I don’t often realize I’ve reached capacity until near-implosion occurs.
My family and I had just made a major move: from the San Francisco Bay Area to Seattle, Washington, from blue skies to gray, from a comfortable knowing to what felt like a raw and callow Great Unknown.
I was trying my hardest to make lemonade out of what felt like a bucket full of lemons. Surely, my sons and I would don our rain jackets and cold weather knit hats and still step outside, even if the weather was a little bit frightful. We’d jump through puddles in the rain and we’d walk down to the water to feed the ducks and we’d be our bravest selves when it was time to make new friends.
But in doing all the really good motherly things I was supposed to do in order to help my children transition well, I’d neglected to look out for myself.
One afternoon, we went to an art studio. We went to the grocery store and jumped up and down in the cereal aisle, because Cheerios! Rice Krispies! Cap’n Crunch! We popped by to visit a friend who lives on that side of town, and then, finally, we made our way home. But about halfway there, in the rain and wind and dark and storm, in the middle of a high traffic hour, and on streets I didn’t yet know my way around, and with cars that drive way too passively for their own good, I realized that I’d left the keys to our apartment at our friend’s house.
Soon, when what should have taken 15 minutes neared the hour-long mark, a near-implosion occurred.
The restless kids in the backseat screamed for Christmas music, for “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! Songs now! Now, Mama, now!” They threw wild punches in the air at each other and at themselves, and they cried for crackers and string cheese and apple juice, none of which I had with me in the car.
My fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly and my shoulders hunched over, the stress of the afternoon curling its sinewy way to every bone and muscle in my body. Like the rain pounding at my front windshield, my eyes filled with tears–at the stress, at my own state of mourning, at the foundation ripped out from underneath me.
I could feel a swell of anger and hurt and exhaustion rising within me, from tummy to throat to mouth. I opened my lips, ready to scream–at my children, at my own lack of foresight in forgetting to check that the keys were in my purse, at God for uprooting me from the place I’d called home for the last 15 years … and then I heard singing.
While the Pentatonix remake of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” played on the radio, the sweet voice of my two-year-old boy sang along. He couldn’t pair all four syllables of the word together, and his “hallelujah” included an extra “p” where the first “l” should have been, but that didn’t stop him in the least.
He sang his way through the remaining verses, replacing “I’ll stand before the lord of song/ with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah” with all the haplelujahs he could fit into a single sentence. Soon, I sang along with him, crooning along with my baby and with the radio and with Jesus as if my life depended on it–because in that moment, it did.
Peace and stillness and calm entered our car and our hearts. The yelling and the kicking and the whining stopped. New, healthy tears pooled at the corners of my eyes, and the screeching monster alive in my insides was laid to rest, at least for the moment–the holy hymn we sang the healing balm my soul so desperately needed.
I think that’s when I knew we’d be okay. We’d make it. We’d survive the move and the transition, the hardships that come with uprooting and starting over and calling a new place home.
We’d be okay because we’ll keep on singing our broken hallelujahs to the One who sees us and hears us and stands with us in our pain and in our glory.
Because even when we feel like we’ve reached our capacity and can’t go any further, peace and stillness and calm still manage to squeeze their way in to our lives.
So, hallelujah and haplelujah and every other version in between, come.
Come into our world and come into our hearts. Come to our neighborhoods and come to the places we can’t always see you right away in. Come and show us where you already are so we might be made to rejoice.
Come, so we might be made to sing again.