You would've thought my neighbor had hung the moon when he handed a shiny balloon to each of my children last night.
And then you would've thought someone had died when shortly after, Jameson lost his grip on the balloon string and saw it soar away into the night sky.
Uncontrollable screams and tears as he crumpled onto the ground with his hands covering his eyes.
To my two year old son, in that moment, that balloon was EVERYTHING.
It was his to enjoy.
And then suddenly it wasn't.
And his world fell apart.
We can all relate to that, can't we? Not necessarily over a lost balloon, granted. But when we lose something or someone so dear to us, we cry HARD.
I'm sure that many folks would attempt to console my child's cries over the lost balloon with something along the lines of, "Aww, Jameson, it's okay! Don't worry about that. Look at this! I've got something ELSE you'll like!" Some would even shush him. "Don't you cry! It's OKAY!" (which is funny, because their hearts KNOW it's not okay.)
But when you're two, a lost balloon is DEVASTATION. And when you're two, you don't know how else to express that except through screams and tears. I want to give my children the WORDS for their feelings. If they, as young as they are, can begin to decipher the complexity of emotions that well up in their hearts, they will be so much better prepared to understand themselves as adults.
And when I'm devastated, I want people who can understand and mourn alongside me. I want people who can enter my "yuck" and acknowledge how difficult it is. I don't want to be shamed or silenced for feeling the way I do in that moment. I don't want a Bible verse, or a similar story about someone else, or the greatest piece advice.
Above all, I want to be heard. I need to feel like someone has truly grasped and empathized with the yuck before I can listen to anything else they say. Maybe that's just me.
Picking Jameson off the ground and wiping the tears from his little face, I said, "Oh baby, I know that makes you sooo sad to lose that balloon. It IS sad." I held him close as he cried into my shoulder.
In our house, it's okay to cry. It's okay to be sad. I don't want to shut down my child's cries to their mama. I don't want to scold them for expressing sadness.
Our heavenly Father gives us permission, and even the WORDS(!!) to expressing our lament and sadness in the Psalms. Thankfully He doesn't just pat our bottom and tell us "shh, shh, it's okay, you guys."
Soon after he felt understood, Jameson calmed down. (Without the promise of another balloon or another toy in his hand to distract him this time, I'll add! ha!)
But for the next half hour, he walked around as if shell-shocked, repeatedly saying, "My bawoon fwew aWAY and it's going up to the MOON!" It was obvious he was trying SO hard to process what had just happened.
Isn't that often how our brains work after loss? It's like the tape is on re-play, and we're trying to make sense of that which doesn't make sense. We weren't created for loss. It's a heart-breaking result of the Fall. (It was at this point I made up a silly little story about how the balloon might go give the moon a little kiss... ha ha)
But towards the end of the night, he had worked himself up all over again (probably out of sheer tiredness). "Are you upset about your balloon again?" I asked him gently.
"Yes," his pitiful little voice whimpered.
What if, in that moment, I had chosen the route of "hush your crying"? Isn't that often what other people so often do to us when we cry out about pain from our past? Like we should be OVER IT ALREADY. (Which makes me wonder... do we give people permission to express the same hurts over and over? Or do we subtly imply that things should be "fixed" after our first discussion?)
Holding Jameson's hand, I had to come down to a two-year-old level, "That was sad that your balloon flew away, and we were sad about it, but we don't have to always stay sad. We can be sad for a time, and then we're not sad anymore."
I saw the wheels in his head turning. His eyes sparkled in agreement, embracing his new "freedom" not to feel sad.
Moments later, I watched a beautiful exchange.
Caroline came up to her little brother and said, "Jameson, that made ME so sad to see you lose your balloon that I want to give you MY balloon."
And her seven-year old vanilla hand oh-so-gently placed the balloon string into his little chocolate one.
My friends! This is what Christ does for us in our sorrow and our brokenness! He, as a perfect substitute, sees our sadness and our need, and He comes and freely gives us HIS righteousness. What a Savior.
Jameson's hands never let go of the new balloon. It was like his life depended on it. He wasn't going to let that happen again.
I want to cling to Christ like my son grasped that little string.
But there's an even tighter grip involved, and that is, of course, Christ's grip upon us.
He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast,
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.