Moving grief–and greed

I wrote this piece a week or so before we closed on our house, but Dave (husband) told me I couldn’t post it till after we were completely out of the house! 🙂 Seriously, though, despite my awful thoughts during the selling process (which you’ll read about later in this post), we do hope and pray the very best for the new owners of our old home. 

I wouldn’t normally consider greed as one of my besetting sins.

But when we decide to move, and we begin the process of selling our home…

the green-eyed nasty comes out.

I get insulted by offers that are lower than the asking price; I want to quibble (I don’t actually do it, but the impulse is there) over the inspection results; I begin to think of the homebuyers as “those people.”

Case in point: Two weeks ago, when we got an offer on the house—and it was a good one and such an answer to prayer—my first response was greedy.

Dave, very excited, got off the phone with our realtor and turned to me. “We’ve got an offer!”

He was ready to rejoice, but I wanted to know the amount. He told me.

My first words?

“That low?”

Dave wasn’t even mildly surprised. He laughed and called me out. “You get so greedy when we sell a house.”

Yes, I do.

And even though I try to fight it, it’s a constant all through the process. When the home inspection report from the city comes back, I say things like, “Shouldn’t the inspection report from when we bought the house have revealed this?” (What I’m leaving unsaid are these words: “…so the previous homeowners could have paid for the repair?”) When, during this current home-selling process, we got the request from the owners to provide two working garage door remotes, I said, only partly joking (I’m embarrassed to even admit this), “Someone told me that if an automatic garage door opener isn’t on the house listing, you can just unplug it and say it’s a manual.” Dave just stared at me after that one.

Every time this greed rises up like bile in my mind or actually vomits out my mouth, I’m appalled, and I try to figure out where it’s coming from (as if it simply can’t be a part of ME!); I pray about it; I try to talk myself out of it; I remind myself how really awful it is. After all, in this current sale, our home was on the market only two weeks—incredible!; the offer was good to begin with; when our realtor countered, the homebuyers accepted it; and their “fix-it” requests have been minimal. Knowing all this, I ask myself, “Jen, what is wrong with you?”

About a week after we sold our house, I was reading the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (fantastic book, by the way) and I came to a line that was so good, so applicable, it made me stop and put the book down. The narrator of the book, John Ames, a pastor, is reflecting on the long, lonely years following the death of his young wife and their only child. In particular, he is remembering when, during that time of singleness, he christened his best friend’s child. He said the correct words, he blessed the child, but his inward thoughts were quite different.

“…my heart froze in me,” he wrote, “and I thought, This is not my child…”

The line that follows that statement is the one that made me set the book down.

“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it.”

Oh.

Yes.

There is a grief in moving. I am leaving behind friends whom I love, neighbors whose stories I’ve learned, a house which has been a home, memories of Dave and I and our four children and our two international girls becoming a family…

…and there is a part of me that is flat-out jealous of the new homeowners. This right here is so good, I think, and what is ahead for us is so unknown that I’m simmer-level jealous of these people who are moving into what we are sorrowfully—though willingly—leaving behind.

I am, in John Ames’ words, taking offense at someone else moving into the happiness I’ve experienced here.

To be honest, I think there’s a good dose of penny-pinching, old-fashioned, straight-up greed involved as well.

So confession is in order; repentance is in order; but also in order is acceptance of the forgiveness of God.

Because it is in times like this–when I see some of the twisted nature of sin, its stem reaching deep into self-focus, its branches weaving through hurt and fear–that I remember I need absolution from Another, that there is no way I can ever pluck something like this from out of my heart.

A few days after I read the passage in Gilead, I read a section of Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz Weber, a Lutheran pastor, in which she was writing about this very thing. Forgiveness, she said, is not like a dry erase board that we are frantically trying to keep clean so God will be happy with us. Rather, it is freedom from the bondage of self, wrought for us by Christ, who is fully aware of our deep sinfulness, more aware than we ourselves are.

We need to know this truth about forgiveness, she says, and then she writes about the Maundy Thursday practice of individual absolution. In it she lays her hands on each congregant’s head and pronounces, “In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I proclaim to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, Amen.”

Jesus—not my efforts or repentance—sets me free from my sins, so that I may, as the prayer of confession says, “delight in (his) will, and walk in (his) ways, to the glory of His name.“

Amen!

