My sister called me on the phone, weeks ago. She was flying from somewhere to somewhere else, chasing new dreams and new beginnings. Moving forward, because we really don’t have any other choice.
She’d fallen apart in the middle of the airport. A sweet young girl, newly pregnant, perfectly excited, flying somewhere with her momma. A future momma and grandma, full of cookie making, barefoot, handholding dreams.
And my sister? She couldn’t do it. Their joy, it was too big. And in that moment, her grief, so much bigger.
“I had to walk away, Laura. You know what I mean? They were so excited and I couldn’t talk to them and I just walked away.”
I felt it, even across the phone line. That keen sense of loss, of pain, of what should have been. I understood her choice, her actions; their delight and her sorrow couldn’t possibly share the same space under that sweeping airport terminal ceiling.
I could picture her walking away, pulling on her daughter’s hand. Manners forgotten, etiquette disregarded. Ignoring the, “Mom, you’re holding my hand too tight.” For that brief moment, I imagine her wholly broken under the weight of all that we had lost.
Overlooked. Forgotten. Angry. Dejected. A million different ways to describe the broken heart desperate for the miracle that someone else is getting. That someone else got.
A million different ways to feel when the miracle isn’t yours.
It begs the age-old adage, doesn’t it, that “life’s not fair.”
So it feels anyway, likely to all of us, at one weary time or another.
I wonder though, if fair is really what any of us want. What any of us need.
Jerry Sittser, in A Grace Disguised, says:
“On the face of it, living in a perfectly fair world appeals to me…In such a world I might never experience tragedy; but neither would I experience grace…The problem of expecting to live in a perfectly fair world is that there is no grace in that world, for grace is grace only when it is undeserved.”
I understand the appeal of a fair life. Right now, more than ever, I understand that. Tragedy and grief, they’d have no space in a life lived within the confines of fair. I cannot say that I do not like the sound of that.
But as with most things, there are two sides to every shiny coin. And in choosing one, I cannot have the other.
A fair life is one in which I get what I deserve.
A fair life is one in which I do not get what I don’t deserve.
A fair life leaves no room for grace and I’m not sure that’s life at all.
My sister, again, flashes across my mind. Quickly striding away from the painful truth that life, down here anyway, is not fair. I hurt for her, for me, for all the ones who have or are or will bear the burden of an unfair life.
But I’m grateful too, in the still, quiet months after what appears to be our own unanswered miracle.
For grace sits right in the middle of the brokenness and pain of this unfair life and saves me. Saved my mom. Saves us all.
A King on a cross, our burdens on His back.
The only one who deserved any of it was me. Was you.
“For grace is grace only when it is undeserved.”
It wasn’t fair, not to Him. But that’s the whole point.