She took a deep breath and took hold of the peeling shopping cart handle. One arm battled to bend her daughter’s leg, while the other arm hoisted the baby awkwardly above the metal basket. Anchoring one foot behind the closest wheel to keep the cart from rolling away, she wiggled the uncooperative little girl into the standard retail prison chair, complete with plastic shackles. Realizing that all tools of bribery were missing from her purse, mom gripped the cart, focused down the first aisle, and prepared for the mad dash through the grocery store to beat a toddler’s ticking patience.
Mom almost made it. Milk, eggs, beef, chicken, cheese and toilet paper. But she made one fatal mistake. Instead of staying on the well-worn perimeter path of the grocery store, Mom took a short cut to the registers down the cereal aisle. There, the combat became too great. Tantrums, exhaustion, embarrassment, punishments and shame. Whether mom made it through the checkout line with the screaming babe, or whether she left her cart full on the spot, I do not know. But it didn’t much matter. The struggle continues.
As mom hurried by, beaten and worn, the polite eyes of shoppers tried not to watch. This was not their problem, why should they get involved? There were others who silently shook their heads in disapproval. Hushed discipline advice was barely heard under their breath. I would never do it that way… she just needs to do it like this… One was bold enough to confront the situation, recounting each miserable obvious detail as the baby only screamed harder. And while we all thought we were helping her and her child, we failed to solve her struggle.
In our short selective memory, we forgot our own struggles. Maybe it wasn’t in the grocery store, perhaps it was at home. Maybe our fight was with loneliness. Maybe it was depression. Maybe we couldn’t get our own discipline together. Maybe we were dull to the responsibilities of raising our own children. Maybe we were abandoned by one who we thought would love us always. Each one of us has been there, frantically running down the aisle, trying to stay ahead of the devastating crash.
Like mom, I was not comforted by those who cordially looked the other way. I knew they saw my mess. I felt their burning judgements despite the indirect glassy stares. Like mom, I was not encouraged by those who shook their heads at my failure. How could they condemn me when they also were caught in their own personal net of sin? Their advice crumbled to dust before it made it past the whisper of their lips. Like mom, I was torn apart by a bold confrontation of failure. But destroying me, doesn’t mean I can build myself back up any better. Like mom, I need a real solution for the struggle.
Mom, we are in this together. Our valleys and shadows may look different right now, but I know you are struggling next to me in the darkness. Take a deep breath, it will last only for a little while. Baptized, marked, chosen by God; our future is light. We are promised Christ will return soon with a new world. We are promised a peaceful life to come, forever. We are promised this present toil will end. Although our fight still continues today, we can breathe through it with anticipated patience. Christ’s promise is the enduring answer to our every struggle.