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Needing and finding

Speaking of Chai (she's mentioned late in this post), here's a shot of her lounging on the only piece of furniture she's "supposed" to get on.

Speaking of Chai (she’s mentioned late in this post), here’s a shot of her lounging on the only piece of furniture she’s “supposed” to get on.

This morning* I crushed the spirit of one my children.

At least that’s what it felt like.

It was over an organizational issue we’ve been wrestling with ever since school started (well, actually, for years). It’s also an issue that this child refuses to really face as a problem. I hear “I’ve got this” and “No big deal” often enough that it makes me want to scream.

And this morning I did.

“When are you going to see this as a problem?”

“When are you going to admit you need help?”

“When are you going to stop telling me ‘I got this’ and start listening to what I and so many others are telling you?”

Oh, there was more—though God, in His grace, stopped me from saying at least some of the destructive things that were on the tip of my tongue.

But I went on and on. Not a dripping faucet, oh, no, a full-open tap.

And my child cried.

And I felt like, pardon my French, shit.

During it, following it, twinges of it even now.

After the tears, after my anger, I pulled my child aside in the kitchen, held this precious one close and said, “I can’t let you go to school without you understanding that my frustration doesn’t mean I don’t love you just the way you are.”

(And at the same time I said that, I thought, but that’s not what my earlier words and anger communicated!)

I affirmed this child’s wonderful qualities of kindness and generosity and oblivion to differences in other people and unawareness of standards that others set. This child is individual and easygoing and full of so much love.

“But you’re running into some things that are showing you that you have some areas of weakness, too—just like we all do—and until you admit them, you can’t grow in these areas. Do you understand that?” I asked.

My child nodded.

“I’m so sorry for the way I said it, though. There may have been things that needed to be said, but they shouldn’t have been said in anger, and I know I blew it and hurt you. I was wrong.”

My child nodded—but I knew that my apology, which also included “something to work on,“ was a lot for a kid to process.

We got lunches packed. We drove to school.

This child was the last to get out of the car “It’s really okay for you to be mad at me,” I said. “I did you wrong this morning.”

My child paused. Then said, “I love you, Mom.”

I was thankful there wasn’t an immediate statement of forgiveness. I was thankful this child was taking the time and the right to process.

But I barely made it down the carpool lane and around the corner before I began sobbing.

Oh, God, please heal the hurt I caused, I cried. Please come behind me with love and grace and mercy.

Heart churning, I tried to remember all I’d said, tried to sort out the good, the bad, the ugly. Some things felt as if they needed to be said—but in that way?

Then I simply quit, stopped my sorting and picking. “You’ll have to show me, Holy Spirit,” I whispered. “Reveal to me what You want me to see, help me to simply acknowledge my wrong, and then show me how to communicate that to my child. And, please, oh, please, draw this child close to Your heart.”

Home again, I cried more, on my knees, next to my bed.

It wasn’t completely about this morning any more. I’d just had a glimpse of how very fragile we all are, how easily relationships are damaged, how easily I could have said (and maybe did) something my child will carry through the rest of life.

And here's a much better pic of her, taken, of course, by my daughter Em

And here’s a much better pic of her, taken, of course, by my daughter Em

The dog heard me and came into my room. She pushed her way between me and the side of the bed and nuzzled my ear, and I was grateful for this warm-bodied creature sent by God Himself to comfort.

I found myself suddenly singing, the song itself a gift:

Lord, I come, I confess,

Bowing here, I find my rest

Without You, I fall apart

You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need you, oh, I need You,

Every hour I need you.

My one defense, my righteousness,

Oh God, how I need You.

What followed was a day of living into that song, cycling through needing and finding again and again.

Finding rest and rightness with God, and later, blessed reconciliation with my child.

And then, at the close of the day, another gift.

From the bathroom, where my child was getting ready for bed, I heard singing.

When the door opened, I heard it clear.

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You/Every hour I need You.”

“Hon, why are you singing that song?” I asked.

A smile. A shrug. “Don’t know. Just came to mind.”

We have a Lord who guides—and heals—our hearts.

Oh God, how we need You.

*I wrote this yesterday–about yesterday.