Sunday, August 7, 2011

What's a Family For?

“Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way. We clearly understand that an athlete who resists rigorous training will never become a world-class athlete. We must be careful that we don’t resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.” Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy, General Conference, April 2011

His tiny face is dominated by the largest eyes I have ever seen on a baby and the thick shock of shiny yellow hair is a delightful contrast and surprise. His perfect head lay against the pillow on my lap, so that we could interact face to face while we rocked. It was our first opportunity to have a real interview – just Grammy and Little Boy Blue.

Of course, I had lots of questions and I asked them, but he was reticent to answer just yet. He knew I suppose, that his recollections of the home he’d left a week before were too brilliant for my dull brain; I might explode if he revealed too much. So instead, he kept his intelligence under wraps -- only he couldn’t keep the glow of it from spilling out of those huge, black eyes. I rocked, basked in his glory, and took up the slack in the conversation.
Grandma banter covers a lot of ground. For instance, Little Boy Blue is now oriented to nearly every Merit Badge. (I think he’s excited about Cubs.) Yet for all the talk, most of our bonding time was spent silently appraising one another; just staring; just considering the possibilities.
I must admit, when Old meets New like that, the bulk of “possibilities” are on a grand scale: what grandma doesn’t wonder if she is holding a future President of the United States or the genius who may cure cancer? On the other hand, and maybe because I had just attended Sir Henry’s memorial and graveside service, I realized with a slight shudder that “the possibilities” also included a great deal of loss and pain.

All of a sudden, I wanted to protect my Little Boy Blue from real life. And then I wanted to protect his parents. My imaginary umbrella grew and grew until it ballooned big enough to cover an entire group of people – the ones I call “family”.
What really saddened me momentarily was the thought that my umbrella was not made of some heavy Indian rubber, but was more of a parasol made of paper. Nothing I could do would ever shield my loved ones, especially Little Boy Blue, from the risks associated in the Plan of Salvation, nor would/should I desire such a thing. The prospect of growth, of growth all the way to perfection, over-ruled my natural instinct to squelch trouble and tribulation from having their sway.
And then there’s my baby girl, who will be married next Saturday. Talk about risk! I envision she and her Little-Boy-Blue-nephew jumping feet-first into very deep water, while I wait, somewhat helplessly, at pool’s edge to see how long before they come up for air. Each of them are surrendering all illusion of control, giving themselves wholly into the hands of others, with no other strategy or defense or protection other than love.
With that picture, the things I had been studying and musing about recently, finally all came together and sunk deep into my heart. The essence of it is this:
The rain and the sun in Father’s Plan of Happiness, his Plan of Redemption, our tailor-made Plan of Spiritual Maturation, is obviously not about deflecting pain. It’s about absorbing pain; greater and greater amounts of it. With each new addition to our family, through marriage or birth, the risks may be increasing, but from where else comes the joy of progress? Family life is not a way of hiding or shading from suffering, but a way of suffering purposefully. No family will ever come into being, or become ultimately successful,  who doesn’t accept that reality and relinquish control over life and one another, which, in fact, is precisely how love wins in the end and fills our lives with the peace and abundance we all crave.
I wanted to explain all that to Little Boy Blue as he lay on my lap: I wanted to teach him that instead of fearing “the possibilities”, he should completely and enthusiastically embrace them, even relish them, and that we, his family, would love him through every eventuality. But just as I was formulating the words, those great, dark eyes lit up, a quiver of a smile passed his lips, and I heard a petite voice say, “It’s alright Grammy, I’ll take good care of you. It’s gonna be so much fun.”


Bri... only she said...

and take care of us he does ... aren't we lucky?! ;)

Sara Lyn said...

This post reminds me a lot of Elder Christofferson's talk last Conference about chastening. He said the Lord wants to make us holy so we can abide a celestial glory and all the things that lead to that - how we should welcome chastening. I have been thinking about that a lot lately because I have not always welcomed chastening from the Lord. [Shame on me. :)] I don't know if it's a clear connection, but your post and his talk really go together to me.

Valerie said...

Beautiful! I've been having similar thoughts about wanting to protect my children and being afraid for the trials they might have to go through. Your little grandbaby is adorable.

Lois Brown said...

Beautifully said as always! That quote from last General Conference is/was one of my favorites I think of it often. Congratulations on your new grandbaby! Some day I hope to get one of those!!!