“Let me tell you a story,” Estevan said. “This is a story about heaven and hell. If you go visit hell, you will see
a room like this kitchen. There is a pot of delicious stew on the
table, with the most delicate aroma you can imagine. All around, people
sit, like us. Only they are dying of starvation. They are jibbering
and jabbering, but they cannot
get a bit of this wonderful stew God has made for them. Now, why is
are starving because they only have spoons with very long handles. As
long as that.” He pointed to the mop, which I had forgotten to put
away. “With these ridiculous, terrible spoons, the people in hell can
reach into the pot but they cannot put the food in their mouths. Oh,
how hungry they are! Oh, how they swear and curse each other!” he said.
“Now,” he went on,
“you can go and visit heaven. What? You see a room just like the first
one, the same table, the same pot of stew, the same spoons as long as a
sponge mop. But these people are all happy and fat. Perfectly, magnificently well-fed, and very happy. Why do you think? The people in this room are feeding each other.”
Then he pinched up a chunk of pineapple in his chopsticks, neat as you
please, and reached all the way across the table to offer it to Turtle.
She took it like a newborn bird.
adapted from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, The Bean Tree
* * *
Two cheap plastic potty chairs sit side-by-side in the kitchen. On them sit my twin boys, half-naked, both nearly two-and-a-half years old.
Pajama-clad, I sit cross-legged in front of them, flipping my way through picture books. Outside, the wind-chills are below zero and here on the old wooden floors it’s drafty and cold. Isaiah sits primly on his potty, hands folded neatly, a look of delighted expectation on his face and Levi looks similarly happy with the addition of a palpable sense of confidence.
By the end of the morning I’m frazzled.
There’s pee on the floor and I’m not sure whose it is.
Wet spots lay scattered throughout the house and I’m unable to accurately discern between melted puddles of snow and urine. There was a poopy incident, which we all know is the worst, and as I’m putting shoes and socks onto still-pudgy feet in preparation for taking the older ones to school, I notice poop on the bottom of a little foot.
They’re diapered in the van and it feels like oh-so-much of a relief that I wonder whether I can hack this potty-training business at all. Some have suggested that I train them one-by-one and, driving along, it does seem simpler.
But here’s the thing, one boy has the ability, but lacks the will, while the other has the will, yet lacks the ability and I’m hoping, secretly, that they will somehow pull each other along.
It’s happened before.
Levi, our baby B, was pulled into the world feet first after what Drs refer to as an Internal Podalic Version. After a good five minutes of wrestling he emerged breathless and badly bruised on his ankles and feet. The bruising and trauma led to a tough bout of Jaundice which left our wee-little-warrior exhausted nearly all of the time.
All of our babies experienced Jaundice so we were prepared and stripped him down to nurse, hoping the fresh air would keep him awake, but after an initially weak latch, he would drift off to sleep, too drowsy to be bothered with food. Between blood draws and dropping weight, we worried about our little man.
My husband learned to finger-feed him milk I pumped, teaching him to suckle a syringe.
Meanwhile, his twin brother, Isaiah, was a nursing champ. Born a good ten minutes before his brother, he latched on with a ferocity in the recovery room.
Finally, desperate to be home with our older two, longing to get the all-is-well signal from the pediatrician, we decided to try tandem nursing. We practiced popping Isaiah on, letting him work for the let-down, then bringing Levi in on the other side at the crucial moment, so that both could get the gush of milk.
I don’t remember if this was something we read in a book or if a helpful nurse gave us advice, but I do remember watching those boys and realizing how the one was leaning on the other already, how one’s strength was carrying the other’s weakness.
This is how it is with twins, with two who fit together like puzzle-pieces in a womb for nearly nine-months. They enter life paired and they learn both to lean and support from an early age because there are times when life depends on it. One runs to get me when the other is hurt and each serves as the other’s primary interpreter. If one has a cookie, he waits expectantly to be sure his brother will too and, when they have to, these two two-year-olds share and take turns for as long as their desire-filled bodies can stand it.
What I’m noticing is not the peculiarity that it happens to be this way for them, but the possibility that it might be this way for all of us.
Paul tells the church in Galatians that in bearing each other’s burdens, they will be fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). Of course, this can be taken to unhealthy extremes and the phrase “one another” is key to the verse, but Paul is getting at the heart of the bible in his teaching here. Elsewhere the apostle persistently refers to his readers as “brothers and sisters in Christ.”
We are related, whether we like it or not, both as believers and members of one body, but also as human beings. One of the most significant aspects of the creation account in Genesis 1 is the clear depiction of the interdependence of all things – all things made to exist in interdependent relationship with each other and with God.
So let me ask, ever so gently, have you learned to lean? To be carried by the strength of another (which is to be the recipient of sheer grace)? Have you learned to carry? To lift another along without resentment or judgment, but to simply give of your own deep giftedness (which is to be a conduit of sheer grace)?
This is the law of Christ, this is the kingdom of God come down in our midst, when we carry each other, when we bear with each other in weakness and strength.
This post is linked with #TellHisStory.