the way we move together
By the time we make it to the greenway, it’s late morning. I unload a bike for Adam—a beach cruiser, because he likes to keep things uncomplicated, and then I hand the girls their scooters. The air is brisk, but the sun burns bright, and ahead of us, the sky is brilliant cerulean, almost sapphire.
“Mom, Riley needs a new scooter,” Zoe says immediately, appraising her sister’s bent form. “This one is way too short for her.”
But Riley shines like a star (Phil. 2:15); she never complains, and she would not have mentioned her own discomfort. And so, God gave her a sister who sees, who thinks about her needs, who will mention them on her behalf without hesitation.
I can see, looking at Riley reaching, that Zoe is right. “Wow. Looks like it,” I say, and the words escape with a sigh because I always feel just a little behind.
Together, we amble toward the path leading down to the greenway. “Here,” Zoe says, rolling her own scooter in her sister’s direction, “this one’s a little taller. I’ll trade with you.”
It makes me smile, this thing God has borne in Zoe, this generosity and caring and willingness to put her sister first. Now Zoe bends a little toward the too short, and Riley bends a little less, and two sisters glide their scooters side by side, smiling at each other, giggling into the wind, sharing the inconvenience.
I have asked one thing of them: stay near me, but asking this is hardly anything at all just now, because the honor of motherhood before our children stretch into the vastness of the world outside our walls is that they always want to be close to us. I know that time comes, and soon they will see well beyond me to their independence, and that only makes me gaze a little more steadily at their nearness. The knowledge of time coming makes me stop and really see them. It makes me smooth the soft, round edges of their cheeks beneath my thumbs.
Adam coasts down the hill toward the greenway and stops at the sign right at the entrance, right at the edge of a compass-shaped intersection set with stone the color of sand. He looks back, checking for me, and when I am just a bit closer, he turns his bike onto the greenway and starts pedaling in the direction opposite the course I’ve chosen.
Zoe, looks back at me, raising her eyebrows. “Mom?”
“We’re turning to the right,” I tell her, picking up my pace, moving into a jog.
She calls to Adam just ahead. “Other way, buddy.”
And this, then, is how we begin: The one uncomplaining, the other keeping watch over her needs to petition me, the third watching carefully for the sight of me. The way they move as a unit—the two sharing the discomfort, all three asking for my direction and communicating to each other what they hear—-it fills me with joy. I want to shout my thanks, but instead I whisper them, smiling into the sapphire sky, tracing the beautiful lines of the trees and the pathway with my eyes. I love the way my children love each other. I wish I knew how to run and take photographs at the same time, because just in these moments I find a thousand gifts right in front of me. The wealth of my blessings makes me gasp.
For five miles, we move this way, and it’s as though I am a satellite. My children move close to me and then spread out again like ripples in the water around a hurled pebble. The moments when they all move just ahead of me—when I can see all three of their heads and the hair blowing, a ponytail swinging, their jackets hanging crooked over their shoulders, Adam’s shoelaces coming untied—these moments are my favorite. I want to gather the sight of them in my hands and press it close to my face. I want to wrap it up in tissue paper for safe keeping.
I run across a bridge and notice that the water is still frozen on the lake, cracked and jutting in elegant crystal peaks. Here and there, trees reach through the ice, graceful and bare and twisted like sculpture.
“Hi Mom!” Zoe calls from somewhere close behind, close enough that I don’t have to raise my voice much to speak to her.
“Did you see the lake? The water’s still frozen.”
“It is?” I hear her stop just in the middle of the bridge, and without looking back, I see her, know the lines of her standing at the railing absorbing that beauty. “Wow,” she murmurs, a little more loudly because I’m further away, and then again I hear the scooter wheels rumbling over the boards on the bridge.
For most of the run, Adam rides ahead of me, though at the crests of the hills he likes to slow himself almost to a stop before letting go and yielding to gravity. At every curve in the trail, Zoe calls to him, reminding him to wait on us. She won’t let him out of her sight. Adam would stop anyway, just around the bend, because he’s always looking back to see if I’m close, but her watchfulness is beautiful to me. She is not so concerned with her own journey that she fails to look out for her brother. She appoints herself her brother’s keeper; she knows whether he is close to me or has drifted away. It’s his closeness to me she watches over, not his distance away from her. And, because it’s the way sisters are, she could care less how he feels about her intrusion when she calls to him and tells him to stand still a moment. And because it’s Adam, he doesn’t feel any sting of pride over her chastening.
In this way, we move together, and my children stay with me, each touching me gently and moving away again, each free but also safely tethered. And when they draw near, I watch their faces, reading them as I always do, looking for traces of hidden danger. Are his cheeks low-blood-sugar-pale? Are her eyes a little too lazy? And as we travel along, I communicate easily with all of them through each, sending messages flying through trees and gliding down hills with the wind.
And as I run, God whispers to me, This is how I meant it to be. This is the way we move together:
I ask that you all stay near me. And I love it when there’s no where else you’d rather be.
I take joy in watching my children love each other well—
I ask that you not complain about your own needs, but look closely for the needs of others.
I want you to petition me without hesitation.
I want you to be willing to give up what you have—to share the burden—because you love each other.
I want you to let me choose the course and ask me for directions.
I want you to notice when your siblings drift away from me, to care more about how far they are from me than how close they are to you.
I want you not to be so concerned with your own journey that you no longer see the others traveling with you.
I want you to love each other enough to risk an uncomfortable snarl for the sake of spiritual safety.
I want you to be humble enough to accept chastening from someone who loves you, someone who feels Godly jealousy over anything and anyone threatening your affection for me.
I want you to watch carefully for the sight of me and tell each other what you hear when I speak.
And I want you to come close to me, as close as you possibly can and also as often, so that I can look deeply for dangers hidden in your heart; so that I can show you stunning things—all the evidence of my grace that you just might have otherwise missed; and so that I can smooth the round edges of your cheeks beneath my thumbs.
And in this way, I want us to move together.