Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
Psalms 66:20 (NIV)
How deep is your love for your children, Lord! Though we stumble and sin, you never give up on us but patiently wait for us to fall on our knees.
How you must suffer to see us grovel because of our stubborn ways. How you must long for us to listen when your Holy Spirit whispers to us. But your love is so deep, so wide, that you will wait, and wait . . . until we realize how far we’ve fallen away.
On our knees and drowning in our sin, only then do we turn to you in humility and prayer. Without hesitation and with open arms, you welcome us back into your arms. Oh, the inexplicable joy you must have when you hear us call and run to you!
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
The imposed lockdown is bringing out the goodness in people but it is also brewing spitefulness in the hearts of many. Perhaps the pressure of being on lockdown forces people, including myself, to express our freedom and rights through impulsive responses and artless retorts in social media. A very poor and childish reason, I know. I used to imagine my heart as a musical box that plays sweet praises. But recently, it looks more like Pandora’s box.
Social distancing in public may be the new norm, but not when it comes to social media. All social media apps have been burning with chat groups and it’s not unusual to drown in a hundred messages a day. Besides passing information, news, jokes and personal updates — which are all good in itself, the same propels people to impulsively react to unsavory news and opinions.
Before the lockdown, our work and busy lives were our safeguards to texting: we censored and prioritized essentials; we gave thought and time to compose our responses. With the lockdown and all the free time on our hands, our safeguards and filters are gone. We react on impulse, giving off-hand comments, using brash, negative words, not mindful of how it affects others and our hearts. The danger with this behavior is that it so easily dominates and silences our good sense — my good sense.
For the past days, I have been reacting and responding with minimal filter and it has affected friends who are dear to me; and more importantly, it has greatly diminished the joy in my heart. The usual joyful music that my heart sings was replaced by incessant criticism of the leaders in government. My peace was driven out and constant worry about food and supplies for the daily wage earners took its place. The rising number of CoVid patients and mortality replaced the blessings that I used to count. Kind and encouraging words were locked out and the substitutes were nasty and boorish talk.
It only took a few days for my heart that used to be a musical box turn into Pandora’s box. The change happened too easily, without much resistance or conflicting emotions. How alarming was that?
So for the remainder of the lockdown, I’ve decided to step back from social media and limit my time on it. Just as I was before the lockdown, I’ll spend more time reading and reflecting on God’s word; on reading YA novels and writing, pursuing hobbies and other interests. I intend to get back what I lost: my joy in the Lord, His peace, my hope in Him. I intend to count the numerous blessings He brings my way and to give His joy to those around me. This time, I will censor my responses in social media.
And, by the end of the Pandemic, I’d like my heart to sing its sweet, musical praises again, just like a musical box.
I hear movement in the bedroom. She’s awake and must be hungry. I hear her shuffling to wear her slippers, then a grunt as she tries to stand on her own. “Wait a moment mama, stay seated” I say, loud enough for her to hear. “Don’t stand or you will lose your balance” I hurriedly add as I groggily get up from bed.
“I know, I know! I can do this myself!” mama says angrily.
Without seeing her, I know she is already trying to stand from her bed. I catch her as she falters. I sigh and support her to her wheelchair. This is our morning routine: mama getting up at sunrise, stubbornly trying to stand and walk, not minding my pleas and advise. She is always short-tempered, snapping and throwing barbed words at people, but more often at me.
I settle her in the living room, in her favorite armchair to prepare her breakfast. She was not always like this. Just a few years ago, she was still alert and smart, brisk, caring and funny. She would wait for me to get home late from work, and even if we’d both had dinner separately, we’d have a snack and talk until the wee hours of the morning, talking about anything and everything. She never asked me about work and my love life though; not even with my siblings. She trusted and respected us to leave those matters to us. I would volunteer a few snippets about work but she never criticized. And, she would be the one to come to my defense when relatives asked me about marriage and being single at my age. “She’s happy and fulfilled being single” she would say. Or “better to be single than to be tied to a lousy husband” she would say in a matter of fact manner.
Funny, but being single was never an issue at home, not with mama. She welcomed my past boyfriends — no matter how unusual they were — spoke to them and inquired about their career and family. Whenever she ceased seeing one of them, she would inquire and only then give her opinion of them. “Why didn’t you say so” I would demand then. She would only shrug and say “It didn’t last anyway.”
“Do you want me to marry?” I asked her years before when I turned 40yo.
“Only if it will make you happy” she said.
“Do you want me to have a baby?” I then asked.
She doesn’t answer right away, but slowly asked “Do you really want a child? That’s a lifelong responsibility. Just live the life you want. You have your nieces and nephews to enjoy.”
She knew me better than anyone else. I have a problem answering to anyone (besides her and my superiors at work), and have difficulty compromising; I dread the responsibility of caring for a child, or for another person. Having a child was not meant for me, and, more so with marriage.
And yet, here I am, caring for her, being responsible for her! Me, the least qualified child of hers volunteers to be her primary caregiver. Not by default because I’m single, but for love and respect for the woman who loved and continues to challenge me. My other married siblings could always take her into their more comfortable homes. But I also know too well that she is not one to play second fiddle to anyone; she has to be queen of the castle, the master of her own domain.
I make her a warm cup of chocolate and bring it to her. She has to drink with a straw now and sip slowly. I look at mama with her smooth skin and white, disarranged hair. I smooth out her hair. Before her illness, she took good care of herself and prided herself for it. It was mama who would warn us if we gained weight or spent too much time under the sun. She was our fashion critic. How she has changed!
As my career progressed, mama’s health deteriorated. She grew to be more difficult, more impatient, more unreasonable and angrier. Her witty and funny words turned to cruel, hateful words that left scars. Her trust for me turned to suspicion and skepticism. Even with caregivers and relatives to stay with her, mama demanded a familiar face to always be present.
I resigned from my work with trepidation. It has been 4 years now. Four yrs of caring, of hurtful words, of anger and tears. At night in bed, I would cry to God, asking for strength and compassion, for forgiveness as my heart turned hard and cold towards mama. I sought His presence moment to moment. Stripped of titles, positions and a career, it is His character that affirmed my worth. It is His Word that comforted me when I doubted mama’s love; and His truths that gave me strength to continue.
Mama’s caregiver comes in and greets her cheerfully. Mama likes her for Richelle is gentle and persuasive. I listen to their exchange and for a moment, the mama I know shines through. Then just as quickly, it disappears and the disease takes over. All right Lord, time for You and I to work together today!