There is a certain feeling I get that can only be described as timeless joy, bubbling up from somewhere deep inside of me. It has a twinge of nostalgia mixed in, and is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of security.
As a child, I can remember the feeling often came when my whole family was assembled at my grandparents' house, playing cork ball in the front yard and just enjoying being together. We would laugh as my grandfather "got his mojo working" and pitched a strike, and cheer when Nana finally emerged from the kitchen to take her turn at bat.
I can remember specifically feeling that way one snowy Saturday when I was in eighth grade. I had on my favorite Ole Miss sweatshirt, my first pair of GAP jeans, and some huge, gray wool socks I had stolen from my Dad. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. It was a day to be with my family and through my fourteen-year-old eyes, it looked like all was right with the world.
Findley and I used to drive around Nashville on Sunday afternoons when we were in college. We would get on the Natchez Trace Parkway and just drive. We weren't in a hurry and we certainly didn't have a destination. We were in love and it was enough just to be together. Driving along, holding Findley's hand and looking at rolling green farm land, the sense of timelessness would hit me. This is it, I would think. I don't want this moment to pass.
The sense of nostalgia that is mixed in with my happiest moments comes from the fact that part of me acknowledges they are fleeting. In my grandparents' yard, I was aware that we wouldn't be kids forever. That 671 East Drive wouldn't always be the center of my universe. That one day in the not-so-distant future, I would have to grow up. Driving around the countryside south of Nashville, I knew Findley and I were enjoying stolen moments. That one day soon we would have to face new responsibilities and obligations.
In these perfect moments, I wish I had a freeze button for my life. In that split second when the feeling washes over me, I want to hit 'pause' and bask in it forever.
Even as a child, I realized there was an eternal component to these moments. What I was able to be a part of was too precious to be a fleeting afternoon, lived out, but then lost forever. I think God gives us glimpses, teeny-tiny glimpses of course, but true glimpses of the joy we will experience in heaven. Our soul knows that the joy and security we feel in special moments with loved ones are gifts from God, and are too extraordinary to be temporary.
After Virginia was born, I was afraid I would never know that feeling of true contentment again. That the feeling of looking at shooting stars with my cousin on the deck of our beach house or that of watching a storm roll in on my parents' back porch would be tainted by the sorrow that had invaded my life.
My fears (as usual) were unfounded. Often when Findley and I are making the rounds at night to check on our three sleeping angels before we head to bed, that feeling washes over me and causes my heart to overflow with gratitude and joy. Sometimes it sneaks up on me, like last week when all five of us were on a walk on the trail. I was pushing Virginia, Findley was pushing Eliza, and Wills was running along next to us. I tried to take a picture in my mind because when they are grown, I know I will return to it often.
I sense that Virginia feels these moments of timeless joy, too. Yesterday we were on a walk and she was in her baby jogger. The trail was quiet and cool and we were just enjoying being together. She tilted her head back, looked me in the eyes, and smiled her most radiant smile.
"I know," I said. "I love you, too."
In those moments I get great clarity. I don't see Virginia's disability. I don't think about the messy house I left behind or the two fussy little ones I will return to. I feel a tremendous connection with my first born, a deep love which has no limits. I feel a true communion with the Almighty and get a glimpse of what is to come.
When I look at the times in my life when I have had that sense of nostalgia, joy and security all packed into one incredible instant, they were never times of great personal success. They were moments shared with a loved one or times when the natural beauty of the world gave me a glimpse of God's glory. I would have felt those moments just the same even if I had been in a wheelchair. I was never good at cork ball anyway. What I loved was the security of being surrounded by my family, and Virginia has that, too.
My hope is that Virginia will recognize these moments of timeless joy for what they are- windows into eternity. And that she will cling to the promise that it is pain and suffering that are fleeting. The joy and love she feels will remain forever.
Note: The best book on suffering I have read is Joni Eareckson Tada's When God Weeps. It is incredible. Joni talks about this same thing, but says it far more lyrically than I do.
"The delight I experience with my husband Ken is merely a hint, a whisper- a bite of chocolate- compared to the resounding joy that, in heaven, will sweep me away in a deluge of ecstasy... Every good pleasure on earth is but a shadow of its fulfillment in heaven." (p. 206-207)
"Heaven will not only be more than we can imagine, the "more" will go on forever. It will be timeless. It has to be; joy flows from God, God is eternal; therefore, so is joy. You instinctively know this when you are gripped by a timeless moment, an experience so precious, so perfect you wish it would last forever... Moments like these remind us of some other time or place... It's a yearning to pass through and reach the other side, as C.S. Lewis said. These moments- whether having tea on a spring afternoon or licking Popsicles and feeling safe- are whispering, 'One day you will bathe in peace like this... satisfaction will shower you... this joy will last forever.' This is what we as children feel. It's another hint of heaven, like choosing the happiest point in your life and having time stand still." (p. 208-209)