Last week, my husband and I attended a dinner party with several other couples – some of whom we had known for years, and some who we didn’t know at all. It was a relational group – conversations flowed easily, and we made connections of mutual friends, colleges, churches, and interests that could have been charted like a constellation map. Eventually, we migrated to the living room to congregate over dessert. The “get to know you” question of the evening: “As a couple, what has been the highlight and what has been the lowlight of the year?” It shouldn’t have been a particularly difficult question to answer. The couples were given a few minutes to discuss with each other prior to answering in the larger group. I was stopped. Not by the question, but by my scrambling for an answer.
Like a mad woman searching frantically for keys that I was sure I had just seen, I found myself digging through my purse full of memories from the last year. Surely there was a major disappointment somewhere. I was able to surface the highlights rather quickly. But to my own surprise, I couldn’t seem to locate the doubtless difficult times with the same ease. I’m well aware that life is a grab-bag full of good and bad, and that some folks seem to beat the odds regarding pulling out more prizes than duds, at least from appearances. But our history, although peppered with some delightful treasures, has been one with considerable struggle. Wow. Perhaps this year has been different.
I finally came around to acknowledging that this year has indeed been one of unexpected respite. Isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for? A season filled with richness of experience, joyful celebration, and relative peace. The glass was unusually full. Then why did I have a faint feeling of sadness like a microscopic crack threatening to siphon my merriment, drop by drop? Then it slowly dawned upon me. I had a vague sense that I’ve felt this way before.
~ As I watched my beautiful newborn sleep, I reveled in inexplicable delight… yet I secretly feared that he may not wake up
~ When a year’s worth of uncertainly came to an end, resulting in our stay in Charlotte, a new job, and a move to a wonderful neighborhood… as we sighed with relief, there was an underlying “what if we loose this?”
~ When medical tests returned negative – an up-to-date affirmation that I was healthy… but what about next time?
“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.” Henri Nouwen
So maybe, just maybe, the microscopic crack in the glass is there for our own protection. Perhaps it is the way in which our Father gently reminds us that we were not made for this world, and that even the best days – or years – fall short of the glory which He has prepared for us. When we no longer try to fill our own glasses with that which can evaporate, rather we finally find ourselves basking in an ocean of eternal perfection.
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9