October feels ripe for walking. So on Saturday, we walked in the park, away from hurry. For a while, we left all else behind and moved straight to the heart of Grace, the evidence in things created.
The leaves applauded our rest, dancing with the wind, dappling the sunlight that drifted through the trees, gold and so bright, touching our heads with its warmth. For just a while, God allowed us to join the symphony, adding the sound of our children’s voices and our feet thumping against roots to the beautiful rhythm of forested land just beginning to breathe October. The leaves haven’t turned here yet, but our feet crunched over pine straw and the crumbled remains of years past, history underfoot. We walked across bridges and up hills, and we lifted hands and smiles to others passing by as we went.
A dear friend had accepted our invitation to join, and she walked with us away from distraction. So we sweetened the escape with friendship and our own adult voices, speaking of Kingdom things. What joy to share a walk with so many I love. I kept thinking, “God is so good,” as we walked and my children’s hands slipped in and out of my own, as the girls’ eager voices called, “Mom, look.”
A tender, crisp chill in the air signaled the turn of the season, but about a mile into the walk, none of us noticed anymore. I could’ve walked for hours. Adam, our trail blazer, walked ahead of us with purpose, stopping only when I called for him to wait just a moment. He likes walking in his own space, and this I understand. I said something to Kevin about the color of Adam’s hair, realizing that as his shoulders have risen, he’s become more dark-headed, like me.
Zoe turned to me immediately, reaching for my hand. “Mine’s getting darker too, Mom, don’t you think? Mine’s going to be like your’s too.”
I smiled at her, still in awe over the fascination she has with being like me. Once she cried, when we discussed in her presence that her hair might actually be more the color of her dad’s. “But I want to look just like you,” she said, her chin trembling, and I looked back at her thinking, “Oh, I love you so much. But why?” I always tell her that God has made her beautiful, that there’s only one her, that I love her for everything that we share in common and also every single thing that makes us different. But she still says she wants to be just like me.
In so many ways, we are so alike, but I wonder what those beautiful cornflower blue eyes see in me to emulate? I wish sometimes that she could see everything in me that God has done, everything that is even a tiny bit like Christ, and nothing of what remains. But then—I chasten myself—then she might not realize how glorious He is, to be able to use and change even me. Still, I whisper hard to her, don’t be like me, be like Him. And I think, if I grow more like Him, maybe? Oh, how she watches me. I see it, feel her gaze. She watches. See Him, dear beloved child, see Him.
And every time she and I have this conversation, I wonder, “Do I watch Him that closely?” With my every fiber I long to be just.like.Him. But do I cry to know that a knot in the branch has sent me bending away from Him, that in some way I don’t resemble Him at all? The truth is: there are so many ways my reflection isn’t His, and sometimes I think I’ve come to accept that too easily. The differences should still make me weep with repentance. And then, I’m thinking, fumbling over a ladder of roots like the ribs of the earth, half buried in dirt (Why is it that I think I’m picking up my foot and I trip anyway?): “Do I crave as fervently that other souls look at me and see Him, only Him?” Yes, oh yes.
I notice a bend ahead and realize that I will lose sight of Adam if I don’t say something. “Hey Adam, wait a minute,” I call, picking up my pace, my friend beside me. Such grace that, a friend faithfully at my side. Her gift is that she is always with me. Kevin has taken position, as he often does, behind the rest of us. He is watching all of us, this I know. Watching and seeing the path differently, the way only a photographer can, all light and shadow, beauty and emotion. Sometimes he falls behind, usually with Zoe at his side, and I know he has stopped to capture something with his camera, tell his own story of our walk, of God’s glory clearly seen.
Adam has stopped in the path ahead, stands watching me catch up. “Oh, the places we’ve gone,” I think, reading the peaceful expression on his face. He used to melt over that one word: wait. He always seemed to think it a reprimand, as though his going was somehow all wrong. He hasn’t always understood why the rest of us being with him matters, why the patience with our progress might be worth the effort. I never take it for granted, the peace that has replaced so much of his frustration.
