On our way home. It was pretty rough.
Eight words. I toss my phone down on the bed, sighing, and glance into the hallway at the window diagonal to my room. Close those blinds and Riley will wrap the cord in her elegant fingers and tug them open again. It’s something we share, this affection–a hunger, really—for light and space. She believes that the view helps her breathe.
This week, it keeps me healing, if impatiently. Through the window, I can see the graceful limbs of our Japanese Maple dancing in the sunlight. Her austere Winter reach—like the curve of polished bone—at last softens with thousands of red buds. The steely grip of the grim season loosens.
It was pretty rough. I check my watch, calculating how long from the time Kevin sent the text until the moment they’ll likely be home; how long until I can measure discomfort in Zoe’s eyes and pull her to me? This is maybe the hardest thing all week about having the flu, not being able to go with her to the dentist for this procedure, being quarantined even from that. Because when my children go through anything potentially painful, I want to be beside them.
And why then, I wonder, do we acuse God of abandonment when things feel ripped and terrible? If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there, Word says (Psalm 34:18 MSG). He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
This was not a pain from which I would have spared her, nor one I could have taken in her place, as much as I wish I might have. Only just now my arms hang limp, aching to offer her some strength. The time is short, and I’m mother-torn between letting her grow, knowing she has to grow, and the persistent urge to wrap my body around her like a shield. We start off cocooning them and then spend the rest of our lives trying to relax and breathe through their be-coming.
I have been in the bed most of the day, because every time I get up to do something I can’t wait to lay back down. But I hear the garage door humming on its tracks and I am up, standing at the top of the stairs. “Is that my girl?” I barely have a voice, but I say each gravelly word carefully, letting it tumble down the stairs and into the bright, wide room below. Kevin is the one who answers first, because he can probably feel the weight of my concern the moment he opens the door and steps inside.
“Among others,” he says lightly, and behind the words come sounds of backpacks slung and shoes kicked free and the weary beg of the refrigerator door.
I am downstairs and rounding the corner, looking for her, before she has time to think to find me. “Is that my girl?” I say again, and Riley chirps, “Oh yes it is,” and it’s a happy sound, a thankful sound, but not the one I’m gripping the stair rail after. Right now, it’s the hurting child I have to see. I offer Riley a grateful smile and she dissolves into sweet laughter. “And what about the other girl?” I say carefully, thinking, “Won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hills and search for the one (Matthew 18:12)?” Finally, stepping into the room, I see her. Having heard my voice, Zoe is on her way to me, moving toward the stairs. She has grown an inch in an afternoon. Somehow her eyes have colored a richer shade with the knowledge of pain and the discovery of strength. She has pressed past the boundaries of her own comfort.
I reach for her, lightly tracing the line of her cheek with my thumb. “I’m okay,” she says softly, letting me see that it took a while to get there. In the valley of her cheekbones, I see wariness and the gloss of dried tears. I see resolve and fresh maturity, sculpted, and I’m mama-torn again between appreciating the beauty and wanting to exchange these graceful angles for the round innocence of her babyhood. “I just didn’t know it would hurt like that,” she says, leaning into me, accepting at last the strength of my arms, these arms that all afternoon would be filled with nothing but her. When she steps away from me, I will still be reaching for her, because nothing compels me closer to my children than the knowledge of their pain.
So it is with God. And thus, to wear His heart is to long to lend strength to the arms of his battle-worn children; to impatiently anticipate the arrival of the ones in pain; to bound across the hills in search of the one most in need of Him; to want to be right beside the hurting ones.