rooms? Please. Waking them up…on purpose? No sane parent does that; we secure the best sound machines and black out curtains on the market. My coffee is hot only because I have reheated it for the 16th time. Sometimes the planned activity is “grocery shopping” which doesn’t ignite dancing or pillow fights. Mostly, I’ve learned that summer does not guarantee sunshine or warm weather. The sun has one job and that is to shine and yet the month of June was the cloudiest June in Chicago in 122 years. Straight from the mouth of Tom Skilling so you know it’s true. It’s July and I’m wearing a fleece for crying out loud.
So my summer dreams haven’t exactly panned out. But more than the burst bubbles of hyped-up scenarios with my kids and the latest weather I’ve been sorting out other, more sobering disappointments:
Too many tragedies.
It’s hard to transition from summer break doldrums to tragedies but I’m going there. In the news, in the neighborhood, in lives of the people I love and strangers I’ve never met, in our country and all around the world, the amount of tragedy is making me feel more than just grumpy. It’s keeping me up at night.
Memorial Day weekend felt like the start of summer and we slept with our windows open. At 2 AM I woke up to the sound of gun shots in our neighboring community, followed by a few minutes of deafening silence, followed by sirens.
By the end of the weekend shootings in our city would leave 44 people wounded and 12 dead, including a 4-year-old girl, making it the most violent Memorial Day weekend in over a decade.
The reoccurring violence in the city of Chicago is unfortunately all too common, but those numbers are staggering. Also keeping me up at night is the escalating number of young girls in the Middle East falling prey to twisted, unconscionable atrocities. The present reality of people being sold off like pieces of property, trafficked not just in far away places but right here on this soil. Parishioners being murdered in their place of worship because of their race. Churches burning to the ground and cancer returning full force and division and opposing opinions and taking stances and fighting and hatred and finger pointing. If you read an article about something as ugly as a mass killing and wade into the waters of the comment section (which I don’t recommend) it’s possible you’ll find yourself drowning in even more ugliness. More fighting. More finger pointing. More hating.
I’ll be honest it took me a while to crawl out from under the rock of raising little babies where my mind was too fuzzy to check the time much less the news. But as my kids have gotten a little older and 2 out of 3 can dress themselves I started to do what I hadn’t done in possibly 5 years: pay attention to the world around me. Read. Learn.
This summer my eyes have shifted from the unseasonably cloudy skies above me to the unquestionably cloudier stories around me. Summer is supposed to be clear, magical, light, sunny.
What do you do when summer gets cloudy? When life gets cloudy?
I’m aware that we have always lived in this tension: Jesus defeated sin on the cross and yet until he makes all things new, sin still pervades. I know brokenness may be taking on new forms and increasing in exposure but it’s the same brokenness that kicked us out of the Garden of Eden. The world is crying out to be made whole again even on its best days.
There’s no doubt in my mind that God is still on on throne, no matter how bad it gets.
It’s just that He’s not letting me check out anymore.
That night the shooting woke me up I snuck in my kids’ bedroom to watch them sleep. Reminded of the fragility of life I was deeply grateful for their breath and three little beating hearts. From their room the sirens were background noise. I thought of the one-year-olds, four-year-olds, and six-year-olds in the community across the street, likely not still sleeping with the sirens blaring right out their windows.
Maybe when we stand on the sidelines watching tragedy unfold we are tempted to say: Thankfully that’s not my zip code, not my country, not my culture, not my reality.
But distance from the chaos does not diminish its existence. I think the Holy Spirit can move us from a dialogue of “their problems” to “our problems.” No one is guaranteed a life free of tragedy any more than we are promised perfect summers.
I’m standing at the intersection of heartache and gratitude. Sick with sadness but grateful that I’m living in the Kingdom and not just the world. Broken for the hurting but grateful for the blessing of Christ who is always behind the clouds.
“I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun- not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.” -C.S. Lewis
How do I do justice, love kindness and walk humbly while planning vacations and taking my kids to the pool? What does it look like to enjoy life while others are suffering? Where does this heartache/gratitude tension leave us and what do we do with it? Is it possible to rest in good things when there’s so much unrest for injustice?
Coming soon: “When the Summer Gets Cloudy (Part 2)”
Fewer Deeper is a ministry of Re:source Global, a 501c3 ministry. For more information on Re:source Global please go to www.resourceglobal.org.