Kouraj

I named my son Levi because God told me to. I had a list of 8 names that I liked. I was 7 months pregnant. Up until then, he just swam around inside me, this constant reminder of how everything was about to change. I went to mass on a Tuesday morning, with my list, and asked God to get it over with. Show me a name, make me connect. The gospel was about Levi, the rich tax collector, who at the sound of his name and the simple beckoning of Christ, stood and followed Him. I saw it so clearly before my eyes, a beautiful cloak draped over this man with curly black hair, his chin high as he sat at his post. And then He appears, the image of perfection, and Levi raises his head and meets his eyes. I see his heart inside of him immediately struck, his gaze captured, and he rises without thinking, before a word was even spoken. Christ nods at him, and Levi doesn’t look back. Not once. He goes and follows Jesus and he becomes Matthew. It took courage, but he did it. Then the priest gave his homily on the courage of Levi, how we all should pray to trust Christ before a word is even spoken. So for the first time maybe, I spread my fingers over my belly and whispered his name. Levi. You’ll be Levi, and I’ll pray everyday that you have the courage to follow Christ.


It wasn’t until I named him that the fear really settled in. I would take a shower just so I could cry, every time knowing I was bathing in my own shame, covering myself in water but never feeling clean. I’d lie on my bed at night and imagine all the ways I’d messed up. I’d play back in my head how it all started, when it started, where it started. Still to this day I cannot pinpoint the moment when I jumped, and the spiral downward began.


But now, when I think about these things, I almost want to laugh. There’s a season for everything, turn, turn, turn. There’s a time for defeat and there’s a time for rising. How can we serve God if we’re always feeing under, being defined by our mistakes and afraid to take another step for fear of falling. King David, overwhelmed by lust and desire and falling, falling, falling. And he looks to God, on his knees, and begs for mercy. But in the same breath he asks for the wisdom and the strength to lead others to God. I spent so much time looking down, afraid to even lift my eyes heavenward, that I missed so much opportunity to listen.


Levi sure is courageous. Courageous to crawl to the ends of the bed and then dive. To climb up the stairs at 6 months old. To fly to Haiti and not care at all. To bite me. He will be ok. I pray everyday he knows God’s thoughts like he knows his own. He’s settled so deeply inside of me now it sometimes still feels like I’m carrying him around in me. Our God is a redeeming God. There is no question about that.


With Michel being back the house is lighter. There’s a joy that runs through here like electricity, and whoever enters gets shocked. There’s a loudness that seeps into your bones and makes you want to dance, run, move. Levi is always laughing. He sees his father and throws his head back and giggles. Then he runs over and bites me. I guess I’ll take this for now. Michel and I have different versions of the future. We don’t see the same thing unfolding. After a few days of talking about this we decided just to give it up and live the days instead of talking about them. Now we’re back to joking and playing and feeling united. We are three but we are one, this family of mine. And God is continually making my winding paths straight.


With Spring so near I feel like I could burst. We walked around our town green yesterday, then stopped by the library, where Levi successfully attacked another 9 month old because he was overexcited to see another child. I got lost in books, and had to peel myself away. We finished the day with evening mass and all I could do was cry. Cry for how simple life is. Cry because I don’t know how to hold the thankfulness for what my life has become. Cry because soon the season will change, and my lungs won’t have to hide in the stale inside air, and my son will be outside walking and playing, and there will be nights under the stars in sticky air where I can stay up reading.


If we open our arms to change, and be patient, God will do big things. Even the tiniest crack in our heart is enough to let Him through. Everyday I struggle to give this much, to push aside my selfishness and impatience and sinfulness and ask Him to work in me. Work! Move! Change! Make me grateful, oh Lord, make me grateful.


I’ve been thinking so much recently about the past and how I’ve gotten to this very moment. It’s important, I think, to remember where we’ve come from, so that we learn in the process, but I think I’m ready to start letting things go. Letting myself forget things that I simply don’t grow from, that do nothing to benefit me anymore. I am here, now, so why do I keep looking back? I’m going to finish my book about the earthquake, and then close that chapter. My feet are telling me they are back on steady ground.


Oh but how I still fail every day. And how every day, He lifts me back up. This is the mistake I will not make again. To let myself get so beaten down that I forgot how to look back up, that I forget that grace is what will pull me through. No, I pray that when I fall, His mercy is all I see. That I may be blinded by it. It’s all I can ask in this world.


Pran kouraj. Take courage.

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