After a long day of fun in the sun, playing ball, flying a kite and grilling out, we turned on to our quiet street, a load of happy sun-kissed people, worn and ready for baths and bed. But in the shade of a tall tree, we noticed two ducks sitting right on the street. We unloaded ourselves and crossed the tar, hoping to get the Mallard and his wife to stand and rush, inadvertently removing themselves from the real danger of a vehicle tire.
The male stood and led the way, drawing his lady to a nearby tree, hopping up and over the curb to reach a spot to hide behind the trunk. Then we saw it, the way she was walking, one leg flinching with the effort. She was injured, slow, tired. She didn't panic as birds do. She seemed unconcerned, no energy left to fight her fear.
So we said things like "Oh look, she's hurt." And we watched her limp slowly over the curb, struggling to lift herself.
My heart was breaking, even for a hurting bird, watching her pain and wishing I could end it. I was biting back tears and trying to answer all of the three year old questions coming my way. Her end was very near, I could see that. My controlling tendencies started to hop around in my head and heart. For a moment, I tried to think of a way to fix the situation. Then I started to think about what our pastor had said that morning, about the inevitable pain of life. He said it like it is, "Your life will never be void of suffering. Never. That's just LIFE." Then he talked about how it's not so much about the suffering itself, it's about whether or not we have the faith to believe in greater purposes. Do we truly believe that God does not just leave us in our pain, does not strike us down with ailments and death with a big stick, but that He takes all of it and works it together for good? That pain is an inevitable result not of God's will, but of a world that fell away from Him? That He will rescue us at times, and not at others, according to the very best bigger picture that only He can see? That kind of trust is terrifying.
It won't stop the pain, it will simply bring hope in place of despair.
Asher watched the duck so closely, without a sound for the longest time. Until suddenly, a guttural cry came from him, a heart-piercing and loud, "OOOOH, ooowie....OOOH." There was so much sadness in his sound, buried in layers of empathy. Our friend who was with us, watched him and let out a soft, "Wow." Yes. That boy knows pain. And so, he loves any creature deeply enough to feel theirs with them. I suppose that's what we're to do with all this suffering. Love, feel for each other, lifting the burden even just a little, in a moment on the street as we observe, feeling helpless.
Miles stepped closer, carefully inching his way toward the ducks like a curious moth to an intriguing flame, firing off questions about what happened, why is her leg like that, and did we run her over when we drove by? "No, honey. No. She was like this before we came along, we didn't do it." He thought about it for a while and then he said, "God doesn't like it that the duck is hurting."
No, I don't think God does like it even one bit. And knowing that He doesn't somehow lifts the fear of the inevitable suffering in our future. If He doesn't like pain, He groans as Asher did, because He too knows pain, and I know that when He cries out, something happens. Peace. Mercy. Grace. Love.
Asher's groans, my tears, and Miles' questions serve their purpose in reaching the ears of a God who I believe cares deeply. Our cries are love. He is love. Love even for a Mallard duck, limping on a quiet street. How much greater is our love for each other, all held together by His love for us? When we enter each other's pain, we're showing a level of trust that we may not have even known was there. And it's good.