When I catch up, he shows me another miracle. He speaks to me. His words are still treasure, glimmering gold right there in the forest. “First walk, then park,” he says, and then recognizing that I am with him, he turns and continues to walk with purpose. This makes me laugh out loud. I look to my friend, interpreting, though she has probably already understood him. “He thinks we’re walking to the park. He doesn’t realize we’re already in the park. He’s thinking play equipment awaits at the end of this trail.”
She laughs with me, and then we fall silent, both thinking of deeper things. “There’s something in that,” I say to her finally, “the idea that we’re in the park, but he thinks we’re just on our way there. ‘Park’ doesn’t mean the same thing to him.”
The leaves shake their melody, the wind moving our hair. We’re headed up again, and the trees have spread out around us. I feel like extending my arms and twirling in that wide, wonderful space.
The she says it, my friend, just a step ahead of me. “It’s like we were saying about with the Kingdom,” she says, not looking back. “We forget that we’re supposed to be living the Kingdom now, bringing it here. It’s not just a destination.”
Kingdom now. I feel like I need the words engraved on one of those rubber bracelets around my wrist so that my eyes fall on it constantly, so that it feels like God’s hand holding on. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, he began with praise and then the wish,
…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6: 10).
Kingdom now. That’s what He wanted them to seek. God’s will done here as it is in heaven. It was his favorite topic.
Sometimes the yearning for Heaven runs so deep it’s like a gnawing hunger, the kind that almost hurts. And in those spaces, I don’t listen very well for the Spirit pressing me specifically to bring the Kingdom here, now, to this place, this time, to those still blind to it. I am a trail blazer, forging ahead in my own space, looking for Kingdom at the end of the path. And I get impatient when I think I know the way, think I know exactly where we should all go, and someone makes me wait, frozen still. Sometimes I forget the value in journeying together.
The Redeemer told Nicodemus in the night that the Spirit moves like the wind, and so it is with those born of the Spirit. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going (John 3:8).” Where have you come from, and where are you going? It was God’s question to the runaway. It’s His question for me, and the only thing I know is this: The Spirit alone knows the heart of God. He alone knows the path. I surrender, asking, pleading, to stay in step. “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God,” I breathe with David,
…and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10-12).
I want to fly through the trees with the Spirit, moving like the wind. And I want to see the Kingdom now, because only the children of the Spirit can see it (John 3:3).
The leaves rustle wildly, and I stop on a creek bank next to Zoe. She’s kneeling, cupping a palm-sized rock in her hand, tilting it so that its crystals catch the light. And I realize, standing there, that this is the way God holds us, cradling each child in His palm, tilting us in the light so that His glory might be seen. Kingdom now. Tilted by the Spirit. Even now, His glory should be seen, clearly reflected in His children. Every moment is a Kingdom moment. Every breath, every step is Kingdom. Oh, Lord, let me not forget.
It’s the only of Heaven that I long for most. No more evil and ugliness, no more selfishness, no more pain. No more need. Only Him. Only the things that are Him—Love, love. …Joy, deep and abiding; peace, that no one understands; patience, the kind that endures; kindness, as an instinct; faithfulness, because God is faithful always, even when we are not; gentleness, enough to touch the hurting, the dirty; self control, because the Spirit pilots. Beauty, color, creativity, life. The fruit of the Spirit. The Bread of Heaven. The tree and the water of life.
But these things weren’t meant for only then, though He has gone to prepare that place (John 14:2), the best place, the place where I can look upon His face. Maybe the prince of this world is still unbound, but I’ve already tasted Kingdom, here, now, every filling, soul-nourishing morsel. Those things are part of my life already, and they can’t be taken away, no matter what. They were bought with the blood of One who loved enough to give Himself, completely surrendered to the Will, trusting in the inheritance of His suffering. So, I already see the Kingdom, have already entered it, in the flesh. I’m not just on my way there. People are starving, here, now, starving for the Kingdom. And my job, as His daughter, is to bring the Kingdom here, to this dry and weary land so steeped and writhing in pain, to every soul I meet. Because He has prepared quite a feast for the hungry.
Every moment is a kingdom moment, a chance to be just like Him, a chance to pour out love, grace, healing.
Kingdom now. It has a way of changing the walk.