Twenty-one years ago I was walking in the days of great expectation.
My first was to be born at the end of a long, hot summer, smack dab in the middle of one of only three months I had told God I did not want to have a baby. He grinned and said, “August it is!”
Throughout my childhood I had fantasized and romanticized what a big brother would look like–the way he’d protect me and stick up for me, and how his best friend would be my first kiss. No wonder in addition to choosing the month I’d give birth, I ordered a boy first. Once again God grinned and said, “Girl it shall be!”
I marveled at the life inside me.
I’d watch her swim from the outside in, the ripples across my swollen belly an ocean of miracle. My pregnancy was enviable, that daughter of mine never giving me a moment’s trouble. Except for the time she swam down to my right foot and it swelled like a blowfish. I’m sure I was a comical sight, splayed on my office floor with my leg hoisted across an office chair, begging her to go back to where she belonged. It never happened again.
I thought I had an intimate acquaintance with love – the always-longing I had for my mother, the appreciation for my father, the deep affection for friends, the blood I shared with my sister and brothers, the passion I had for my husband – but nothing approximated the bond between a child and her mother…between me and my babies. Nothing. And I know that’s how God himself loves me, and I’m supposed to love him most of all – and I hope to one day, I pray to one day – but if I’m speaking reality and practice and feelings, I’m not there yet.
Which I think God already understands, and I know already knows, so why pretend otherwise?
So this baby girl of mine has a super power and it’s called Speeding Up Time and I absolutely hate it! The 21 years since her birth have passed in a fraction of the time it took the 21 years preceding her birth. The brothers who came after her share this ability and I wish I could find the antidote for its reversal.
Which oddly gives me an appreciation for eternity. And God. This God of the Bible who’s not constrained by linear time, who sets eternity in the hearts of man. Oh God, your mysteries! That you’ve offered real and eternal life that begins (and ends?) in knowing you? Three children you’ve given me and in each I see your glory; in each I sense your wonder; in each I know you better.
How can I not praise my God for the precious, personal, physical conduit that leads me to him?
My firstborn, my baby girl, the first to toddle off with a piece of my heart is the one I’ve prayed for the longest. “Guard her heart, give her hunger for wisdom and truth, guide her through storms, reveal yourself to her in mighty ways,” I beg. To her…
Make the Gospel irresistibly real…
Give her the mind and heart, then hands and feet of Christ.
And God grins and says, “Okay,” and only then do I realize that sometimes when God gives me what I want, it comes at great cost.
When she was little, she needed me in ways that sometimes wore me out; my touch could stop the most frantic of tears, soothe her thrashing spirit, bring calming reassurance.
When she was around five, I remember leaving a birthday party when most of the mothers, my friends, stayed to visit. She was glued to my side watching the party from a safe distance. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to play with her friends, but I was her first choice. For her sake I left, palpable, throbbing ache in my chest, perhaps the first time I experienced the feelings of parenting with an open hand.
She’s a senior in college now, and I’ll be damned if writing that didn’t just drag tears to my eyes and make me curse.
It’s been 15 days since I’ve seen or talked to her, 71 days until I see her again; I don’t even know when we’ll get to talk. Two emails tell me that she eats rice three meals a day (with her fingers, not forks) and her weight in fresh mangos. She’s mingling with street dwellers, kaibigans, which translated from Tagalog means friend. She’s been present with Jesus in the form of people who love him. She’s overwhelmed and doing well and already knows it will be hard to return to finish her last year of school.
She leaves chunks of her heart where she serves. Having children of her own one day is the only thing I suspect will tug harder.
Now that she’s not so little, I need her in ways that likely wear her out…but mostly I keep that to myself.
I’m packaging care in a cardboard box, filled with sparse comforts and encouragements plenty. If two words out of the blue gave me hope, surely a few more will lavish the love they’re intended.
In faded letters, beloved is tattooed on her foot. It marks the time she believed in the deepest parts of her she was and is beloved. When I think on that now, all I hear is
How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
I wonder what she’ll get tattooed on her other foot.
She’s 22 hours away by air, 8,773 miles from home. She’ll return two days from her 22nd birthday.
I imagine she’s walking in the days of great expectation.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.