Room for Doubt


Mackenzie Madsen Unga Brave Little Lungs

Dear Mackenzie,

Funny how life seems to always be racing through this revolving door of new views, new habits, new resentments and new goals; only to feel yourself stop unexpectedly, look around and find those loose strands of the people we were back then and still are today and probably always will be. And if you pull at those threads long enough, you’ll find they lead right to where you’ve always been. Everything changes, just as sure and just as quietly as it all somehow remains the same; versions of yesterday. Maybe funny isn’t the right word, maybe there isn’t a right word. All I know is that I woke up this morning and noticed that one of the few things I seem to still recognize about myself and my life is the puffy-faced reflection staring back at me from the bathroom mirror. It seems to wear a few new lines, a new sense of weary, a little fuller than it used to be. But it’s the same face, I guess. I still have the same bump on my forehead that pokes out in the right lighting, still have the same patchy eyebrows, same freckled nose and chronically chapped lips. And I think to myself, maybe funny is the perfect word.

In the span of one year, we’ve danced with the ups and downs of life or death, weaved in and out of hello’s and goodbyes, pleadings and gratitude, hope and doubt. Yet, in the eye of this storm of change, the elements of our predicament seem the same. As if, in fact, no time has passed at all. That it was only yesterday when we first heard the diagnosis; the devastation still fresh. The script hasn’t changed much, for that matter. Doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, renowned surgeon after renowned surgeon have all adopted and parroted the same handful of words: “probability”, “suspicion”, “restriction”, “success rate”…”I don’t know”. It gets old after the hundredth time, after the hundredth trip to the hospital, after the hundredth cafeteria hotdog.

Mackenzie Madsen Unga Brave Little LungsWhat is it that’s taking your breath and threatening your life? How did you get it? Is there something we can do to stop it or slow it down? What’s the next step? How long will we have to wait? What are our other options? Are we in the right place? Are we doing the right thing? Are we forgetting something? Why can’t they be more clear? Why havent’ they called us back? Why hasn’t the last payment been posted? Why does that dashboard light keep going on in my car? Why won’t my phone charge? Why am I still awake at 3:00AM? Who’s that tired and confused-looking guy in the reflection of the elevator door?

Don’t answer that. In fact, don’t answer any of those questions because they’re all the wrong ones to ask, I think. And what’s the use in having answers to the wrong questions? Don’t answer that either. Because maybe (just maybe) we already have all the answers we really need, the only answers that matter, sprung from the questions that only need to be asked once (funny how that’s almost always the case).

The answer is: life is frail and we’re all doing our best to make it last and last well. The answer is: there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do to guarantee anything in this life and that that’s okay. The answer is: every season of life will usher in its own flavor of pains and joys, hello’s and goodbyes. The answer is: that’s why we’re here and if we can’t see it we’re missing the point.

The answer is: I love you. And I’m as much a part of your experience as anyone could possibly be, without simultaneously inhabiting your body, wearing your exact brand of trial. I know you because I am you. What brings you joy, magnifies the joy within me. And when the pain and fear inside you finds surface, reminding us of our paper thin mortality, I sink into a child’s fear – running in terror from the monsters plotting in the shadows of a million unknowns.

Mackenzie Madsen Unga Brave Little Lungs

The Answer is: God is real. He is active in our lives. He cares for us in our sickness and sorrow just as he would for a nation at war or for a child who can’t find home; for a scared husband pleading in earnest, through will and wail, for the one thing he can neither form nor reclaim: time. And not too much time, I’m not greedy. Just enough. Just enough to time make sense of it all, to find our bearings and offer a cautionary tale to others on the same path. Just enough time to right the wrongs I’ve committed and the wrongs I don’t yet know I’m committing. And then to write them. Just enough time to finally finish War and Peace, to spend a weekend with you at the Davenport Hotel and to just accept the fact that we are going to buy and restore an Airstream trailer and take that cross-country roadtrip whether I like it or not.

Just enough time to prepare for the approaching day when the questioning stops and when the cause, purpose and reason for it all starts to unfold itself before us. I sometimes imagine that quiet morning when you and I touch the face of tomorrow and re-remember all the things we once knew. We’ll wonder why we ever questioned in the first place and how, all the while, everything was just as it ought to have been. We’ll see how time was not as it seemed, that it’s round and constant and all at once; that there are no lines between tenses. That doubt is not the enemy to faith but, if accepted and tempered, it is the dormant fire of faith’s elements. That every answer, since the very beginning, was in the palms of our own hands. And that it was you and me all along.

Funny, isn’t it?

Love, H

1 Response
  • Helen Jamison
    August 31, 2016

    Always so beautiful Henry!

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