The love it held

Third Way Family

January 30, 2019 | Opinion | Volume 23 Issue 3
Christina Bartel Barkman |
“How could one space, one building, one yard, one mountainview, hold so much love, truth, forgiveness and conviction?”—Christina Bartel Barkman

When we pulled up the steep driveway of my grandparents’ old house, I was overcome with tears of nostalgia and tears of loss for the love that this space once held.

My beloved Oma and Opa had spent 35 years of retirement in this mountainside home. All of my life I’ve known them here, and when the owner of this now bed and breakfast hotspot showed us around, I could see them there, sitting on the veranda having Kaffe and Kuchen with their Mount Cheam view all to themselves.

I could see my dear Oma, sun shining through her thinning hair, with Opa holding her hand—as he had for nearly 70 years—just days before she died. I could hear their thick German accents telling the story of losing their firstborn in the midst of war, Oma wondering when Opa would return from his military duties in the Second World War to bury their son.

I could feel Opa’s powerful presence as he talked about the forgiveness he found on the cross, forgiveness for his participation in the violence of war. I could hear the conviction in his voice when he talked about the Sermon on the Mount and said, “You cannot love the enemy and pull the trigger too.”

I could picture their looks of love as I helped them untangle precious Christmas decorations, hearing stories of the loving friends and family who gifted each ornament. I could picture Oma’s unending rows of pfeffernusse and ice cream pails full of these little Christmas treats for each of the six families they were Oma and Opa to. 

How could one space, one building, one yard, one mountainview, hold so much love, truth, forgiveness and conviction? How could so much of who I am today be woven together through the memories of this space? And how could I ever convey to my four young children who are wondering why Mama’s crying so much, what this beautiful space means to my aching and weary heart?

When we drove off, winding around the cattle fields where Opa once farmed, I held my husband’s hand and cried over the loss of two lives I had loved so dearly. As I looked back at my kids, my oldest, at 8 years old, was in tears, too. We didn’t say much, but I could sense his understanding, his love for his Mama and the heartache of loss that he knew too well.

It had only been five months since we’d left Manila, the place where he was raised, loved and called home. My boy had sobbed when he said goodbye to Filipino friends who were big brothers to him. His little heart had known what it is to love and to lose; to say goodbye to a space, a home, a family; and to mourn a life that once was so special, so familiar and filled with so much love. 

There was so much beauty in the tears my son and I shared, because we mourned a loss so powerful and beautiful that it shaped our whole being. As my dear Filipino sister wrote in mourning our family leaving Manila, “Tomorrow is a new beginning. New setting, new characters. But the next pages will always reflect the previous chapters of our history.”

Just as my Oma and Opa, with all they taught and all they loved, shape who I am, how I parent and how I show Jesus to all those around me, our six years of ministering in the Philippines now deeply shapes my family, too. The loss we all feel reveals the love there was and the love we keep striving to give. 

Christina, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options. 

“How could one space, one building, one yard, one mountainview, hold so much love, truth, forgiveness and conviction?”—Christina Bartel Barkman

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