My heart is often bitter. One might say my heart is hard, turned against things I once held dear. The winter makes me feel the brittle, brutal bitterness of the quiet solitude that comes from realizing there’s no god in here but me. I brace myself against the cold, against the darkness. The past two winters were so exquisitely difficult. We had three children under four, power outages, feet of snow and harsh, unplayful temperatures. We were isolated. I felt oppressed by the walls and the small bodies and the constancy. I marinated in my bitterness. I sang my sad song of woe until I was hoarse. No one could hear it above the crying babies.
As this past winter approached, I could feel a tightening in my soul, a hardening in preparation. I could feel the fear creep in. The fear of solitude, of darkness, of not seeing friends, of being trapped, toiling in the little sad story I tell myself I have. But I vowed to not close my heart completely. I left my heart open, just a crack. And I unclenched my fists, just a little. You cannot receive with a closed hand.
And receive I did.
The mild winter was still dark. And my heart remained somewhat bitter. But friends reached out. They called for impromptu gatherings at the park. They cooked us pots of soup. They excused my noisy mess and packed into my winter house for kid-screaming attempts at meals and play and togetherness. Friends called and emailed and stopped by with freshly baked bread or chocolates. Family reached out and took the kids for weekends. I opened my hands and discovered abundance.
This week is Passover week. Our friends invited us over for seder this past weekend. My parents, conservative evangelical Christians, came with us. I was a little nervous, but, again, I purposed to leave room in my heart, an extra cup for hope you might say. It was slightly chaotic, as any seder with two sets of twin toddlers would be, but my friend Susanna kept bringing us back to the Haggadah, turning our minds back to the ritual and the meaning. She continued to remind us that this ritual, this order of remembrance, was not just about something that had passed long ago. It is about feeling the oppression, tasting the tears and then rejoicing in our own freedom while aching for those still enslaved.
The story of the escape from Egypt is not about a particular leader or a particular country or a particular people. We are all oppressed. We all suffer. We all know the bitterness and the taste of sweat and tears. And we all know that others suffer now while we sit and celebrate. I get that. I love that. I can celebrate liberation and hold in my heart the hope for the liberation of others. But my favorite part of the Haggadah was the singing of Dayenu. It means “it would have been enough for us” and is sung to celebrate all of the gifts the Israelites received. It would have been enough to receive just one gift, but they received many.
My oppression has not been so great, not really. The most difficult time is the one I give myself. And my struggle the past two winters was to handle the great gifts of three very small people, massive gifts of great weight and great value. And this past winter, with friendships that grew in tight quarters and meals eaten in dark nights, was heavy with the bounty of fellowship. And now it is Spring, sunny warm and colorful. The crack in my heart is streaming in the light so vibrantly that I’m blinded.
My life would have been enough. My husband would have been enough. My children would have been enough. My friends would have been enough. My home would have been enough. The winter would have been enough. But I get Spring.
I’ll never understand why my life is so filled when there are so many who suffer so greatly on this earth. I’ll never understand slavery and oppression and why we treat each other so badly. I’ll truly never understand the nature of the universe or comprehend if there is a higher being who gifts in ways both painful and joyous. But in keeping with the Passover celebration of freedom and the Easter celebration of life over death and the ancient celebrations of the return of the light, I am dancing and singing Dayenu.
The winter would have been enough.
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