The washing machine is choking on bedclothes and pajamas. A sour-sick smell languishes in the air, half-heartedly mingling with the fresh herbal scents of the lavender and peppermint I am using to disinfect everything.
My son sits on the couch and watches me through hollow eyes. Just yesterday, he was bright and laughing. Today, he has aged a hundred years. His body holds him captive; he’s a pawn in the fight that rages inside.
He is limp.
Fire burns across his cheeks.
I can’t see him in his eyes; he looks at me, but he is not there.
We have been up all night, we two, one of us huddled around the toilet, the other standing guard with a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle. He has been dunked in a tub or run through a shower three times already. My hands are chapped from the washing.
The sun has not yet warmed the sleep out of the earth, but already the plans for the day have evaporated. The intentions of six are trumped by the sickness of one.
Jonathan’s birthday—his tenth birthday—is just days away, and for the first time in my mothering career, I actually planned a party. Not just a party for relatives, but a real party with handmade invitations and too-much sugar and ten high-energy testosterone-dripping boy-guests who are all planning to explode things in the backyard by way of celebration.
But everything halts because this child is ill. I cannot go to the store to get the last few supplies for the cake. I can’t get the PVC pipe to make marshmallow shooters. I can’t even get out of the laundry room long enough to sweep the kitchen floor or pick up the school room. I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…
The sudden change in plans, the newly-formed void in my day, opens up a space in me that my heart rushes in to fill. Gurgling, bubbling, spilling out into me from its excess of good—or bad—my heart shows up in that interruption.
It happens so rapidly, I cannot stop it. It is just there, like a sudden string of traffic on an already busy morning, and I can do nothing but look and see what has just bubbled up inside of me simply because plans changed. In an instant, I see the state of things in that hidden room.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does the heart. When the day brings something unexpected, or plans change, or life gets interrupted by God’s intentions, your heart will fill the void.
It may rush in with hot words and short-tempers, if that is what it has in greatest supply. Or, if it has enough in stock, it may spill over into your soul with grace and patience. Either way, the greatest indication of where your heart is at is not in how it behaves when life is under control. It is in what happens when life is interrupted. What flows out of your heart then is the surplus, the thing it has the most to spare.
Is it good?
Or is it shameful?
I finally get a moment to stand in the shower while my boy sleeps on the couch with a bowl by his side. I think back to my grade school days. Twice a week, we lined up and trotted down the hall to the art room. We donned oversized shirts to cover up the school clothes we’d already dirtied on the playground and set to work with brushes and pencils and glue that smelled like it should be eaten.
Sometimes, we were given great lumps of clay to work into bowls and saucers and little figurines that our mothers would feel obligated to keep on their dressers until we married.
Those lumps of clay were always gooey and cold in my hands, at first. If I was impatient and tried to bend it into a bowl, it snapped and crumbled. But if I held the clay in my hands and worked it until the warmth of my body infused that bit of earth, then I could twist and turn and bend it in any direction, and it would not break.
My heart is clay.
Sometimes, it is cold and brittle. Any sudden, unexpected molding causes me to break instead of bend. It does not matter if I intend to break or not. It simply happens that way because I was not ready. My heart was not prepared the way it should have been.
But when I dwell in the hands of the Potter, and His life radiates through every molecule of my little lump of dirt, I cannot help but be pliable. He has warmed and readied me for His own purposes.
My life was interrupted today. Was yours?
Did you like what you saw when your heart bubbled up to fill the void in your sense of control?
If not, then take your mind captive to this: Those interruptions are the very things He is using to transform you from a ball of dirt into a holy vessel , sanctified and set apart for Kingdom work. Those things that seem like interruptions and unexpected annoyances do not take Him by surprise. In fact, they are His intention for you.
He uses these things to show you what is in your heart. Then He says, “Now, come into my hands and let us see what we can do with that.”
The interruptions in your day are God’s invitation to dwell in Him. Let Him hold your heart-clay and make it soft. Let Him fill you with His radiating goodness so that when life screeches to a halt, His is the One who fills the void.