We gather to pray, our chairs pulled together in hasty circles. The whole room echoes. We make knots–so many weak-kneed, hungry children–tangling together to sort out the kinks in our hearts. It strikes me sometimes, how our strongest posture can look from the outside like our weakest. But see, there’s nothing stronger than being with God. The miracle is that we can all fit in His boundless arms together because let’s be honest: the problem of limited lap room can start a war.
The groups assemble randomly, just find a group, and we do. Motherhood is this anchoring; my children amble toward me like unmoored fishing boats, drifting. I love being their harbor. They drag more chairs over; we have to widen the circle while they fold their long limbs and settle. It makes me think of the mug I sent my own mama for Mother’s Day–home is where mama is, it says—and something a friend of mine shared just casually about all of her grown children lighting home at once and still–all grown–wanting her to empty her lap.
Mama, you listen now, it’s a great thing you do, offering up your arms, your lap; it’s a great thing, building people. I know it feels unrespected, the way you give up everything, even your body. I know what this Mother’s Day thing really is to you: the hope that just for a few minutes we’ll all affirm that your sacrifices really do amount to more in our eyes than the loss of your strength, your beauty. But listen now, this is bigger than yarn art and breakfast in bed. It doesn’t matter what it is in our eyes. The way you give yourself until you’re broken, it looks like every day Jesus every day. There’s a whole world still unrespecting His giving, but this is how it is in His Kingdom. The position of greatest strength masquerades for all the world like a position of weakness. See, yours is a gospel career. Doesn’t matter how big our children get, they still need to latch on sometimes. They still need to know we’re with them.
Here we are rough-dragging these chairs, awkward-assembling, and I’m thinking, isn’t that what prayer is really, all of us confused and needy and trying to grow, longing just to anchor up?
My brothers and I used to fight over which of us would get to sit beside my mom. One more chair down wasn’t close enough. We wanted to be right beside her, close enough to reach out and touch her nut-brown skin, to catch the sound of her laughter in time to join in. Her proximity to us was a most precious commodity. You ever get close enough to God to laugh with Him? But tonight there’s not much laughter in this room. We’re praying for a mama torn from her children because she’s from another country. I don’t care what you believe about immigration; what matters is what you believe about people, about children who can’t be with their mamas. Because to a child, that proximity means just about everything. Right now, when the world feels all broken up, we recover a bit from our soul-distraction, knowing maybe better how precious it is that God draws near to us when we pray. “Unless you change and become like little children,” Jesus said, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).” Well, no wonder. No one understands the beauty of the God-with-us gospel like a child.
Oh the lavish love, that I’m called one of God’s children (1 John 3:1). God’s kids, we like to act all grown up, but we still amble in, asking Him to empty His lap for us. And what will we do so that these kids can be with their mama? We’ll take the strongest posture of all, even though it looks like the weakest. Because see, there’s nothing stronger than being with God. So we bend in our chairs, and a friend of mine—a boisterous man, physically strong, whose whole voice is a smile—starts to pray. Suddenly his voice is a child’s voice, naked, quiet, openly gentle. Unless you become like one of these children… Somehow in prayer, we remember who we are. My children have different voices when they talk to me too.
So listen, mama, it’s you I think of now, as one by one we sink into the safety of God: That way you kneel down so your children can feel your breath right on their faces, so they know how well you see them? That way you show them what God-with-us means? That mothering you do—it’s a great, great, thing.