By Esther Hizsa 2013
Peace is joy resting, and joy is peace dancing.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon
September 1998 I got a phone call from my brother. “She left me,” he said and began to cry. As he filled in the details, a new reality unfolded, and there was no folding it back to the way things were before.
“I wish you weren’t so far away,” I said wiping the tears from my cheeks.
“That’s O.K. Call anytime,” I replied.
Once or twice a week my brother called. He’d talk and cry until he was too tired to say any more. And I’d listen, two thousand miles from his pain.
Two months after his wife left, my brother went for counseling. He told me about the sessions when he called. I listened, fascinated by what I heard. But in one conversation he asked me a question. All of a sudden it wasn’t just about him anymore.
“The counselor asked me about our childhood,” he said. “I told her I didn’t remember Mom or Dad ever holding us. Do you? Do you remember them hugging us?”
Not one memory came to mind.
“The counselor thought that was sad.”
“Hmm,” I said and looked up to see my husband pointing at his watch. “Oh, man. It’s 9:30! I’d better go or I’ll be late for work. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said.
I grabbed my bag, kissed Fred goodbye and drove to East Vancouver through the slushy snow. At ten I arrived for my sleepover shift at a group home for developmentally disabled adults.
I pushed the phone call from my mind and went about my duties. But when I climbed into bed I thought about what my brother had said. There was no getting around it: though my parents did their best, my siblings and I did not receive the affection we longed for as children. The counselor’s validation made me weep. And once I started to weep, I couldn’t stop crying. Finally I fell asleep with a song by Rich Mullins playing in my head:
Hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t you be my Prince of Peace?
The next morning as I helped one of the residents pick out clothes for church, she asked me if I felt better. She must have heard me crying.
Once I got home there was the usual rush getting the kids fed and out the door. We arrived at church while the congregation was singing the first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Behind us a woman came in with her family. She was carrying her four-month-old daughter in a car seat and set her down on the floor at the back of the church while she hung up her coat.
I crouched down in front of the baby and put on a smile. “I hear you’re playing baby Jesus in this year’s Christmas pageant,” I said. “Feeling up to the part?”
The baby stared back at me with ancient eyes as if she too knew I was grieving. She curled her fingers around one of mine and looked at me. At that moment I seemed as if she was holding me, as if she really was Jesus. I felt comforted.
The mom thanked me for watching her daughter and joined her family in the sanctuary. I stood there savoring the joy resting inside me.
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday; the memory is as crisp and clear as Christmas Day.
“I bring you good news of great joy,” the angel told the shepherds that first Christmas. “The Savior has been born.” The shepherds left their flocks and found baby Jesus wrapped in cloths, laying in a manger, and knelt down and worshiped him. They went home rejoicing, peace dancing in their souls.
We too rejoice for Jesus has come into our world, into our lives, and into our grief with tidings of comfort and joy.
Esther Hizsa lives in Burnaby, B.C. with her husband Fred. They have two children and two grandchildren. Esther works part time at as the associate pastor of New Life Community Church, has a Master of Divinity degree from Regent College, and is a trained spiritual director (SoulStream). But her first call is to writing. Her work been published in the MB Herald, SoulStream website and her blog, An Everyday Pilgrim http://estherhizsa.wordpress.com/.