Moonchild of God

A ViewPoint by Angela Townsend

Line drawing of the moon over the ocean in gold and dark blue

It was always the moon.

Floppy rubber the size of a pizza, she glowed from my childhood wall. I cherished her craters and called her my friend.

On summer nights, she spoke of her Sculptor, piling poems into my little-girl heart. Full, she was blessed assurance, a bright benediction that all would be well. Slim and shy, she whispered fables, and I pictured myself nestled in the crescent with my legs dangling among the stars. Gibbous, she promised peace, all plump and in progress.

New, she summoned stars for a psalm, undaunted by the dark.

I looked for her by day, a bashful jewel in the blue sky. I looked for her inside myself, opalescence looking for rays.

She was not the light, but its lyric. The sun was strength, and she was song.

I was just learning the notes then, plucking them like plums. The sky was kind over my childhood, hymns and whimsy comforting my anxious heart. Our country church formed a sturdy constellation, doughty Dutch Americans kneading salt and light into community.

My poet mother and exuberant father made it natural to trust a loving God. Mom toted a book of Bible verses arranged by subject until it needed duct-tape surgery. Dad made our bookshelves buckle with theology and Tolkien.

When I had a stomach virus, Mom cupped my chin and turned my gaze to Jesus, who wept with me and held me like a sparrow. We sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” while making eggplant parmigiana and invented stories about pink baby elephants on the ride to piano lessons.

We lived wonderstruck in a world of comets and walruses, forsythia and folk music. Life was thrilling because we could not lose His love. We glowed because we were not the sun.

At six, I could have told you that the moon sculptor was my Father, and my light came from the Son. The Holy Spirit held me in my sighs and phases. I was safe in the dark.

It never would have occurred to me that love could be lost, much less earned.

But while the moon remembers little girls long after they are small, fear looks down.

Meteorites strike every life, and we do our best to stack them into Ebenezers: “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12 NRSV). But sorrows piled faster than we could count, kicking off what my Mom would later call our “Greek tragedy years.”

As my parents’ marriage dissolved, a series of searing losses stripped our family to branches trembling in a darkness that could be felt.

I stopped looking at the moon, which is always a mistake. Even worse, I started looking to myself to light the land.

I had been known since nursery school as a comforter, driven to reassure all beings that everything would be okay. The examples were as many as the stars in my pastina bowl.

Desperately ill in the cradle, I sang Sesame Street’s “Sunny Days” to my parents as they tried to cool my fever. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at nine, I rebelled by launching “The Happy Book,” a yellow journal I passed around school soliciting “anything that brought you joy today.” It would go on to include more than ten volumes over eight years, dutifully filled out by everyone from hoodlum to principal.

But this time, there was a desperation to my loving, a breathless sighing to keep the sky from falling. Imperceptibly, peace was eclipsed by purpose. I felt safe only when spinning, at home only when hurling comets of kindness.

I counseled furiously, wielding my warmth, crying “You are so incredibly loved!” in all directions but my own. I lay awake wordsmithing the next morning’s inspirational Instagram post. I sent fourteen encouraging emails before my first cup of coffee.

My writing, my sturdy star-cluster of joy, turned haggard and hyperbolic. I worked constantly but felt worse. God’s favor was flinty and distant, cracking the clouds only in fleeting instants of “enough.”

If I could get it right, I could outshine the sadness. I hung prisms and crystals in windows of the world, desperate to catch the light. I was trying to comfort myself even more than everyone else.

But it feels very dark when you feel the need to be the sun.

My mother, the luminous lady of lyrics, kept trying to sing me home. “You cannot be all things to all people, Angie.”

“But I’ve been loved so much, I need to love.”

“You need to receive love.”

“I’m trying to love like God.”

“Only God can be God.”

In the verses she loved and the love that led her life, Mom poured poetry back into me like teaspoons of stars.

I have always been a black hole for reassurance, a need that expands as stubbornly as the universe itself. But, sure as the crescent turns new, I began turning back to the light.

With fear and trembling, I experimented with “less.” What if I didn’t post earnest musings online today? What if I wrote fewer cards this week? What if I wasn’t always the first to email, the loudest to encourage, the anxious voice of peace for all people?

Would they abandon me?

Would God shake the sky like a fist?

I should have asked the moonstruck girl.

She knew that whirling is not the work of little girls at any size. The work of love is our space odyssey, but what is done with desperation can never bring peace.

She knew she wasn’t the Source. She sang because she heard the song; she rejoiced because she turned to the Great Mercy; she shone because she reflected the Sun.

She was willing to shine again, if I was willing to walk in the light.

Jesus was willing to remind me that he is Jesus, and I am his.

Dialing down desperation, I heard God’s heartbeat for the first time in many moons. I could fail and flail, be bashful and new, and still Christ would hold me. The same Savior who had shepherded my blood sugars, the elephant-inventor who spoke through Dad’s hazel eyes and Mom’s poetry, was shining full-strength today.

God would love through me, but I had to let God’s love land on me, craters and all.

Life could be thrilling again, buoyant and bewildering and holy and full.

I could love from overflow, not fear.

There would be everlasting Ebenezers in light and dark, comedy and tragedy.

None of this was up to me.

I would always be God’s moon.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 NRSV

 

Angela Townsend
Angela Townsend bears witness to mercy for all beings as Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and B.A. from Vassar College. Her work has appeared or will be published in upcoming issues of The Amethyst Review, Braided Way, Fathom Magazine, Feminine Collective, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. Angie loves life dearly.