“That is deep enough, Jack.” It feels like the hundredth time that I have said the words. He turns to face me and flashes a smile, shooting out rays of joy that lightly skim across the river’s glassy top. “I won’t go any deeper,” he responds, giddy as he deliberately lifts his left toe up and over the water’s surface to step further away from me.
I sit on the bank of the river, my legs folded in the arms of an Adirondack chair, and watch this little boy, my little son, soak up the pleasure of water with the freedom of youth. As I watch him roll and splash in delight, I drink sweetness from a cup that is full. Longing to drink the sweet to the very last drop, I savor the taste and give thanks.
Jack raises his arms in the air, spins around and plops in the river’s sand. I laugh loud to make up for the laughter that would have surely erupted from his twin.
And then I taste it. Drops of bitter taint the sweet. I try to spit it out, for while sweetness goes down smooth, bitterness is hard to swallow. I long for Webb to be in the water with Jack, and I swallow bitter. I long to see in color again, without a screen of sad grey, and I swallow bitter. I long for our family to be whole, and the taste of sweet is now all but forgotten.
My soul and my cup are empty and longing never satisfies. Longing for something, for someone on earth, only stimulates and amplifies the thirst.
“Watch this, mommy,” he pulls his knees up high and stomps his feet in the water. New, big splashes emerge and his body shakes from all of the excitement. “Wow, Jack! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such huge stomping splashes.”
I know I am not the first to taste bitter mixed with sweet. But, how do I do it? How do I take and drink bittersweet from the cup, and be filled?
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’" (1 Corinthians 11:25).
No, I am not the first to taste bittersweet. For when I survey the wondrous cross, where sorrow and love flowed mingling down, I remember that He poured out bitter, and He poured out sweet. And remembering replaces longing, for remembrance fills the soul.
“Mommy, is it ok if I do this?” Jack creeps closer to the swamp. “No, bud. You need to stay where I can see you.” I must have said the words a hundred times. He responds by flashing a smile that sets the swamp ablaze, and I taste the sweet. I imagine a boy looking much like Jack following behind him, stomping and splashing, laughing loud, and I taste the bitter.
With two hands on the cup, I bring it to my lips and remember the God who first tasted bitter and sweet. He filled this cup with love, and He emptied this cup with love. He finished it to the very last drop, so that one day I might know bitterness only in memory. And I will swallow and be filled by sweetness alone.